THANKSGIVING IS THE BEST DAY of the year to be an American. It’s not a day about consumerism or greed or pride or pettiness — it’s a day about gratitude and humility and family. So it’s more than a little irritating that it’s followed by one of the worst days of the year to be an American — Black Friday.
Black Friday, if you’ve been living in a blissful, happy little hole for the past few decades, is the start of the holiday season in the United States, and as such, is regularly the busiest shopping day of the year. To lean into this trend, retailers started offering huge sales on the day, which in turn, drew even more people to the stores.
It got ugly. There were stampedes. There were fights. There were even deaths. Stores began opening earlier and earlier, forcing their workers to cut their Thanksgiving Days short so they could open up early for bargain-hunting customers. In 2012, Walmart opened for Black Friday at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, leading to a walkout by Walmart employees, who would rather have spent the night with their families.
And then, something beautiful happened.
Buy Nothing Day and Green Friday
In 1992, anti-consumerists started staging “Buy Nothing Day” on the same day as Black Friday. It was meant as a form of protest to the rampant consumerism that had overtaken the holiday season — something that Charlie Brown complained about as early as 1965.
Other movements began to spring out of the grossest day of the year. The day after was dubbed “Small Business Saturday,” as an attempt to get people away from the soulless retail stores and spending in their local economies. The Tuesday after was dubbed “Giving Tuesday,” as an attempt to turn the holiday spirit away from consumerism and towards philanthropy.
Then, last year, a new idea started taking off: Green Friday.
Green Friday is a movement pushing Americans to forego the shopping and to instead take the day off work, and to get into America’s great outdoors with their families. It was given a giant boost last year when retailer REI closed down all of its stores on Black Friday, gave its employees a paid day off, and urged them to get outside. But the biggest pushers of the day are the nation’s state parks.
The State of California is offering thousands of free passes to 116 of their state parks — and most of them have already been snapped up. Colorado, calling it #FreshAirFriday, is offering free admission to all 42 of its parks.
— Colorado Eco Devo (@ColoradoEcoDevo) November 22, 2016
Texas State Parks are offering a number of events, using REI’s #OptOutside hashtag, and New Mexico, Oregon, Kansas, Michigan, Delaware, Minnesota, Indiana, and a number of other states are joining in on the fun.
A new holiday?
American consumerism likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the popularity of Green Friday (or #OptOutside, or Fresh Air Friday, or whatever you want to call it) is a strong, positive way of pushing back on the grosser parts of American materialism. It’s grown significantly in just a few years — here’s to hoping it turns into a full-fledged American holiday
So if you don’t have any plans this Friday, considering going to a nearby state or national park. Or hey, maybe just drive to a nearby forest or beach. Or play football in the backyard with your family. It’s the perfect way to follow up a holiday that involves the intake of a lot of calories with some fresh air and exercise.