Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday


Thanksgiving is almost here…

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the fact that despite vigorous and unrelenting attempts to do so, to me it seems to have largely resisted the attempts to commercialize it, and has retained its quintessential purity and simplicity. It is really fundamentally about gathering with friends and family and being grateful for the gifts, the blessings of our lives.

For that reason I have never really liked the nickname “Turkey Day.” I love to linger on the word “thanks-giving” and, much as I love turkey and all the trimmings, I prefer to keep the focus on the giving thanks.

The very next day the commercial world goes into high gear with Black Friday: and while I understand the appeal of the opportunity to save big going into the holiday season, I have never understood why it has to start so early in the day. Why should people have to get up at the crack of dawn the very next day to shop? What, the bosses couldn’t give both shoppers and store employees a break, and start the sales a little bit later in the day? Give people a little bit of time to enjoy the afterglow of Thanksgiving Day?

Well, who knows, perhaps that will evolve in time. Certainly in the last few years there has been some pushback to a day that was becoming a bit frenzied to say the least. Many stores have begun reversing the trend to start the big sales on Thanksgiving Day itself; many parks, and cultural and community centers have begun offering alternative things to do, all of them wholesome, many of them free, for those who may decide that they’d like to avoid all the crowds, and make the day after Thanksgiving a “Buy Nothing Day” instead.

There is also Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, when shoppers are urged to support small local businesses. And there is Cyber Monday, which gives everyone a chance to get some great bargains online going into the season.

But what is Giving Tuesday, and where and when did it start?

Giving Tuesday is relatively new: it began in 2012, and it is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Giving Tuesday is a day to focus on supporting educational, humanitarian, and cultural organizations around the world.

Like so many other wonderful things, Giving Tuesday began in New York City, specifically at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact, at the 92nd Street Y.

This link will take you to the part of the Giving Tuesday site that tells you what you can do as an individual to become involved in supporting organizations near you—or halfway around the world.

Giving Tuesday happens to come at a time of year that is advantageous both to the organizations  that need support, and taxpayers  who want to increase their tax-deductible  donations before the end of the year.

So all around, it’s a win-win situation—especially for those who benefit from others reaching into their pockets, or giving of their time and talents,  to help make the world a better place in a variety of ways.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving–and, however you choose to spend the days that follow–a safe, healthy, and joyful start to the holiday season.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.







10 Things to Do on Black Friday (Besides Shop)


We’ve all just celebrated a beautiful day, a day set aside to give thanks and be grateful for all the blessings we have. For the past 25 or so years, using some logic that has always escaped me, the day AFTER Thanksgiving has become a day for a mad (and sometimes literally deadly) scramble to acquire more things, and to get up at the crack of dawn, leaving home and family behind in order to do so.

We’ve written about that phenomenon before here and here. This year I thought I would offer 10 alternative ideas for things you can do on Black Friday, if you are one of the increasing number of people who have decided to “just say no” to all that.

1. Take out some of the board games (or puzzles, or DVDs) that you gave or received as gifts last year and play them! 

2. Get out the photo albums (or the unsorted boxes of photos) and work on labeling, sorting, dividing, getting rid of the bad ones, etc. Tell each other the stories that go along with the pictures as you work together on this task. (Maybe even record some of those stories?)

3. Begin making homemade gifts. (Think broadly: baked goods, poems, songs, stories all make wonderful gifts.) Or make lists of gifts you may want to order on CyberMonday (December 1 this year).

4. Visit someone who is ill, or in need of company.

5. Make music! Sing!

6. Bake cookies.

7. Read aloud, by the fireplace if you have one. A few suggestions:  “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.  Or “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem” by Maya Angelou. Or “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss.

8. Take a walk, or a hike together. Or ride bikes, or ski!

9. Clear some space in your home for the holiday decorations and gifts to come.

10. Make a bundle of clothing, toys, books or other items to donate to those in need. Or make and freeze a meal to deliver to a homeless shelter next month.

I think I can almost guarantee that doing any one of these things–and probably many more you can think of–will be a much better way to keep the beautiful glow of gratitude and thanksgiving alive a little bit longer. And a better way to enter the holiday season ahead.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Tis the Season to…



Or at least slow down and back up a bit, maybe?

