Canada has adopted some questionable U.S. "traditions" — such as singing the national anthem before sporting events, drive-thru restaurants, and Trump-style populism ( Doug Ford) — but nothing we've taken from American culture is more egregious, in my mind than "Black Friday."
"Black Friday," the shopping day that follows U.S. Thanksgiving, has been part of that country's culture since the 1950s.
The term was first used by Canadian retailers in 2007 to stem the tide of shoppers who made cross-border forays into the retail front-lines in American border cities and towns.
This orgy of consumerism and greed is emblematic of almost everything that is wrong with North American culture. The belief that we can buy ourselves some happiness leads only to more profound misery — as sociologists and psychologists have shown time and again. And yet, year after year, Canadians' purchases on Black Friday have increased, ensuring that their misery will too.
Canada already had its answers to the American tradition: Boxing Day. But there's a fundamental difference between the two. Whereas Black Friday marks the beginning of the purchasing frenzy that is Christmas — and promotes, at its core, consumerism, Boxing Day is based in the tradition of offering gifts, Christmas Boxes, to those who have served you over the year. The sales mark the end of the Christmas shopping season and were originally an attempt by stores to unload overstocked items.
There's another critical made-in-Canada antidote to Black Friday. In 1992, a Vancouver artist promoted "Buy Nothing Day" on the Friday following the American Thanksgiving. Because there are no line-ups and fights, though, "Buy Nothing Day" doesn't get the same coverage as Black Friday.
I'm not much of a shopper, but as we enter the buying season, I do think that how we shop matters. Everyone wants a "deal," of course, but if that deal comes at low price and a high cost, it may not be worth it.
Local business, artisans and retailers can't always compete on price with the cheap landfill that may be on offer on Black Friday, but purchasing from them pays back in countless ways. First, the quality of handmade products and goods offers real aesthetic pleasure. Second, knowing that your neighbour is involved in the production makes the purchase that much more meaningful. Third, your purchase helps to keep people employed and local businesses afloat.
So instead of rushing to some mall looking for the never-ending Black Friday sales, take a walk through town or go the artisan and craft fairs. Start your own tradition and shop local this season.