Black Friday was traditionally, in retail, considered the day businesses generally “went into the black,” or started making a profit. In celebration of this event, retailers offered celebratory sales.

As a child growing up in rural Montana in the ’70s, I knew nothing of Black Friday. When my own children were very young — the early ’90s and living in the metropolis of Spokane — I really embraced this phenomenon. It was actually a lot of fun!

The thickest newspaper EVER would arrive on Thanksgiving morning. I would pore over the glossy inserts and map out my strategy for the following morning. Often, we would team with others to “divide and conquer” by sharing the tasks of the day — child care chief among them.

As a young parent, just starting out, the opportunity to get my kids “a little extra” with limited funds, was enough of a motive to make me stand in line in the dark early-morning hours and rush through my list so I could be on to the next stop. A sense of camaraderie and excitement for the start of the Christmas season always seemed to accompany these adventures.

Today, my perspective of the concept of Black Friday is that it has progressed into a grotesque litany of blatant consumerism. Starting earlier and earlier, we’re bombarded with email, mailers and ads with sneak peeks, pre-Black Friday offers, bounce-back coupons and store “bucks.”

Then the actual day arrives. No! Wait! Retailers open on Thanksgiving Day to edge out the competition. Door busters, online offers, online-only or in-store-only offers and a myriad of variations nudge the consumer even further into the abyss of “let’s find a deal.” The overload of reductions has me numb to any real savings, and it seems the “fun” is sucked out of even the cheeriest of souls.

Now, armed with a little more maturity, a little more appreciation for what I find really important and a lot less tolerance for cold, crowds and forays in the wee morning hours, I find embracing different ways of showing love and appreciation to my family and friends is really possible and even really fun.

Here are a few things I’ve done:

Opt-out. Outdoor products retailer REI made a bold statement in 2015 by announcing it would remain closed on Thanksgiving AND Black Friday, and encouraged employees and members to “opt outside” — take to the great outdoors. This is an easy and fun alternative to consider.

Washington state parks are FREE on Autumn Day this year (Nov. 24 — Black Friday). We have several state parks within striking distance of Walla Walla. Consider Lewis & Clark Trail Park, Steptoe Butte & Steptoe Battlefield Parks, Palouse Falls and Fields Spring. For the price of gas and lunch on the road, you can enjoy the day.

For year-round fun, a Discover Pass to all state parks for two cars for a full year is just $30. Now you’ve got your shopping done, too!

Make gifts. This can be tricky. For some reason, there is a stigma towards homemade gifts. For me though, these are the gifts I cherish the most.

The clay owl my grown son made in kindergarten adorns my wall; the clay flower pot that my daughter painted for me last summer holds a spider plant near my window. All around are reminders of the love that my family has for me.

Granted, not everyone has the time or resources to “make” gifts, but there are things you can do to keep it simple and fun. We have a wonderful resource in the Pottery Painting Studio at Carnegie Center run by Walla Walla’s Parks and Recreation department. We also have a local painting studio, Brushes N’ Brix, where you can join with family, friends or your special person to create original works of art.

Food gifts can be special too — a signature loaf, candies or preserved food item is a celebration of goodness. Give it a try — it’s easier than you think!

Give gifts of time. This one is so easy! A certificate presented to the recipient describing your time contribution to be redeemed at a mutually agreeable future date. Time could be spent providing babysitting, mowing, raking leaves, cleaning, cooking a meal, taking your friend or loved one to an event, or any number of options tailored especially to your recipient and situation.

Other ideas include volunteering at local agencies or schools, organize a caroling event, teaching a workshop on a skill or talent that you can share with others, lead a hike — and the list goes on! Time is so precious, why not make it your special gift?

Give to others in the name of loved ones. This is a great option for all walks of life. Teaching kids about the importance of sharing by allocating a portion of holiday expenditures toward adopting a family in need, providing a gift for a local giving tree or making a donation to a nonprofit organization is a lesson, or gift, they will benefit from for all their lives.

For friends or loved ones who are set, or have “everything,” a gift made to their favorite organization or cause lets them know that you know what is important to them.

To help support this form of giving, Sustainable Living Center is hosting the Walla Walla Alternative Gift Fair on Dec. 2, from noon-4 p.m. at the Young Ballroom in Reid Campus Center of Whitman College. Representatives from 21 local nonprofits will be on hand to share their work and offer gifts symbolic of the services they provide to the community.

Live music by Glenn Morrison, Jimmye Turner and friends, will be on hand, as well as crafts, a raffle and bake sale. Join in to see what alternative giving is all about. Certificates for gifts of time will also be provided free of charge.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but perhaps it will help get you thinking outside of the bleak black Friday offerings. If you do venture forth on Black Friday, make sure you take some time to smile, say hello to friends and acquaintances and have a little fun! Also don’t forget to support your local businesses on Small Business Saturday, and your favorite causes on Giving Tuesday.

For more information on this topic, visit our website at and click the “Resources” tab.

Erendira Cruz is the executive director of the Sustainable Living Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Montana State University.

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