I had to tell my family our plans.
I traveled to my hometown in Minnesota for the holiday and the mood was festive. As I finished washing the dishes from Thanksgiving dinner, my sister Gretchen threw me a nervous glance.
“We are going to the Mall of America for Black Friday,” I finally announced. Our mother paled and raised her eyebrows.
My journalistic curiosity had drowned out my aversion to malls, even though it was Mall of America, one of the largest malls in the world, a sprawling city-within-a-city. I was willing to jump into what could be an extended nightmare of screaming kids, tourists and overpriced merchandise.
My sister saw regret on my face.
“It will be fun,” she persuaded. Our mother’s silence demonstrated she was not convinced.
We knew what she was thinking. Consumerism, which had already clouded Christmas, had invaded her family’s Thanksgiving. In the past, we watched news of long lines and trampling deaths, for a toy or cheap electronics. She feared her own daughters had become victims of this decline of American culture.
Around midnight, we arrived at the mall armed with coffee and prepared for mayhem. The mall was energized. It was bustling with youthful excitement and chatter.
“People aren’t trampling over each other?” my sister asked, with a hint of disappointment in her voice.
I followed her eyes to the bored police officers and wondered if Black Friday’s reputation was a victim of my own field - the media.
We entered a store and were cheerfully greeted by store employee decorated in a Santa cap.
“I heard there was a long line at Victoria Secret,” she said excitedly. Her pause and wide eyes begged for more details about the rest of the mall. Her enthusiasm was contagious.
I felt an energy in my stomach that reminded me of a Christmas we spent in Jamaica. We followed the local tradition and went to the night market on Christmas Eve, which kindled the holiday mood.
As we strolled through the mall, food vendors tempted us with samples and compliments.
“Do you remember the food vendor in Guatemala who lured us to buy stuff with promises of a free smoothie?” my sister laughed, reflecting on our three-month stay in the country.
We walked into the Mall of America expecting to be shocked and entertained by crazed coupon-clippers, climbing over each other to reach for the best deal.
Black Friday challenged us and proved us wrong.
The spirit of the holiday season can not be destroyed by sales or isolated stories of criminal behavior. The holidays are a secret recipe made up of memories and experiences.
In lives that are so often isolated behind computer screens and smart phones, shopping with family and friends should be a welcome addition to American culture.
"Maybe we should take mom next year," I said to my sister with a wink.