There’s something about this time of year. Now that the clocks have fallen back and it gets dark early, I can feel the impending holidays creeping up on me. The cool air on my cheeks, the crisp sound of the leaves under my feet, and the occasional and unmistakable smell of a burning fireplace while walking down the street conjure up images of pie, family, and comfort. I can feel the magic of the season buzzing and vibrating from within. The feeling has always hit me every autumn – when I was a kid coming home from school with drawings of Pilgrims, when I was in high school walking along my sidewalk from the bus stop, when I was in college in Washington, DC looking forward to the imminent trip home for the long holiday weekend and some TLC, and even when I was living in Los Angeles when the weather graced us with the occasional cool evening.
But now it’s slightly different, because now I have my son. Now is when he will start building his memory bank, full of aromas and experiences that will be triggered for a lifetime whenever he, too, smells a fireplace or walks down a leaf-covered street on dark, cool evenings. I envy the wonder and joy that will accompany the next few years for him – the excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah (we celebrate them all in our home), and all they entail. I often still feel like a child around the holidays, anxiously awaiting all the family gatherings chock full of yummy food and gifts. But as an adult, the experience is ever so slightly dulled by the inevitable side effects of the holidays: the crowds, the commercialism, the unavoidable family squabble, the memories of family members gone. It never quite turns out the way we hope it will, but we try again every year.
In an attempt to polish these months into the joyous, bright times that they once were, I see having my son as an opportunity to embrace the cheer and excitement once again, and avoid the tendency toward grumpiness or anxiety. When you have kids, you have a second chance. And if ever there were a day of the year to turn our thoughts toward family and fun and away from commercialism and crowds, it is Black Friday.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good discount. In fact, my husband and I have been known to take advantage of a few Cyber Monday deals in the past. But something about Black Friday has put a bad taste in my mouth in recent years. Just one day after sitting with our families and expressing gratitude for all that we have in our lives, we tear our neighbors to shreds in an attempt to save some money on a flat screen. (And now that some retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day, the chaos begins before the pecan pie hits the table.)
This year, instead of standing in line and throwing elbows on Black Friday, consider these alternatives in the spirit of creating long-lasting memories for you and your family:
- Make your house smell like the holidays by mulling cider (add mulling spices to apple cider and bring to a boil. Enjoy as is, or with a shot of whiskey for an adult treat once the kids are in bed).
- Bake – it’s never too early to start your holiday cookie baking!
- Decorate for the holidays – the malls have had their decorations up for weeks by now! If you think it’s too early for a tree, you can at least hang some lights and put up a Santa or Elf on a Shelf to get in the spirit.
- Play some touch football outside.
- Walk off those Thanksgiving calories with the family and dog – Fido will appreciate the extra attention.
- Go through old photos and make a collage.
- Find photos of past Christmas or Hanukkah gatherings and create a slideshow to show to your family this coming holiday.
- Take advantage of everyone being at the stores, and go to a museum. My friend encourages her young daughter to sit in front of a painting she likes and sketch what she sees.
- Get outside! It doesn’t matter what you do. The cool air will be invigorating and it will spark more conversation between you and your kids than sitting in front of the TV.
- If you must shop, consider shopping locally and supporting the retailers in your own neighborhood.
What are your family’s alternatives to Black Friday shopping? Let us know in the comments below!