It wasn’t supposed to be a tradition. It was supposed to be … well, I don’t really know what it was supposed to be when we started shopping on Black Friday. I just know that for the past three years, the kids and I have been early bird regulars, hitting the stores at 5 a.m. so we could buy Christmas gifts.
It makes no sense that we would count ourselves in this crowd. I, for one, the driver and the ring leader of this operation, hate Black Friday. I hate the endless ads, the nonstop email enticements, the fake sales on jacked up items, and the whole slogan-slang of “doorbuster,” which is like the lame “LOL” of the Christmas consumer world.
I think I even made fun of Black Friday on Facebook once.
Then there’s the fact that I always had to write about Black Friday in the years when I worked as a reporter. I hated those assignments. I was annoyed that I had an occupation that required me to work on the day after Thanksgiving. It wasn’t like I was a nurse, for health’s sake. But at this dinosaur of a daily, I had to write about anything tedious that had been written about before. Which meant 4-H fairs, the weather, and Black Friday.
I am sure my editor wanted me to set my alarm and bust some doors with the folks camped out in the Wal-Mart lot. I’m pretty sure I never did that – unless I have repressed that bit of daredevil reportage.
Now I not only willing venture out of my bed at 4:45 and thrust myself into a pajama-clad crowd of pumpkin pie-stuffed shoppers – I do it without even the benefit of getting paid for it.
This is how parenting ruins a person’s common sense.
Actually, I think the first Black Friday I spent shopping with the kids was a bit of an experiment. I agreed to take them shopping, thinking we’ll do it once, cross it off our lists, and have a better understanding of our consumer culture and why it’s best not to save all your shopping for one day of aggressive gluttony that comes after our national moment of gratitude.
We spend every Thanksgiving at my parents’ in Westminster, so we decided to spend the night there and hit the stores by their house – which are always less peopled than Baltimore stores. Even on Black Friday.
We were silly that first year. We took pictures of ourselves getting our wake-me-up Starbucks. We stocked up on movie candy in Five Below, and checked out soccer cleats in Dick’s Sporting Goods for our ever-growing goalie.
We had fun. We got some presents and some things we needed. Then we went home and went back to bed. By 8 .a.m.
Last year, the kids wanted to shop again. We thought we might try shopping on Thanksgiving night. This was mostly because the kids wanted their grandmother to join in our tradition and there was no way she was getting up before 5 a.m. when it wasn’t a school day.
About 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, we rolled past Target and saw the line wrapped around the building. We headed right back home. What were thinking? Thanksgiving shopping wasn’t for us — we didn’t want anything that badly. Ever.
This year, we went back to our routine, to what we do best. Starbucks at 5, followed by Target for Christmas ornaments, window shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods, replacing outgrown items at Old Navy’s 50% off sale, and a quick browse through Marshall’s.
Oh yeah, it’s routine now. It’s a tradition.
Because here’s the thing about 5 a.m. Black Friday shopping: You don’t wait in lines. While Target is populated, it’s certainly less crowded than on any given Saturday. Plus when it’s early like that, the kids feel like they are on a secret mission.
Black Friday shopping has gotten them excited about buying gifts for their friends and family, and the fact that everything is supposed to be on sale (even when it isn’t) has gotten them thinking about how much to spend for gifts. And what makes a good gift.
Plus, this year, my dad had Friday off. So when we returned home at 7:30, he and Leeannah started cooking pancakes. Then all five of us – the kids, my parents, and me – sat down to a relaxed breakfast together.
After all, we had the whole day ahead of us to enjoy.