Slowing Down at Holiday Time:

Why Small Business Saturday is My New Favorite Tradition

Why Small Business Saturday is my new favorite traditionI never really understood Black Friday. Wake up at an ungodly hour to fight with huge crowds in a stuffy, airless shopping mall? No thank you. But, Small Business Saturday? That’s always been my jam.

Though I’ve fought the compulsion a bit in recent years, the truth is I do love to shop. But, I like to do it my way…leisurely strolling down the street with a hot beverage in hand. Popping in and out of cute little boutiques to discover that just-right gift that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Enjoying the festive atmosphere and the fresh air, and even getting to say hello to a few friends and neighbors I run into along the way. That feels like the right way to kick off the holidays.

As a kid, I remember holiday shopping excursions with my parents. I have a blurred recollection of December trips to the mall. They always started off fun but quickly spiraled into exhausting marches through the cranky crowds as we anxiously tried to check each item off the list.

But, I also remember the occasions of shopping in downtown Rochester…browsing the boutiques, peering at the cake store’s elaborate window display, dropping into Sanders for a treat. It couldn’t have felt more different than the mall. Even as a kid, I knew that. It’s funny how those shops formed the backdrop of so many fond childhood memories.

Easing the Holiday Craziness

In adulthood the holidays start to lose that sparkle you loved as a kid. Holiday time now comes with its own brand of craziness, what with the shopping and the baking and the party-planning and the traveling. I used to try to do all of it. But once my kids came along, I realized it was all just too much. We weren’t enjoying it. I was starting to dread a time of year I once looked forward to.

So, I’ve made a concerted effort to pare down, to thoughtfully choose the traditions I want to create with my own kids. We stopped boarding a plane to visit family at Christmas. I’m no longer making homemade treats for everyone we know. And, I give shopping malls a wide berth.

But everyone who wants to visit us is always welcome. And I definitely plan to spend a cozy afternoon or two making cookies with my 4-year-old.

Shopping at our local businesses is one more way I embrace slowing down at holiday time. It’s a gentler pace. It becomes more about the social experience and the community, a little less about the stuff.

More Community, Less Consumerism

Let’s face it, though. When you’re a kid, the stuff matters. It just does.

I get why some people, especially parents, condemn consumerism, especially this time of year. I, too, hate the piling up of useless, plastic crap that clutters my house. I don’t want my kids to be overwhelmed by too many presents. But I don’t think avoiding consumerism altogether is the answer either. I just want them to appreciate the gifts they get.

I also want my kids to be as excited about giving a gift as they are about opening their own, and shopping is part of that equation. It’s mindful shopping I want to teach them…what you buy and where you buy it matters.

Last year we started limiting how many gifts we buy for our kids. We choose more thoughtfully now, selecting quality over quantity. I’ll take my boys shopping to pick out gifts for their dad, their grandparents, each other, and guide them in the same way.

Shopping at our local businesses seem to be the perfect way to impart these lessons, to show my kids that even our shopping choices reflect who we are.

I think it’s already rubbing off on my 4-year-old. He’s begun to appreciate the social aspects of our neighborhood shops. He always has to stop in to say hello to Miss Nicole, the owner of a women’s clothing boutique who he befriended one outing. He’s learning that our local shops are our neighbors and part of our community, too.

Making Memories on Main Street

One day my kids will look back on their childhood holidays, and shopping is going to be part of that memory. Small Business Saturday reminds me of how I want to shape those memories. I want them to remember walking down the streets of our neighborhood shopping district, lights twinkling in the brisk early evening. Passing strolling carolers, stopping to chat with friends we pass and shop owners we know. I want them to realize it wasn’t all about the stuff. That it was also about the shared experience.

It’s a scene that seems like it could be out of a movie…almost Rockwellian. I know. But I also know it still exists in more than just my memory…it exists in all of those little community shopping districts across the country. You only have to look for it.

The first Saturday after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010 to encourage shoppers to kick off the holiday buying season by shopping at their favorite local businesses. This year Small Business Saturday will be held on November 26. 

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Written By Heather Garbo

Heather Garbo is a Michigan-raised, Colorado-living mama of two with a love for all things local. Her blog,, provides inspiration for better local living and resources to live and shop local.