As a Canadian, I have always found the whole Black Friday thing to be more of an amusement than an observance to take seriously. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, and since it typically falls right after the Jewish high holidays, it was never really a thing in my family. We had all seen each other a week or two before. Nobody had the time and energy to do it again so soon.

But I guess in America, it is a bigger deal and has come to be kicked off with a shopping orgy. My initial reaction to that, when it first hit the Canadian mainstream only a few years ago, was ‘meh.’ We are not a materialistic household. Much of the stuff that tends to be on sale is clutter we seldom need.

I was amused to see that I was not the only non-American to shrug and make other plans. A group of British booksellers have organized a charming antidote this year called ‘Civilised Saturday’ where shoppers could browse over Prosecco, cucumber sandwiches and pastries. As one participating bookseller explains:

“We abhor the chaos of Black Friday, so it is an antidote to that. We like to keep it small and friendly — so we are having cake and tea for our customers. It will be a nice calm day.”

To that, I say: ‘Hear, hear!’ Let’s all get our holiday season off to a civilized start. Instead of buying more gadgets or other goods, on sale, how about just buy less and get what you want to? In my family, we started out with a tradition of buying just for the kids, then drawing names for one adult to buy for. We finally realized that everyone in our little family, thankfully, can afford to buy both wants and needs for themselves. We still buy for the little children. Then every adult kicks in $20 for the draw. Two names are picked. Those winners pick the charities the pot goes to that year.

I recently binge-watched a guilty pleasure reality show about extreme savers. In one episode, a woman had some coupons which brought mustard down to 10 cents a jar. She bought almost 100 of them because, at that price, how could she not? To me, this is the same mentality behind Black Friday. Does anyone really need that much mustard? Even if it is a great deal?

I am throwing my lot in with the Civilised Saturday people instead. If I need or want something, I’ll buy it. But I am not going to let the retail industry talk me into the book or movie or video game equivalent of 100 jars of mustard. Don’t buy cheap; buy mindfully. And be grateful for what you choose to have. Meanwhile let me wish my U.S. readers a happy just-over Thanksgiving.

Related: TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows on ‘Civilised Saturday.’ Also see Associate Editor Paul St John Mackintosh on Cyber Monday.


  1. The whole “Black Friday” thing has become insane. It was all started by a story that the day after Thanksgiving was the biggest day for shopping of the year. Even though it was wrong, it was widely repeated in the news. Stores started competing for the business by putting huge discounts on a few items, and advertising them heavily. People would have to come in early to try to get them before they sold out. When this became common, some stores started opening early to get a jump on the competition, Over the years, this nuttiness has grown to the point of stores opening their big sales Thankgiving evening instead of on Friday.

    Myself, I don’t go out to the stores this time of year. I did order a few items online, but nothing pricy. My biggest purchase was the $35 Fire tablet.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail