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For most Americans, today - the day after Thanksgiving - is considered "Black Friday."  Between the holiday about being thankful for what you have and the holiday about sharing what you have with others comes the "holiday" about beating, pepper-spraying, and otherwise assaulting your fellow Americans for a few dollars off things that rarely qualify as anything but useless junk.  Now, I should reaffirm here that I personally love giving gifts to friends.  Holidays, to me, are merely convenient excuses to do what I generally enjoy doing anyways.  This is one of the reasons why the modern interpretation of the Christmas season - where people feel essentially obligated to give gifts in ways/to people they don't want to - bugs me so much.  You should give gifts because you want to, not because you feel a sense of obligation, and when people collectively ignore this in an orgy of pointless consumerism it's no wonder why the supposed "magic" of Christmas-time pretty much no longer exists.  I give my gifts on Halloween instead because it lets me at least partially escape that madness!  I'm always sick of "Christmas" by Christmas, and personally I'd suggest that any conservative Christian worried about the "War on Christmas" take a look at the culture of "buying the perfect gift" as practiced nowadays instead of carrying on about people of differing faiths.  It may be better to give than receive, but if you're focused on the gift instead of the person you're giving it to then you've completely missed the point of the exercise in the first place.  Especially if you're mauling your fellow man to obtain it.

This is why I, personally, celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as Buy Nothing Day - the holiday of taking a break from the rampant over-blown consumerism of this time of year.  Instead of going to the mall and fighting for the chance to shell out hard-earned cash for "the perfect gift," stay inside.  Take a break.  Reflect on the true purpose of what the season means, and what a gift is truly supposed to be.

It's not about the price.  It's not about finding something for everybody you know.  It's about giving your loved ones something that will light up their faces, or providing a magical experience to those who are less-fortunate in a tough time of year.  If you're giving something just to give it, nobody's benefiting from the exchange aside from the corporation you bought the "gift" from.  If it doesn't have some personal meaning or value... it's pretty much just a waste of time, money, and general annoyance for everybody.  So don't do it!

Instead, start out tomorrow with the idea of gift-giving as a positive exercise.  It's supposed to be a good thing, so try to make it do the most good for everybody.  If you know somebody who will consider it a good thing to be given a donation to charity in their name, that's awesome - but it's more likely that you'll simply want to target your buying so as to send your dollars to constructive purposes.  This Saturday, for instance, is considered both Small Business Saturday and Buy Local Saturday by various groups trying to remind consumers that your local shopkeeper is generally a far better recipient for your money than a distant corporate collective.  I'd also like to remind you to patronize small-business craftsmen as well, for nothing is more personal and meaningful as something hand-made... and if you can't make something yourself, the next best thing is getting someone else who's keeping classical handicraft traditions alive to make it for you.

That brings me to the "Wednesday's Work" portion of this post, and a new (and long-coming) Artist Spotlight.  I've been WAY too busy with my writing to focus on my own crafting, but online crafting storefronts are nonetheless pretty much the smallest of small businesses... and putting some of your money towards them means you know exactly who and what you're supporting: small-time crafters doing personalized, hand-made crafts to express their own individual creativity.  I'd thus like to point you towards two of those crafters right now: Monostash and Tofutastic!  As you can tell by their sites and their blog, Tofustache, these are two fun and talented ladies who produce excellently-geeky handicrafts.  The "tofus" are obviously always excellent (and make good Christmas ornaments!), but the main focus right now seems to be on "My Little Pony" merchandise if you have any bronies in your circle of friends.  Give them a look!