Have you seen this meme that’s been making the rounds?  The image on the left is from the 1978 zombie movie “Dawn of the Dead,” the one on the right, a real-life photo from Black Friday, 2013.

I remember when that movie came out in 1978, a friend came home from the theater shaking his head, and said, “The moral of this story is that, WHATEVER HAPPENS, you must never stop shopping.”

Then 2001 came, and after our nation had been dealt the worst blow we had ever been dealt in our history, what did our President tell us to do, to make things better?

He told us to shop.

So here we are in 2013. Black Friday, which was bad enough (what is the purpose of dragging people out of bed on one of the few days many of them could sleep in, before dawn, in order to start shopping? I never really understood that) has now encroached onto Thanksgiving Day, which until recently was seemingly the one holiday that was impervious to commercial corruption.

But no longer.

I’m not sure what to say about this, except that this phenomenon has all the markings of mass insanity. And that clearly many of us are letting people who don’t know when to stop, run things.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We can find ways to make the holidays special without having to spend a lot of money, or buying consumer goods in conditions that are unpleasant,  wrongheaded, and frankly even dangerous.

We can find ways to keep the wheels of our economy turning without playing this ridiculous game.

Here are a couple of our past posts with suggestions for ways to reject the madness, and still celebrate the season of giving. And to do it in a way that is kind both to the earth, and to the people living on it.

Happy Holidays, everyone! May this be a peaceful, happy, season of true joy–the kind that has nothing to do with acquiring consumer goods–for you and yours.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor,  writing coach travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

#BlackFriday, #BuyNothingDay and #Downsizing the Home

Maybe it was bound to happen. As Black Friday gets crazier and crazier, more people seem to be recoiling from it in disgust. There’s even an anti-Black Friday movement: Buy Nothing Day, an international phenomenon that apparently began in Mexico in 1992, thus preceding the worsening excesses of the (literally) insane consumerism we’ve seen in recent years as the holiday shopping period begins. I just discovered Buy Nothing Day this year and was pleased to know I am far from alone in considering just about any commercial enterprise about the last place on earth that I would want to be on the day after Thanksgiving.

The news reports of this year’s Black Friday were pretty sad: a woman pepper-spraying her bargain-hunting competitors; a man attacked in a parking lot as he headed toward a store opening in the middle of the night; police using tasers to subdue unruly shoppers. To name just a few examples.

So, it was kind of refreshing to read the tweets in the “buynothingday” feed, which was trending on Twitter on Black Friday this year.

The thing I find hardest to understand about Black Friday (which in my opinion was bad enough years ago, when the sales began at 6:00 a.m.), is WHY.

Why is it necessary to open the stores earlier than usual? This just puts shoppers, retail workers, and their friends and families all in the nasty position of having the peacefulness and blessed NON-CONSUMERISM of their Thanksgiving holiday interrupted–no, destroyed–sooner than it needs to be.

Why couldn’t the stores just open when they open? There is not a single reason I can think of to justify this madness.

You would think that people would figure this out for themselves. And apparently millions have. They’ve decided to BUY NOTHING!!!

Here’s what we should all be remembering: WE are in the driver’s seat. THEY have things they want to sell. We may–or may not–want to buy some of those things. If we don’t want to get up in the middle of the night to get good prices on those goods–(and who does, really?!) then we shouldn’t have to, should we?

And the people who work so hard in retail–especially at this time of year–should be able to sleep in at least until the usual time the day after Thanksgiving–shouldn’t they?

Also, most of us already have TOO MUCH STUFF!

So. Maybe some of us should be using those days after Thanksgiving to GET RID OF STUFF instead of buying more.

What a concept!

Here are a couple of articles that ran last week, that will give you encouragement and some good practical ideas about how to go about doing just that, if you want to buck the Black Friday/Cyber Monday tide of consumerism.

Just think of all the miserable mall moments you’ll avoid.

And isn’t the prospect of a less cluttered home in which to enjoy the holidays a nice one?

I certainly think it is.


%d bloggers like this: