National Edition

Black Friday filled with family traditions

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

Beth Swearingen, center, shops for scented lotions at Tabula Rasa at Trolley Square on Black Friday in Salt Lake City, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

Before meeting his wife, Alex Shorter didn’t shop on Black Friday.

But the first Thanksgiving Shorter spent with his in-laws in 2009, things changed. His newly found family was filled with Black Friday strategists and he was gobbled into their plans of identifying gifts, stores, pricing, timing and other key elements to snagging bargains.

"It became clear that Black Friday was a family event in this particular household, and as a special guest, I, too, played an important role in their Black Friday strategy," Shorter said.

His assignment was to find a half-priced Wii, a Nintendo video game system.

"Sure, it's a pain in the rear," Shorter said. "But I've grown fond of this tradition, as it's a family activity that we approach as a team."

Shorter's in-laws are among thousands of households that have turned the traditional launch of Christmas shopping into an annual tradition. The National Retail Foundation reported about 140 million people plan to or will shop over the Thanksgiving weekend.

And preparations for Black Friday include more than just making a list and checking it twice. They must also navigate fighting, tramplings and general madness in stores that has raised safety concerns among shoppers.

But Black Friday is not just for shoppers in search of savings. Some families take a more leisurely approach in their traditions. Instead of lining up in the dead of night for that flat screen TV or PlayStation 4, they're avoiding the chaos by either shopping later in the day or even staying inside to make their gifts for others.

Family traditions

The Shorters are among the die-hard shoppers. They go to bed on Thanksgiving at 10 p.m. and wake up about two to three hours later to go hunting for bargains in the cold, dark Atlanta morning.

“The silver lining is it allows us to get the bulk of our Christmas shopping done and save a lot of money,” he said.

While shivering in line, Shorter said he has found a fun aspect to Black Friday he wouldn’t normally see.

“There’s kind of a warm and fuzzy feeling involved where you’re sitting in line, or standing in line, and you’re freezing your butt off, waiting to get into a store, next to 300 people at 3 in the morning,” he said. “It’s kind of a nice feeling to realize that you’re doing it to get a friend or a relative a present that you know they really want and you can get it for a really good deal.”

He said there’s a communal bond shared by those waiting in line. Camaraderie builds as everyone waiting withstands the bitter temperatures and beckons for the store to open its doors to heated salvation.

Not all shoppers wait in those long lines, though.

Norma Rosenthal and her daughter have spent the past 20 years following a different tradition. Each Black Friday they’ll wake up at 6 a.m., head to the local Starbucks near Seattle and grab coffee and a scone. Then, they’ll head out and shop at the same stores, which include Target and Old Navy, every year. At points, they’ll get “hangry,” Rosenthal said, which is both hungry and angry, and grab a chocolate cookie or something sweet. After some lunch later on, they’ll call it a day.

The Rosenthals don’t shop just for the discounted prices, but more for the family time.

“It’s just a fun tradition in our family to have that quality mother-daughter time,” Rosenthal said. “It’s really a treasure to be able to do that.”

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