Two hundred and seventy

Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day

Two holidays that couldn’t be farther apart.  One of the biggest shopping days of the year and a protest against it.

Black Friday

From the Huffington Post slideshow: "Black Friday Sales: The Funniest Faces In The Frenzy" (click on image to see rest of slideshow)

One of the biggest shopping days of the year.  I just read on the Globe and Mail that two people were shot in armed robberies and 15 people pepper-sprayed last night and this morning during Black Friday madness.  People are serious about their shopping!  In other years shoppers have assaulted each other or even been trampled during the mad rush to get into the stores (one 34-year old employee of Walmart was trampled to death in New York in 2008).

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in America (and in recent years starting the night before, or very early in the morning), where retailers offer huge discounts on items and turn a profit, or go “in the black”.  It is said to be the start of the Christmas shopping season.  People line up for hours to get the best deals.  A little too claustrophobic for me!

Many Ontarians head south of the border for the good deals, often spending the night and making a mini-vacation out of it to avoid duty and taxes.  There is a push, though, to keep consumers in Canada.  Many Canadian companies are also offering Black Friday discounts today and this weekend.  I did a little video I mentioned yesterday for the Toronto Star and a photo shoot for a photographer friend of mine, to promote local shopping.

Me modeling for the Toronto Star - photo by Keith Beaty

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day is an international day of protest against consumerism, over-consumption and the extreme amount of waste that comes along with this.  Started by Vancouver artist Ted Dave in 1992, it was promoted by Canadian magazine Adbusters and now has campaigns in over 65 countries.  It is typically celebrated the same day as Black Friday in North America and the following day internationally.

This year Adbusters has combined their efforts of the Occupy Movement with Buy Nothing Day events.  #OccupyXmas will “put the breaks on rabid consumerism for 24 hours… Historically, Buy Nothing Day has been about fasting from hyper consumerism – a break from the cash register and reflecting on how dependent we really are on conspicuous consumption. On this 20th anniversary of Buy Nothing Day, we take it to the next level, marrying it with the message of #occupy…”  Events include mall sit-ins, consumer fasts, credit card cut-ups, and whirl-marts (participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in a long, baffling conga line without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases).

 If you don’t want to go to that extreme, but still want to participate in Buy Nothing Day, then just buy nothing for the day.  As BuyNothingDay.orgputs it: “If we buy nothing for just one day, perhaps we’ll realize the true value of watching HOW we spend.” And as Adbusters puts it, it “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.”So, two different holidays with completely opposite views on the same day.  Buy lots to support the businesses.  Or buy nothing to support the environment. (A little more complicated than that, but you understand)  

Two hundred and sixty-nine

American Thanksgiving

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)

Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Leftovers.  Gourds and fall leaves to decorate.  Family get-togethers.  Shopping (ok, not until the day after – or as some stores are doing this year, the night of).  These are the things that come to mind when I think of American Thanksgiving.  And if I know my American side of the family well, they will have an amazing spread of food and drinks to do it up right.

Thanksgiving in the United States is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of the date.  It became an annual tradition in 1863, during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving, although there had been irregular Thanksgiving celebrations before that.  It was set as a federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November by law in 1941.

“The First Thanksgiving” is often mentioned during this time.  In the early 1620s, thanksgiving ceremonies were held by the Pilgrims at Plymouth after successful harvests or the end of a drought.  “The First Thanksgiving” thanked God for a successful voyage to the New World and lasted for three days, feeding 13 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.  “The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison,berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and theThree Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash.” (Wikipedia)

Modern traditions include: family time; big turkey dinners; often saying grace and thanking God (or whichever religion you believe) for the food on the table and the family companions; large parades; watching football (Thanksgiving Classic) or playing with family and friends in the yard (“Turkey Bowl”).  Government offices and the New York Stock Exchange are closed, as well as many other companies.

So Happy Turkey Day to my amazing family in the States!  I wish I could be there to celebrate with you.  I’m coming to visit next week, though, but I think that might be a little long to save the leftovers for…

Lindsay doing some hosting/modeling

A hint at what holiday I’ll be talking about tomorrow, check out my video on the Toronto Star website here.  If you happen to have a hard copy of the Toronto Star today, does the person on the front page of the “Canada’s Black Friday” section look familiar?

Two hundred and sixty-eight

Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day – Kinro Kansha no Hi 

Every 23rd of November, Japan celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day to honour workers, commemorate labour and production, and give thanks for employment and the prosperity that working brings to the family.  Labor Thanksgiving Day is a modern name for the ancient ritual Niiname Sai, or Harvest Festival.  The origin of Niiname Sai is thought to go back to when rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago, although the first record is found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicle of Japan) which is one of the oldest histories of Japan dating from 720.  It is said that the emperor would taste the first rice harvest  himself and dedicate the season’s fresh harvet to the gods.

