Things to do on Black Friday that don’t involve shopping

I’ve done Black Friday once. Once. In my thirty years. I was 22, there was an artificial Christmas tree I’d seen in a circular, and so my mom and I threw on coats over our PJs, stood outside of Kohl’s at 5:45 a.m., bolted straight to the back of the store, and picked up only those impulse items that were on a straight line from the artificial Christmas tree section directly back to the checkout counter. Then we went home, removed our coats, and went back to bed.

I think one reason I hate Black Friday so desperately is that when I worked for the fashion publication that, as always, shall remain nameless, I had the pleasant job of heading to the mall every weekend during the holiday season for the weekly retail roundup. I got to drag a poor photographer who’d rather be hanging Christmas decorations with his young children around this massive Shopping Center of Earthly Delights, tackling shoppers who also would rather be hanging holiday decorations with their families and asking them what they’re buying and how shopping this year compares to shopping last year. Hell, I would rather have been home with my fish hanging Christmas decorations, or Hannukah decorations, or any other damned kind of decorations than stumble for hours around that Bosch painting of a mall to collect my quotes and then go home and get my story filed in time for my editor to maybe remember to include it in that week’s roundup.

So I make a concerted effort to stay in on Black Friday, contribution to our nation’s flagging economy be damned.

For anyone else planning lock the doors, close the shutters, and stay in their homes, bunker-style, from doorbuster to midnight madness, here are a few suggestions from my own playbook.

1. Settle in to make some handmade gifts. If you’re on a budget, this is a great approach to gift-giving because nobody, but nobody, can complain about a gift that you’ve put blood into. Not to your face, anyway. I’m a knitter, so I tend to go with scarves and gloves and whatnot, but a macaroni picture frame will be enough to get a quasi-convincing “Oh, how thoughtful” from your intended recipient. And in a natural disaster, they can pick the macaroni off the frame and make a meal of it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, so quit your complaining, Grams.

2. Scour Etsy for someone else’s handmade gifts. If you’re going to conspicuously consume, it’s better to do so with some home-based artisan than some big-box store, right? If you’re a good person, you’ll tell your intended recipient that you didn’t hand-make it yourself. But far be it from me to insist you be a good person.

3. Update your parents’ browser. If you can get their blessing, that’s swell. If not, try to get them out of the house so you can do it all secretive-like. Tell them you need an artificial Christmas tree.

4. Sleep in. Be the brightest and bushiest-tailed of all your friends.

5. Call your friends throughout the day and talk about the cool things you’re doing. If you aren’t doing anything cool, just lie. “Hey, we’re sitting here drinking mimosas and getting free hot-stone massages from the cast of Ocean’s Eleven, and I knew you’d want to–Oh, no, you’re at Dillard’s, aren’t you. Whoops. Sorries.”

6. Go somewhere that isn’t packed with shoppers. If you feel like going out, Black Friday is a great time to hit up zoos and museums and other places that might otherwise be traffic-heavy. Be sure to see the pandas. Not because of anything to do with Black Friday–just because pandas are cute. Silly, fat little pandas.

(Was that animal abuse?)

7. Make a list of all the winter holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and figure out what you’re supposed to eat in observance of each celebration. (Watch out for December 21st–between all the solstice observations, Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, Los Pasadas, and the Poinsettia Bowl, you’re going to need some elastic-waist pants.)

8. Call your friends who are out shopping and ask them to pick you up some elastic-waist pants.

44 comments for “Things to do on Black Friday that don’t involve shopping

  1. Jennifer
    November 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I spend the entire weekend going to craft fairs. I highly recommend it. It’s shopping for quality craft goods, it’s festive, it’s not insane, and none of them open before 10 a.m.

  2. Yan
    November 24, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I’m kicking off Black Friday with a morning pilates class to gear up for my main event — a marathon laundromat visit. Yay! I might take myself out to lunch (at a local non-chain restaurant downtown) just to have a little fun. We’ll see.

    But then, I buy gifts for 3 people and my cats, so I’m pretty good. (And the cats are getting a staple gun and some new carpet for the scratching posts).

  3. Kristen J.
    November 25, 2011 at 12:20 am

    For the last few years all major holidays are celebrated in our household with (1) Chinese food, (2) holiday appropriate booze, and (3) marathon video games. Thanksgiving inevitably extends into the weekend which means tomorrow I will likely be whacking dragons in Skyrim or shooting assholes in MW3 or collecting heart pieces in Zelda.

  4. McSnarkster
    November 25, 2011 at 1:18 am

    There’s always spending your Black Friday at work, which a lot of us have to do. It’s still a weekday.

    And look on the bright side–at least you only had to head to the mall every weekend, and not, say, five days a week.

