The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
– Thích Nhất Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, and peace activist, from Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
When I was young, the day after Thanksgiving wasn’t coined Black Friday, but my mother and my two sisters and I would get up early and drive to either Visalia or Bakersfield, the former about 40 minutes away and the latter about an hour away from home, to do our Christmas shopping at the malls. And the day after Christmas, we would go to either town and my sisters and I would spend the Christmas money that our mother gave us on holiday sales. This was a family ritual that I still look back on with fondness. It was a day that we four spent together.
To this day, if I hear the word “sale,” I go into “hunt” mode. And I enjoy shopping. But I no longer associate shopping with the day after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas. The few times I’ve ventured out both days – most notably after the kids have been born – have left me harried and anxious. They weren’t pleasant experiences like the ones I had with my sisters and my mother. Part of it is having grown older and being more easily overwhelmed with crowds and so many stores.
Part of it is how we now spend our holidays and want to spend our holidays. The day after Thanksgiving, if we are celebrating in San Diego, we are making the eight-hour drive after a family brunch and our visit. If we are hosting, we are cleaning up after everyone leaves and then pulling down the Christmas decorations from the attic. There is no time for Black Friday shopping, and I’d rather spend that day decorating and listening to all of our Christmas CDs in a 48-hour decorating extravaganza. The kids look forward to it – my daughter is a big advocate of not decorating or even thinking about Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving – and decking the halls has become a cherished family tradition. It warmed my heart to hear both kids say, on our ride home today, how they couldn’t wait to put up the decorations, with my daughter even asking if we could start tonight. That would be a no, if we want to truly enjoy the time decking the halls!
I’m not going to judge the people who are checking off their Christmas lists as they go from sale to sale. I chuckled as I read a text message from my brother-in-law who, along with my sister and the other “crazies,” as he called them, was hitting the 50 percent off sales at the outlets late last night. My sisters and my mother and I never felt harried when we were shopping for presents. We enjoyed our time together, both in the car and in the malls. It’s just that these days I’m enjoying my time with my family doing what we want to be doing. While others are winding down from their Black Friday shopping, we are getting ready for a lot of greenery – as in Noble Fir, holly, and garlands.
Be with your family and enjoy your time together, however you choose to spend it. That’s what the day after Thanksgiving should be all about. After all.