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By Chere Di Boscio
It’s become worse than the days before Christmas. Black Friday is a day that sees a consumer spending frenzy like no other. And why? Ever wonder where the history of this crazy consumption day comes from?
Of course, this ‘holiday’ could only have its roots in the country that gave birth to the concept of the mall: America. Since 1932, the USA has regarded it as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, and most major retailers open very early or stay open all night to offer promotional sales so people can load up on cheap Christmas gifts for their friends, family and themselves. Adverts for Black Friday start in October and the public is bombarded with consumerist messages pretty much until February, when post-Christmas sales end.
Black Friday has become such an institution that while it is not an official holiday as such, many states do give this Friday off to their employees.
The four day weekend (which includes Thanksgiving before Black Friday) is designed to increase the maximum number of potential shoppers. In fact, the term ‘Black Friday’ refers to retailers going from being in debt (‘in the red’) to turning a profit (being ‘in the black’) as more and more people shop till they drop.
Insanity and Frenzy
Black Friday seems to represent all the very worst of human behaviour in the name of greed and consumption. There have been many reports of violence occurring between shoppers on Black Friday, and since 2006, there have been at least 7 reported deaths and 98 injuries throughout the United States alone, as consumers fight – and even kill – each other to get at the front of the line to grab a bargain. Retail outlets demand their employees work very long shifts, sometimes until midnight, and the blocking of emergency access and fire lanes due to massive crowds has caused at least one city to ban Black Friday altogether.
You Are Not What You Own
The whole mentality behind Black Friday is that your belongings are a reflection of you; the more you have, the better. But as most Eluxe readers already know, an object will never make you happy. Buying new stuff might make you happy for a few minutes, maybe even days, but in the end your experiences and relationships are all you’ve got.
So this year why not get your family together and do something wildly different? Ignore Black Friday. In fact, extend that to the whole Christmas season: ask for nothing, and give nothing but for that which you’ve made yourself with love, and you might experience the most joyous holiday season you’ve ever had. Buy nothing and experience everything.
And if you really feel passionately that consumerism is killing the planet, you can participate in Buy Nothing day, in various ways.
Buy Nothing Day
Since the early 1990s, Buy Nothing Day has inspired worldwide personal and collective action against consumerism. It’s not just about changing your habits for one day – rather, it’s about discovering what it’s like to live free of consumer propaganda and pressure to continuously buy, buy, buy.
Started by the magazine AdBusters, Buy Nothing Day has spread to over 60 countries as a form of protest against corporate domination. It includes postering campaigns, ‘zombie walks’ (where protesters dress up and act like consumerist ‘zombies’, dragging their heels around shopping malls) and other forms of saying ‘no’ to consumption, such as:
- Getting into nature: Walking through parks. Going on a hike in the hills or the forest.
- Arts and Crafts: Doing some DIY. Upcycling old objects into new. Fixing broken stuff and reusing it instead of buying new.
- Giving back: Volunteering. Doing something nice for someone you like. Donating to charity. Organising a beach cleanup.
As we enter the holiday season, consider what it might mean to celebrate a holiday that isn’t driven by commercial forces. If you are going to spend something, spend time with those you love: call them, take them out, do something fun with them. If you really must buy something, make a sustainable choice and go local, independent, or make something yourself.
Lets take back our lives and stop buying into the consumerist machine – the planet, its people and our lives will ultimately be better for it.
To learn more about Buy Nothing Day, please click here.
Main image: Matthew Sperzel shot at the Dill Pickle Food Co-op