  5. 4catlady
    November 25, 2011 at 1:25 am

    My heartfelt sympathy goes out to anyone working retail this Friday. I can’t imagine how you put up with such pioneers in human behavior.

  6. Jamie
    November 25, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Starbucks. In a mall. I hate my life.

  7. November 25, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Why do you not already have elastic-waist pants?

  8. eriN
    November 25, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I see I won’t be the only one doing chores this Friday. Although, I’m not completely opposed to making a quick sprint to the store… junk-food run.

  9. Marksman2010
    November 25, 2011 at 7:31 am

    I’m atheist, so I don’t celebrate Xmas. I don’t give presents, and I don’t accept them.

    Therefore, the only problems I have are the idiots on the roads, and the fuck-sticks who stand in line for 30 minutes to buy only one roll of scotch tape. Uh, couldn’t you have done this back in…March or April? They sold tape back then, too. Meanwhile, my motherfucking ice cream is melting in the basket.

    Nothing brings out the idiots like Thankstaking/Christmas/The New Year. I wonder how many will be trampled to death in Wal-Mart this year rushing to get their $19.00 DVD player.

  10. FYouMudFlaps
    November 25, 2011 at 8:27 am

    It’s all about those silly, fat little pandas! <3

  11. PrettyAmiable
    November 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Kristen J.: For the last few years all major holidays are celebrated in our household with (1) Chinese food, (2) holiday appropriate booze, and (3) marathon video games. Thanksgiving inevitably extends into the weekend which means tomorrow I will likely be whacking dragons in Skyrim or shooting assholes in MW3 or collecting heart pieces in Zelda.

    This actually sounds like heaven to me. Although, I must say, the idea of eggnog or peppermint schnapps with sesame chicken makes me want to vom. I choose to believe those are two separate moments across your day.

    Marksman2010: I’m atheist, so I don’t celebrate Xmas. I don’t give presents, and I don’t accept them.

    I’m an atheist AND I celebrate Christmas. Not the “We don’t know when Jesus was born so we’ll use this pagan holiday to divert attention away from the fact that pagans are totally people too” part of it, but the “If I focus on loving you fuckers, I won’t be completely overwhelmed by the crushing Seasonal Affective Disorder” part. I’m trying to figure out how to turn Valentine’s Day into Christmas part 2 since I know I’ll be single then (see: crushing SAD).

  12. Vail
    November 25, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I’m in the Star Wars beta weekend starting at 10 am. I’m camping in front of the computer till it’s time. Yah I’m a geek : )

  13. mim
    November 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I’m Canadian, so we did our Thanksgiving a while back. sadly, today is just another friday here. and our version of black friday isn’t until boxing day, right after xmas. and i’ll probably be working retail. you see some crazy things when you work retail on boxing day. *shudders*

  14. November 25, 2011 at 9:57 am

    mim: I’m Canadian, so we did our Thanksgiving a while back. sadly, today is just another friday here.

    Not quite.. it’s also ‘buy nothing day’

    Buy Nothing Day

    But yeah, Boxing day.. a day I’d rather just spend taking down xmas decos and eating leftover turkey.

    I attempted it last year and didn’t end up buying a damn thing.. I can’t spend money on stuff I don’t really need just because it’s a ‘good deal’.. I’m too broke after xmas and too cheap the whole year ’round.

  15. November 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

    i’m going to briefly be That Person and correct spelling from the OP: the Mexican tradition is called Las Posadas.

    and now back to observing Buy Nothing Day.

  16. Caperton
    November 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I have nothing but sympathy for people working retail today. Back when he was a bouncer, The Boy used to refer to nights like New Year’s Eve as “Amateur Night”–when people who don’t usually come out do come out and don’t know what’s expected of them, and people who usually know how to behave get caught up in the atmosphere and act like idiots. It’s hard on people who just want to enjoy themselves, and it’s hell on service professionals.

  17. November 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

    My mother reminded me this week that I tried to do Black Friday once with a friend when we were 16. If I didn’t have the patience and stamina for it then, I sure as hell don’t have the patience and stamina for it now at 35, with a preschooler and a bun in the oven.

    Not that I even want to go. It’s insanity to wake up at 2am for a 3am sale; but it’s plain sad to cut short your time with your loved ones to go shopping on Thanksgiving like the stores seem to be doing now.

  18. Politicalguineapig
    November 25, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I have volunteer work at a museum. If it’s really quiet, I’ll probably sneak down to the exhibits. I might go to a play or a movie this weekend- I already did the concert thing.

  19. November 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Luckily, I volunteer at a store/community center who is hosting a Trade Day. Last night I gathered all my handmade jewelry that I compulsively make for no reason to trade for other crafts and goods. The store is not taking cash and all items are up for trade. Anyone in Albuquerque NM should head on over for a fun day of cash free trading at the Kosmic Trading Post. And the best part is that we don’t start til noon. We want to sleep in, no damn early shopping for us.

