I have a confession to make: I used to be a Black Friday shopper.
Truthfully, I found the comments from well-intentioned people, who condemned the practice of getting up early the day after Thanksgiving to shop, a little short-sighted and slightly annoying. There were and are people like me who could shop patiently and bring a little cheer to others.
I added Black Friday into my Christmas preparations when my kids were very young. My reasons for starting the practice were practical and simple. I lived on a very tight budget with a growing family, I hate to shop and I am a morning person.
Yes, I have read the market research and confessions of retail managers that say there are just as many deals throughout the year to take advantage without entering into Black Friday. But that research also supports the first two of my reasons for black Friday shopping; I have always been on a tight budget and I hate to shop.
During the rest of the year, I only shop when absolutely necessary and for very specific needs as they arise. For clothes, I mostly shop off-season in clearance racks, so I do think ahead and take advantage of those savings. But I cannot imagine even thinking about Christmas shopping in July. I’m all too happy being outside enjoying the summer and I look for every excuse not to shop. We also don’t buy gifts for extended family. We exchange gifts just in our immediate family and close friends, so it’s not a one month free-for-all shopping at the holidays.
This all leads me to the indisputable fact that I am a morning person. I love mornings. Five a.m. is my favorite time of day; it’s quiet and my brain focuses best in the early morning. Since menopause started (and stopped again), some mornings start at 3 a.m., but who’s counting?
Being a morning person who is on a tight budget and hates to shop makes me a perfect candidate for Black Friday shopping. I always went with a list of specific stores and deals that I felt would really provide the foundation of the gifts for my family. I looked for out of the ordinary deals like the little kitchen play set I got for my girls when they were under six years old.
Coincidentally, that play kitchen set and a Kitchen Aid stand-up mixer, were among my best Black Friday finds. They were years apart, in the same theme for the same daughter who graduated from preparing play food to phenomenal real food preparation. She is now a great cook! See, Black Friday sales can even inspire creativity!
Since I hate to shop, I need the timing to be when I can really focus, so leaving the house at 5 a.m. fit my needs and my personality very well. I never stood on a line in the cold. I don’t like crowds that are tense. So I would only enter stores after they were opened, avoiding the feeding frenzy that developed outside the locked retail stores.
I truly enjoyed my Black Friday shopping. I was a young mother, out for a morning by myself. I usually bought a coffee and an egg sandwich at a local deli. Then I did something that would probably help most Black Friday shoppers have a better shopping experience and get better deals: I prayed.
I prayed for the Lord to guide my purchases towards things that my family needed and for really good deals. I prayed for my family and friends as I shopped for them. But more than anything else, I prayed to be a witness of patience and calm to those around me. Yes, finding the right gifts that matched the right deals was important to me, especially because shopping really drains me. I wanted to use my time wisely. But more than anything else, people are most important and I saw Black Friday shopping as an opportunity to spread the true meaning of Christmas cheer. I held doors, smiled and acknowledged people, laughing and joking whenever the opportunities arose.
As my eldest kids got older, I would take one or two and finally all three with me for the early morning experience. I welcomed them into my morning world (most of them didn’t know 5 a.m. existed), as we sipped our hot chocolates and coffees as decided on a plan. I introduced them to the concept of intercessory shopping. Eyes rolled but they became believers when they witnessed my calm and the deals that a little inspiration bought. I will never forget my pre-teen son’s comment after we prayed together for a specific purchase and then we found exactly what we needed at precisely the price we wanted. He remarked, “Wow, Mom, this intercessory shopping thing really works.”
The first year Tanger Outlets opened at midnight on Black Friday, the kids and I went shopping. The crowds were insane and very nasty. Even though it was technically Black Friday at 12:01 a.m., it did cause retail employees to curtail Thanksgiving and get very little sleep before a very long day. That really bothered me. It also went against one of my three top reasons for Black Friday shopping: I am a morning person. I realized that reason only applies when I’ve had enough sleep. My intercessory shopping helped me discern that it was best to leave it all behind and come home after the first hour.
Since the envelope on black Friday has been pushed to include stores opening on Thanksgiving, I just haven’t the heart to shop on Black Friday anymore. I just can’t economically support forcing others to start work on Thanksgiving, with some employees working through the night. The East End has lost one intercessory shopper on Black Friday as I focus my energy at home, cleaning the house and getting ready to decorate for Christmas.
Even if I’m behind on the shopping, oh well. There’s plenty of time to shop and share my Christmas cheer. We can all prepare for the holidays with patience and think of others besides. We can take advantage of sales to buy extra groceries for a food pantry or purchase gifts for needy families and donate them to the churches on the North Fork sponsoring these programs.
When we choose to be examples of patience and peace in the busyness of the holiday season, Christ’s light is born again in our lives and in our world. May we all be of good cheer and experience God’s blessings as we prepare the way for the Lord!
Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at FreeIndeedFreelance.com.
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