After World War II, Japan signed the post-war constitution that was written by allied forces, and in 1948 the holiday developed into what we now know it as.  “The holiday allowed people to make thanks for their recently introduced workers’ rights, such as minimum wages, a cap on working hours and the formation of unions. It was also set to have people celebrate their new-found freedom, no longer being subjects beneath a ruling Emperor; in turn supporting the shift their country was going through, instead of fighting against it.” (

Holiday traditions include early grade elementary students creating drawings or “Thank You” cards for the holiday and giving them as gifts to local kōbans (police stations), hospitals or fire stations; a labour festival is held in the city of Nagano; schools and government offices are closed; and many people will visit their local shrine or temple and reflect on the issues surrounding peace and human rights.

Meiji Shrine in Harajuku - decorative displays of fresh produce in honor of the harvest festival - from

More information:


Two hundred and sixty-seven

Start Your Own Country Day!

Originally conceived at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939, Start Your Own Country Day honours “those free spirited souls who dared to hope and believe in a better world where they too could declare any land their own” (  It started as an escape from the reality of the Depression which had hit the United States and the growing international tension of World War II.  It was a hope for something better.

Although it started in jest, there are many people who have started their own countries.  I have visited the Principality of Hutt River, on the west side of Australia a few years ago – an Independent Sovereign State seceded from Australia on the April 21, 1970 and of comparable size to Hong Kong (not the New Territories).  I met Prince Leonard and had my passport stamped (it is Prince Leonard’s land that he declared a sovereign state, so the government consists of him and his family).

My friend Sarah and I, with our stamped passports at Hutt River Province, 2008.

How would I go about starting my own country?

It seems like it would be a lot of work to start my own country.  What about health care, police and fire services, maintenance – just to name a few?

There’s a great article on How Stuff Works about how to start a country and worth a read.  Here are a few of the points:

  • Ways to begin a country: colonize a smaller nation, rebel against your colonial masters, purchase an uninhabited island and secede from the nation that owns it.
  • Things you need to be a nationhood: population, government and land.
  • A declaration of independence needs to be written and submitted to your former government.
  • Find allies who either want the natural resources found in your nation, commiserate with your plight or both.  It will legitimize your status.
  • Apply for membership in the United Nations (write a short letter to the U.N.’s Secretary General – warning, can be vetoed by other members)
  • Print currency and back it by something like precious mineral
  • Then of course work on things like passports, immigration, customs, etc.

Alas, sounds like a lot of trouble.  Besides, I love my country.

A few people who did start their own country:

  • Government of Antarcticland – has its own legislative system, together with legal, economic and postal administrations. Any person may become citizen simply by applying and swearing alliegance to the Constitution.
  • Hutt River Province – see above
  • Independent Kingdom of Hay-on-Wye – “Situated on the border between England and Wales, the small medieval market town of Hay-on-Wye was proclaimed an Independent Kingdom on 1st April 1977, by Richard Booth, now acknowledged as the founder of the first Town of Books.”
  • Sealand – see video below
  • More small countries on the Microfreedom Index and on “New Countries with New Concepts – Creating a Country – MicroNations and Principalities”
An interview with the Prince of Sealand:

For more information

Two hundred and sixty-six

Kalimera!  Buon giorno!  Nazdar!  Al salaam a’alaykum!  Konnichiwa!  Sekoh!  Aloha!

World Hello Day

This holiday is reminiscent of my failed attempt at saying hello to people in Parkdale for Out of My Comfort Zone month.  Hopefully today’s experiement will be more successful.

The purpose of World Hello Day is to simply greet at least 10 people today, showing the importance of personal communication for preserving peace.  World Hello Day was started by two university research scholars, Brian and Michael McCormack, in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel in the Fall of 1973.  Thirty-eight years later, World Hello Day  has been observed by people in 180 countries, with a large list of celebrities and politicians (including 31 Nobel Peace Prize winners) who support the cause.

According to the World Hello Day website: “People around the world use the occasion of World Hello Day as an opportunity to express their concern for world peace.  Beginning with a simple greeting on World Hello Day, their activities send a message to leaders, encouraging them to use communication rather than force to settle conflicts.”

It’s also a nice excuse to smile and say hello to your neighbours, the barista at your local coffee shop, the streetcar driver, your family and friends.  If you’d like to know how to say hello in a heap of different languages, visit this fun website.

So to all of you reading, “hello” from me – and Lionel Ritchie (I never realized how creepy this video is…):