Originating in Canada in the early ’90s, National Buy Nothing Day occurs on the day after Thanksgiving each year in the U.S, on November 25 this year. In an effort to combat the unethical and sometimes even dangerous mob shopping behaviors of Black Friday, artist Ted Dave established this anti-consumerism holiday in 1992. The idea is to counteract the madness of holiday shopping by encouraging a mindful and environmentally friendly attitude toward post-feast purchasing. We’ve been looking for an excuse not to hit the mall so early on Thanksgiving weekend, and here it is!
History of Buy Nothing Day
This day is sort of an anti-holiday in that it found its legs in response to a preexisting celebration: Black Friday. Black Friday earned its name from retailers who, after spending the year ‘in the red,’ i.e. operating at a loss or breaking even, would skyrocket sales into the ‘black,’ or a state of positive income after Thanksgiving. This shopping rush traditionally occurs on the day after Thanksgiving as many stores advertise unmissable sales to draw early Christmas-gift shoppers to the market.
As Black Friday became embedded in American culture, Canadian artist Ted Dave found the drastic shift from a day meant for gratitude to a day meant for chaos and greed to be quite off-putting. As a result, he established National Buy Nothing Day in 1992 to counteract the madness of the nation’s materialistic behavior.
Today, Americans practice National Buy Nothing Day in an effort to mediate the exorbitant amounts of waste and auxiliary spending that can often occur in the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas. The idea is that, after spending on food, decor, travel, and lodging for Thanksgiving, the nation should go on a spending detox by enjoying the day at home or in nature.
This fourth Friday of November, you may spot Buy Nothing protestors walking aimlessly through your local mall with a blank facial expression, put some money into your retirement savings, or simply sitting on retailers’ floors and dressing rooms. This happens as a result of the yearly group activity called ‘zombie walk,’ during which participators engage in peculiar behavior as a means of attracting attention and raising awareness about the idea behind the day: anti-consumerism.
Whether you participate this year by relaxing at home with your television or engaging in performance art at the mall, we hope you’ll take the time to consider the merits of this national anti-shopping day.
Buy Nothing Day timeline
Several large North American retailers gather to repurpose the term ‘Black Friday’ for attracting post-Thanksgiving buyers by posting huge sales in their ads and display windows.
Canadian Ted Dave joins forces with Adbusters editor-in-chief Kalle Lasn to establish an anti-consumerism protest called Buy Nothing Day.
The most dangerous Black Friday in history is recorded with 45 deaths and injuries.
Thousands across the country watch as citizens from Portland, Oregon dress theatrically in corpse-like clothing and makeup to protest Black Friday at a city mall — the video is posted online and goes viral.
Buy Nothing Day FAQs
If I’m traveling on National Buy Nothing Day, can I still participate?
We believe that something is always better than nothing in terms of effort, so even if you’re in transit this holiday and cannot avoid making certain purchases, you can participate in the celebration by approaching each purchase with intention and mindfulness.
Why is Black Friday a bad thing?
The short answer is: it’s not! This holiday is less about disparaging an opportunity to hit the sale rack and more about taking America’s consumers out of autopilot.
How can I help my children, who do not have their own money, participate in this holiday?
Even though your little ones technically buy nothing every single day, you can still take this opportunity to explain to them how things like cable television, electronic devices, and even running water cost money to maintain.
How to Celebrate National Buy Nothing Day
Have a Christmas movie marathon
You’re full from Thanksgiving and the house is teeming with leftovers. Gather all your relatives in the living room for a Christmas movie marathon to ring in the cheery Christmas season. This way, you’ll all get to sleep in, stay in your pajamas, and spend more time together! Just be sure not to purchase or rent the movies you’re watching — the Hallmark channel will do just fine for free!
Counteract the madness
While the rest of the world goes on a spree, think about the many ways you could shift operations in your own home to minimize waste. Categorize all the trash from yesterday’s feast into recyclables and nonrecyclables and take them to your nearest receptacle. Consider rinsing and reusing some of the containers in your home for later cooking endeavors, or take the time to research composting.
Make a donation
Instead of purchasing something for your own use, sift through your belongings to find something you could donate. In a season of generosity, so many go without. Consider cleaning out your closet or your children’s toy chest and donating anything that hasn’t been used recently to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill. Someone else could make good use of them!
5 Facts About Black Friday That Are Anything But Jolly
One dark past
The first use of the term ‘Black Friday’ occurred on September 24, 1869, when the gold market collapsed as a result of two men scamming Wall Street investors.
This time-honored buying frenzy just so happens to be the busiest day for plumbers due to the overwhelmed bathroom facilities in stores and malls.
Getting an early start
In 2011, Walmart broke Black Friday tradition by opening their doors on Thanksgiving night — since then, shoppers start their free-for-alls before sunrise on the fourth Friday.
More people have been killed in door-busting Black Friday stampedes than by shark attacks in the U.S.
Melancholy Mother Earth
Carbon emissions increase drastically during the holiday season due to shoppers’ increased travel and demand.
Why We Love National Buy Nothing Day
Listen, it’s pretty simple. By giving us an excuse to stay at home and enjoy a post-turkey snooze, this priceless holiday saves us lots of money. Not only will we refrain from purchasing unneeded items simply because they’re on sale, but we’ll also save on gas and eating out. It’s a win-win all around!
Pausing before purchasing strengthens our mindfulness
Those of us who are fortunate enough to have auxiliary funds can sometimes fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses by making purchases without much forethought. On this day each year, we have the opportunity to practice the pause and condense our holiday shopping lists to only the items that will make a significant impact.
It relieves the pressure
Sometimes the mere fact that an item is on sale can feel like an obligation to purchase. That’s the whole idea behind Black Friday, right? To entice us into spending. We love National Buy Nothing Day because it frees us from the obligation to chase bargains, if only just for a day.
Buy Nothing Day dates