  20. November 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    While I can acknowledge the problematic qualities of celebrating Thanksgiving (the erasure of indigenous history, the perpetuation of the master narrative etc.), I do enjoy the holiday because it’s one of the few times a year that I get to see my extended family. Why do we celebrate holidays like this with consumerism? Why does it become in the holiday spirit to spend money? Bleh. I’m not feeding this corporate machine today.

  21. Arkady
    November 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm
  22. Marksman2010
    November 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Well, I don’t believe anyone was trampled, but there were some shootings and some people got pepper-sprayed.

  23. November 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    @KristinJ, it seems you are not alone in liking Chinese food on holidays:

    500 times yes! But I found out my Chinese place is closed just one day per year….Thanksgiving. But it won’t stop me from having my traditional Jewish Christmas. I’m not a Jew, but I play one on Christmas, you see.

  24. Sandy
    November 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    PrettyAmiable: I’m an atheist AND I celebrate Christmas.

    High-five from another atheist who celebrates Christmas and now Hannukah too.

    My thoughts drifted quite a few times today to those in retail who have to work in the maw of madness. I used to work at a major toy store company (you’d know it by the backwards ‘R’), and it was a nightmare of impatient customers and stressed fellow employees. Every employee had to work the day after Thanksgiving, no exceptions, and we were told that if you didn’t show up for the shift you were assigned (the same shift you typically worked, ie evening people weren’t expected in during the day), you got fired. Everyone showed up, so I never found out if they’d make good on that threat.

    Also they tried to get us to call it Green Friday. Because of the racial implications I guess although they avoided really explaining the change. Just that: “green, for all the money we’re going to make, don’t forget your add-ons and remember to smile!” brush-offs. It was obviously a decision from higher up in the company, as the store director and other managers who instructed us to call it Green Friday would slip now and then and call it Black Friday. I’ve wondered if they still push the “Green Friday” thing. I know the chain has changed hands.

    It’s been years since I worked the day after Thanksgiving, but my thoughts always seem to go to my old job, and to all retail employees, this time of year.

    When I was younger and a little more naive, I wanted my mother to take me shopping the day after Thanksgiving, because it was a Thing people did, and I didn’t understand why she was reluctant. Now I can’t believe I wanted to. I spent today at my parents’ house with some of my family.

  25. karalynz
    November 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Yeah no one ever mentions the thousands and thousands of us who work in customer service related positions who have to work Black Friday, EVERY year. Not that I’d rather be out shopping. No way, not with my hatred bordering on panic of crowds, but still.

  26. Sandy
    November 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Sandy: Because of the racial implications I guess although they avoided really explaining the change.

    I said this badly – I know why it’s called Black Friday, and that it has nothing to do with race. What I was trying to say is that it was like some clueless white people decided they were going to avoid a potential perceived racefail. Why that would be the case when Black Friday is ubiquitous and named after a phrase having to do with bank ledgers and profit I do not know. Maybe they just wanted to be trendsetters, but it was quite odd.

  27. Sandy
    November 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Sandy: in the maw of madness

    ffff trying hard to be more mindful of my speech, and I just caught this now. I’m sorry.

  28. Kaija
    November 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I have NEVER done Black Friday. The idea of getting up at the a$$crack of dawn to stand outside a shopping center and then mill about in a crowded store for stuff I don’t need makes me shudder. I slept in, made pumpkin pancakes, and caught up on all the DVR stuff from the last two weeks with my partner.

    In the spirit of supporting artists and internet shopping, also check out Artfire, especially these awesome glittery bacon ornaments, or glittery bacon (and other breakfast foods) wall art:


  29. DouglasG
    November 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Ms Caperton, I think you overestimate the appeal of spending the day hanging decorations with small children. I propose that a year or two of that and many if not most photographers would pay to be back at the sales.

    Ms Meredith – It may be sad, but I’m sure that many if not most people are only too thrilled to be presented with such an opportunity to reduce the time spent with their “loved ones”. I grant that it’s sad for those who do actually love their holiday companions, but simultaneously stipulate that such people constitute a decided and shrinking minority.

  30. November 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    I am all about naps.

    It’s very freeing, not making a big deal of Christmas anymore. It means I don’t have to buy anything for almost anyone (I do buy for my nephews and my aunts, but that’s it), which means I don’t have to do any shopping where there will be people pepper spraying each other to get to the two dollar waffle irons.

    And since my nephews and aunts live far away from me, I make use of online retailers and have the gifts sent directly to them.

