There’s something exhilarating about setting the alarm for 3am, herding your family to your favorite local store, and cashing in on deal after deal on all the season’s best merchandise. It’s that feeling you get when you snatch something fabulous from the clearance rack, but multiplied by ten or twenty (or however long your Christmas shopping list is). You’ll fight crowds, chaos and other caffeinated moms until the sun comes up and utter exhaustion sets in – or until you’ve purchased something hot for everyone on your list.
It’s true: Black Friday is a great way to get Christmas shopping finished early and inexpensively (or relatively so), and there’s a certain rush that accompanies grabbing the perfect present in the wee hours of the morning. But I’ve never been a fan of shopping, mornings or crowds. So a few years back, my family started our own tradition on Black Friday: get up at the crack of dawn, get caffeinated and get as far away from any retail establishment as possible.
If you’re tired of the rat race, try something new this Black Friday. Spend some time together as a family, away from the chaos and congestion. And don’t panic about your shopping list – Amazon and plenty of other online retailers have Black Friday specials all day, so you won’t miss a thing.
The Great Outdoors
As aforementioned, my family hightails it out of the urban sprawl on Black Friday. We’re a bird-watching family, so we head north to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge near Sherman, but there are plenty of other places to breathe in the fresh, November air around the DFW area. A family walk is a good solution for burning off Thanksgiving Day calories and taking a break from the onslaught of holiday madness. Start in your own neighborhood or a local greenbelt, or venture down to urban green spaces like Klyde Warren Park to get into the green scene between museum outings and shopping trips. Encourage your kids to explore, and point out the fall colors and acorn varieties.
If you’d like to venture farther from home, many parks and preserves in North Texas will be open on Black Friday, including the Fort Worth Nature Center in Fort Worth, Lake Mineral Wells State Park in Mineral Wells, The Heard Museum in McKinney, Ray Roberts Lake State Park in Pilot Point and Cedar Ridge Preserve in Dallas.
Instead of hauling everyone out of bed before the sun, set a leisurely pace for the morning (let’s face it – after Thanksgiving Day, we all want to be a little lethargic). Prepare breakfast together as family. Give everyone a task to do, even the youngest, so that everyone feels included. Then sit down, relax and bond over the food you’ve prepared. The holidays only get busier, so take advantage of every opportunity to slow down around the table – not just at Thanksgiving dinner.
If your family would rather save the effort and dine out, Main Street Bistro and Bakery, The Original Pancake House, Le Peep and Mimi’s Café will all be open and ready to serve your family a delicious brunch.
Give a Little
Gift giving (especially at bargain prices) is all well and good, but try giving something else this year: your time and energy. Volunteer at a local food pantry, or visit a neighbor who’s alone for the holidays. Make Christmas cards and deliver them to a local nursing home. Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County accepts holiday cards and crafts to give away.
If you’re attached to the adrenaline rush of early morning madness, then hit the stores with a new agenda. Shop for a local charity or holiday toy drive and let your kids pick out gifts for children in need. Many charities need more supplies during the holidays, especially for children who would otherwise miss out on the Christmas-morning cheer.
And if you’re heading to a mall on Black Friday, look for an Angel Tree hosted by The Salvation Army. Grab an ornament to adopt an angel, then start shopping – and let your kids lead the way. You can find a list of participating malls here.
Why buy what you can make? Gather some craft supplies and get creative together. Your relatives will adore handmade gifts from your kids. Simple projects like bookmarks are suitable for tiny tots, or you can get elaborate with your crafty creations. If you’re feeling fancy, take your family to a pottery-painting store. Let your kids select the perfect pieces to paint, then pick up their masterpieces later, glazed, fired and ready to wrap. Purple Glaze in Dallas, Quiggly’s Clayhouse in Richardson, Art & Soul in Plano, Sunshine Glaze in Southlake and The Art Barn in Burleson will all be open for walk-ins on Black Friday.
Don’t relegate reading aloud as a family exclusively to the bedtime routine. Make this Black Friday an occasion to delve into an adventure of words. Pick a novel or a picture book – whatever is appropriate for your kids – and spend some time reading together (this is the perfect time to break out those holiday-themed picture books). Let everyone have a turn to read out loud. Encourage your kids to ask about big words and portions they don’t understand. Discuss the story and what you think might happen next. If the books are short, read two or three, and have each family member pick a favorite to contribute. If your kids are old enough for chapter books, you may not finish one book on Black Friday, so set a time to continue the adventure. Who knows? This may be the birth of a new on-going family activity.
My family spends a lot of time reading aloud together – everything from The Hardy Boys to Jane Austen. Looking for new (or classic) inspiration this year? Here’s some recommended reading from our shelf:
Younger kiddos will learn from the Sweet Pickles series by Jacquelyn Reinach and Richard Hefter (now available as enhanced e-books) and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
Easier chapter books we love include My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck and Homer Price by Robert McCloskey are written as cohesive short stories, great for families who don’t have time to finish the whole book in one sitting.
More complex chapter books like The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott will enchant kids and adults alike.
And if your kids are older, we recommend The Princess Bride by William Goldman (yes, there’s a book and yes, it’s better than the movie), Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
Updated in November 2018