So without a doubt, my least favourite time of the year is Black Friday/Cyber Monday. It's the time of year when we sell our souls for deals on trinkets and wampum. I'm in favor of saving money, but it's been getting more and more extreme every year. By extreme, I mean, the sales are starting on Thanksgiving Day...not even at night anymore. Now I'm not here to stand on a soapbox because I do understand that some people rely on these deals to get things that they might not be able to normally afford. I talk a lot about food and nutrition, which is to be expected at this time of year, but I want to talk about something that's as important as what we are eating...it's who we are eating with.
Loneliness and lacking a sense of community have been identified as key factors effecting our health and have been shown to substantially increase risk of mortality. Lack of community or sense of has also been identified as one of the factors behind increased veteran suicide rates. The holidays can be stressful and I know that sitting with your extended family for an over-indulgent meal, followed by football games on tv, chasing your kids around hoping that they don't break grandma's good china (or whatever relic from yesteryear that will run the risk of destruction at the hands of your kids), and talking with your crazy uncle who may or may not be a part of a militia are definitely not the recipe for a good time. I would also say that standing in line with a thousand other crazed shoppers who are all trying to get their hands on the same discounted electronics/clothes/toys that you are, is also not either.
So what can we do to help make this a better time for us?
1.) Bring an typical dish in addition to your green bean casserole or whatever traditional dish that you signed up for. If you make mashed potatoes, bring a mashed cauliflower dish also. Or go ethnic and bring chan masala, saag paneer, or tandoori chicken (I'm craving indian food now). Go a step further and get your kids involved in making it, that way they can guilt their aunts and uncles into eating it.
2.) Pass on watching football and get out and play with the kids. That way you can control the chaos and ensure that grandma's treasures don't get broken. Come up with things that can be inclusive of all age groups...bonus points for creativity and if you can incorporate a craft into it. Have the first annual family turkey trot or turkey bowl and have the people who can't physically participate make signs, banners, awards, so everyone can be involved.
3.) Unavoidable uncomfortable conversations with your crazy uncle...This is unavoidable...embrace it....you know it's coming and you know what to expect so don't just embrace it....engage with him. Ask him why he thinks the government is trying to steal his land...or ask him about why he got into leather goods and turquoise, is it just a fashion statement or is there a greater cause to it. All kidding aside, every family has it's own level of dysfunction, but once we can embrace that dysfunction, we will start to have more organic and real relationships with the people that we (are supposed to) love.
4.) Shopping...I know you're going to go...it's unavoidable. It's the new, worst tradition. So since you are going to do it anyways, let's make the most of it. So here is your assignment...at every store you go to, park at the back of the parking lot...you already have to wait in line and people are going to be crazy, so be smart and take the opportunity to know exactly where your car is (the farthest point from the entrance) and you are going to burn some extra calories. Secondly, whether you are by yourself or you went with other people, create an alliance with a complete stranger/group of strangers as you wait in line. Once you've established your alliance, develop a mutually exclusive strategy to help each other get what you have come for...you can run the triangle offense or pick and roll to get the best deals or run a box 1 defense to keep people away from the racks with the cutest clothes for the kids....at the checkout, exchange social media or contact information with your new found allies. If you are a black friday warrior, by the end of it, you should have made around 50 new friends.
There's one other thing that I didn't mention...this is the time of year to remember what's important in our lives...to be thankful for what we have...and to hopefully pay it forward.
Please comment or share your Thanksgiving and Black Friday adventures.