Buy Nothing Day

For me, the day after Thanksgiving has always been the real holiday. Neither the turkey nor the wall-to-wall football has ever excited me. But Friday was the day for unpacking the Christmas decorations, dusting off the holiday records, and welcoming in the Christmas season. This, I loved.

Among our Friday traditions was the mall crawl. Our family would pile into the van and brave the packed freeway to SLC, where we would wander three or four of the malls. We never got up in the wee hours to make the opening rush—as a family of night owls, I’m not sure you could get us up and out the door before first light if the house was on fire. But once we had taken care of the morning festivities, we wandered the malls until closing time.

Looking back, I’m rather embarrassed. Much of the thrill was simply seeing all the things I wanted, all the thing I might possibly get. Occasionally we would get gifts for others on the trip, but the tradition was primarily an opportunity to finalize our wishlists. Virtually our first act of the season was to pay homage to commercialism.

I’ve grown older, hopefully wiser, and have come to understand the shallow nature of consumerism, and appreciate the importance of sustainable living and simplicity. I’m no longer interested in celebrating C.S. Lewis’ aptly named “Rush.” Now I’m an advocate of Buy Nothing Day.

Honoring Buy Nothing Day isn’t very difficult. You simply don’t go shopping. There are plenty of other activities with which to fill your time.

Why not usher in the celebration of our Lord and elder brother by spending quality time with family? Black Friday is often spent with family, but I’m skeptical that time spent in lines, rushing to catch some special before stock runs out, or weaving over blacktop looking for a decent parking spot qualifies as quality time. Instead, why not spend the day making your Christmas decor? It isn’t so long ago that homes were not dressed for the holidays by Wal-Mart and Target. Families made their decorations, from the tree ornaments, to paper snowflakes, to the wreath, and even the nativity. How often do people still make those paper chains with which to count down the days until Christmas? While those earlier families may not financially have had the option of buying pre-made Christmas furnishings, I think they may have been better for the time together making their Christmases.

Not all of my enjoyment of Black Friday came from avarice. I am an extrovert by nature, and am energized by crowds. Being in among the (more or less) jolly throngs thrilled me. I love traditional Christmas music (and some few contemporary creations). Fortunately, I find that there are plenty of ways to enjoy the multitudes without offering up sacrifices at the altar of corporatism. Temple Square lights up for the season on Friday. Starting at 4:30, SLC’s Gallivan Center will host a “lights on” celebration, with a concert by Kurt Bestor and a children’s choir. Those less clumsy than I might enjoy Gallivan’s ice skating. Gateway is also sponsoring music and a tree lighting—just don’t be seduced into the stores lining the way.

Several local charitable and progressive groups are sponsoring at Coat Exchange at the Salt Lake City Library plaza, from 10:00-3:00 on Friday. Helping out at this or some other charitable activity would be a wonderful way to start the season.

What other traditions do you have to begin the holiday off right? What traditions have you considered starting? What other things are happening in your communities to ring in the season without a cash register?


We just got through with being interviewed by Chris Jones for KUTV (channel 2) news about this post. Apparently he wanted to do a report on Buy Nothing Day in Utah, and googled my post. They came to our house, asked us some questions, and filmed us decorating our tree. Of all the posts I’d written, this is not the one I’d expected to get media attention. If you’re interested in seeing me being a stammering fool (as opposed to a typing fool), keep an eye on the news.

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7 Responses to “Buy Nothing Day”

  1. Mary Child Says:

    AGREED! My hubby and I, over the past 12 years of being together, have always stayed-in on Black Friday. We pull out the Christmas decorations, put up the lights, decorate our environmentally-friendly artificial tree, eat turkey sandwiches for lunch, and enjoy the kick-off of the Christmas season from the impossible-to-beat comfort of home! The past few years (as the “deals” have become more enticing) I’ve been tempted to head out on Friday morning, and a few times I did sneak out at 5:00, but I’ve always been back before the kids are up, and we’ve successfully kept up our tradition of spending the day at home. It is so much more peaceful and festive to spend the day at home together, rather than giving in to the consumer-driven-commercialization of Christmas. I totally agree that the spirit of the season is jeopardized when the hightlight of it becomes all about the “stuff”… Great post!

    (By the way, Temple Square is one of the few things I miss about Utah. The outdoors, the ski resorts, and Temple Square. Actually, if not for the high ratio of whack-jobs-to-normal-people ratio, Utah would be a great place to call home)!!!

  2. deesings Says:

    Thank you very much for this post and also for mentioning the Annual Community Coat Exchange. We are hoping to double last year’s number, which was 300 coats given away with the 100 left over donated to Crossroads Urban Center’s Thrift Store.

    What a better way to spend Buy Nothing Day doing something for our community.

  3. alliegator Says:

    I’ve done the Black Friday 4am shopping before (it was kind of fun when I went with my Aunt), but it felt really good to look through all the adds, and not feel any desire to buy any of it. “Good Deals” or not.

    I’m staying home with my kids and getting out our christmas decorations.

    (I think I have a small coat that we don’t need, is there a place to donate it without having to go anywhere tomorrow?)

  4. alliegator Says:

    Oh- and I’m going to eat some more pie.

    And turkey with butter on rolls.

  5. Derek Staffanson Says:

    ‘Gator, the Coat Exchange website is a little unclear about it (if Dee is still reading, maybe she can elaborate). It says that the City Academy (555 East 200 South) is a drop off center, but I suspect they’re only taking the coats today. Since leftover coats are donated to the Crossroads Urban Center, I’d suggest taking the coat there if you want to donate another day.

  6. Dick Richards Says:

    Liberal Mormon…sounds like one of them oxymorons. Boy, you ain’t happy because you haven’t gone to your knees and talked with your Heavenly Father. He’ll get the liberal outta ya, if you ask him kindly. He loves you boy, especially your sin of being liberal. I mean, could you imagine a Communist Mormon? Now don’t go all Law of Consecration on me here, son. You coulda done that out of your own free will. Read your scriptures, say your prayers and repent of that word you call yourself. People with problems don’t label themselves pridefully, like ‘Stupid Redneck’ or ‘Kinda Dumb Democrats. Why go on and insult yourself like them, son? Go do your home teaching and talk to your bishop about your liberal problem. With his guidance as a divinely chosen official of your ward and your broken heart and contrite spirit, you’ll come out of it, just like them homos in California. They do the same, and they will feel the same spirit we feel durin’ the Sacrament.

  7. WP Lyon Says:

    Great example Derek! I too enjoyed the day without shopping and the noise of the crowds. How about those Wal Mart shoppers stampeding an employee to death?

    I celebrate too the moniker and description of being a liberal Mormon. Joseph Smith urged us all to be liberal. From a piece by LDS historian Davis Bitton:

    “What, then, does it mean to be liberal? When Joseph Smith was leading the Latter-day Saints, he praised those who were liberal . In September 1843, when he opened the Nauvoo Mansion as a hotel, he explained:

    ‘My house has been a home and resting-place for thousands, and my family many times obliged to do without food, after having fed all they had to visitors; and I could have continued the same liberal course, had it not been for the cruel and untiring persecution of my relentless enemies.” ( HC 6:33).

    “Woe to ye rich men, who refuse to give to the poor, and then come and ask me for bread,” he said on another occasion. “Away with all your meanness, and be liberal.” ( HC 6:56-59).”

    Away with any meanness Dick Richards and allow us to be Liberal Mormons if we so choose!

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