I've only gone shopping once on Black Friday: I think I was 15 and I went to the mall with my friend and her parents, because they went every year as part of the holiday. It was horrific; so crowded, everyone acting crazy, no parking, and the lines at the food court were so long that we gave up and went home hungry.
It used to be that Black Friday was worth all that effort to go through due to the combination of sales, a day off work (for most people) to shop, and Christmas coming soon after. But now that we can shop online, and we know the importance of shopping locally, and even buying less for the holidays (or, like me, nothing at all — I gave up giving Christmas gifts a few years ago and it was one of the best decisions ever!), Black Friday seems like a lot of stress that's just not worth it.
So, if for whatever reason — environmental or personal — you don't want to partake in Black Friday this year, here's some good stuff you can fill the day with.
Go to a museum: Many local museums of science, art and natural history are open the day after Thanksgiving. What could be better than a little intellectual stimulation and learning something you otherwise wouldn't on a "free day" off? If you are feeling lazy, go watch an IMAX movie, or check out a show at a planetarium. If you are like me and crave movement after eating a lot, walking around a museum for three hours is ideal. Be sure to hydrate if you drank alcohol at Thanksgiving dinner, and definitely bring your older kids — heck, this has the making of a (healthy) Thanksgiving tradition.
Go for a long run or hike: The New York Times reported how moderate, daily exercise, in the midst of eating more than usual and being otherwise very sedentary, can keep you healthier in the long run. Black Friday is the perfect time to keep your exercise habits up by starting the holiday season with some serious cardio.
Volunteer: Head to a homeless shelter, food bank or animal shelter and roll up your sleeves and pitch it. 'Tis the season of giving, after all, and it's not just about dropping off canned goods or mailing in monetary donations.
Have a movie binge day: Pick a subject ('80s dark comedies, Woody Harrelson films, Funny Documentaries), and just go for it. Watch three or four movies in a row, just because you can. It's a great way to explore a subject or actor's work and really be able to compare. Having a subject matter or topic will help narrow your choices so you don't feel overwhelmed.
Look up creative ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers: Turn all those extra mashed potatoes and dark meat turkey into a shepherd's pie, or make a bread pudding with extra rolls. Instead of just shoving leftovers in the fridge until they dry out, you can make all sorts of dishes for the first week of December that will be more appealing than regular leftovers and mean less food waste.
Organize photos from the year: The year is almost up, and since Thanksgiving is about being grateful, organizing your snapshots can be a great way to look back at all you are grateful for. Get rid of junk photos taking up hard drive space, put photos into folders according to date, person or activity, and reflect on another great year.
Learn how to make a green juice or smoothie: If you haven't ever made one, the day after Thanksgiving is a great time to start. (Here's a recipe!)
Clean out the closet: You know the one I'm talking about — that one you always vow to clear out when you have a chunk of time? The one that threatens to kill you with piled up stuff when you try to open it? That closet. Do it now and who knows? After you sort into "donate," "keep," and "recycle" piles, you might notice there are potential useful items for needy folks in your donate pile — and now's the time when they are needed most.
Get super-organized with your Christmas planning: Thanksgiving comes and goes and all of a sudden it's time to organize gift-buying, get-togethers, parties and cooking. Spend some time organizing ideas and putting together your lists now and the rest of your holiday season will go that much more smoothly.
Write a reflection of your year: If you are going to be too hungover, busy cleaning up, or otherwise occupied at the beginning of January, why not write your reflection now? It might even clarify your thoughts about what you want to achieve in the next month, before the year is up (and I know it sounds counter-intuitive, because it is, but, this can be a great time of year to start new habits — since there's less pressure!)
Find some great new music: It's so easy to get into a music rut, but a few uninterrupted hours of time, you can ferret out some awesome new artists. My favorite way is to go on iTunes or Amazon, put in one of my favorite musicians, and then follow the musical path links from the "People who like (Your Favorite Artist) also bought this" links.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated with new information.