    It always astonishes me how much money some people drop on Christmas. Maybe it was because I grew up in a large family, but I never got tons of gifts growing up, nor did I get expensive gifts. Same with birthdays: there were parties when I was very young, but those tapered off and nowadays I tend not to let on to people that it’s my birthday. It’s not like I’m taking an anticonsumerist stance or anything; it’s just never been a big thing in my life, gift-receiving. I do miss the holiday craft fairs that were all over NYC now that I’ve moved out of town, though.

  31. Dane
    November 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    I spent today making cookies for christmas and watching movies. It was nice and relaxing.

  32. Marksman2010
    November 26, 2011 at 2:47 am

    I apologize. I spoke too soon.

    There was an 18-year old girl trampled in a West Michigan Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

    Can’t stores control these types of things? It happens every year, so they must know what they’re in for. Last year, a Wal-Mart temporary employee was trampled and killed on Black Friday.

    In 2007, a woman was seriously injured at Wal-Mart when she was trampled in a rush to get a $29 DVD player. When reporters asked Wal-Mart management about it, they responded by saying they would try and help: they would hold the DVD player for her until she was discharged from the hospital. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said, “We want her to come back as a shopper.”

    Jesus fucking Christ. You can’t make this shit up. Three hundred motherfuckers march down your spinal cord, and all Wal-Mart can do is hold the DVD player for a while.

  33. November 26, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I actually went to the mall yesterday and I had a great time. I definitely don’t want to ever go at three AM or whatever, but I went with my sister later in the day, and I really enjoyed saving tons of money. So…go figure.

  34. PrettyAmiable
    November 26, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Marksman2010: 18-year old girl


  35. Marksman2010
    November 26, 2011 at 9:29 am


  36. November 26, 2011 at 10:43 am

    On Thanksgiving, we fed the last of our cat food to the cats in the morning. So on the way home from my mom’s house that night, I reminded my husband that we needed to stop at Walmart for cat food. It was about 9:30pm. The Walmart parking lot and all adjacent business parking lots were full. I was shocked…has it always been like this or does it get worse every year? We went to CVS instead.

    Yesterday (Friday) was a beautiful day here in Louisiana, and we took our son to the park. No shopping whatsoever!

  37. Politicalguineapig
    November 26, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I’m considering going to a theater tonight. I also have to retrieve my shoes from a bar; they’ve been there since a show on Wednesday night. And then I have to spend Sunday deciding whether I like punk rock or country more. I will shop at some point, but not this weekend.

  38. Brennan
    November 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Kristen J.: Forthelastfewyearsallmajorholidaysarecelebratedinourhouseholdwith(1)Chinesefood,(2)holidayappropriatebooze,and(3)marathonvideogames.ThanksgivinginevitablyextendsintotheweekendwhichmeanstomorrowIwilllikelybewhackingdragonsinSkyrimorshootingassholesinMW3orcollectingheartpiecesinZelda.


    I spent quality time with my loved ones. We killed zerg together.

  39. PrettyAmiable
    November 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Thanks :)

  40. Marksman2010
    November 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Brennan, are you playing the new Starcraft? Is it worth a flip? I’ve heard it’s online only, which is turning off a lot of players.

  41. November 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I’m just glad that I don’t work retail anymore, and that the idea of being open all night hadn’t come about when I did. Holidays were bad enough then, and since we were in a small store, my coworkers and I just brought food to share that could sit safely out much of the day so that anyone who spotted a chance could dash to the back to grab a bite to eat before the next horde of customers came in.

    I did go out on Friday, but not until 10 a.m., and I was amazed. The stores I went to were maybe slightly busier than most weekends. The line to check out had only one person ahead of us. I guess all the serious Black Friday shoppers had been and gone overnight.

  42. konkonsn
    November 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    My friends and I went Black Friday shopping this year because we all stay up past midnight anyway, and most of the stores were opening at 10. It was kind of fun because we don’t really take it seriously; we go to a couple of stores that have things we like and buy things we were already going to get, only we’re just taking advantage of the deals. If we don’t get what we wanted, then meh. We’ll wait a few more months for it to be on sale regularly.

    I should say most of what we get are video games and electronics and that we’re really not the type that needs it when it comes out.

  43. Brennan
    November 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Marksman, Starcraft II is absolutely worth it. It keeps a lot of the elements I loved from the original and adds some awesome new units and abilities. The online component gets all the glory, but I really enjoyed the single-player campaign as well. It doesn’t have Zerg or Protoss campaigns–those are coming out as expansion packs–but the Terran campaign is pretty long and has a lot of creative gameplay. You can also play versus A.I. as any race, if campaigns and online matches aren’t your thing. Okay, I’ll stop talking like a paid spokesperson now, but you should give it a try if you get the chance.

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