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While some were still polishing off the last of the pumpkin pie Thursday night, retailers like Michael’s and Target were already opening their doors to start yet another new shopping tradition: Black Friday Eve.

It’s tempting to lament the choices made by a few families, as described in news accounts, to spend part of their Thanksgiving camped next to stores while their turkeys roast in a parked RV.

The public’s perception of this day has been somewhat damaged by viral videos from years past that show people busting through doors, trampling over each other and fighting over flat-screen TVs.

Right or wrong, such images feed the perception that U.S. consumer culture is driven by an unhealthy need for instant gratification.

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Such fears can be easily mitigated by reminding consumers that they have the power to take the reins and treat Black Friday — the day many retailers begin to make a profit for the year — as a time to make more conscious choices about where they spend their money.

Whether they shop at brick-and-mortar shops or online, holiday shopping has the power to help rev up the economy’s sluggish engine and move the nation down the road to recovery.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 2012 sales may rise by about 4 percent over 2011 figures, which could certainly help Washington state’s sales-tax dominated revenue base. State officials have projected a $900 million deficit in the next two-year budget cycle. Nearly half of sales will be online.

Consumers should also consider the difference they could make by patronizing small businesses for their Christmas shopping. Supporting Washington-owned stores and investing in locally made products keeps more money circulating in the regional economy. It also protects and creates jobs.

Seattle is fortunate to boast many vibrant retail districts, from its downtown area to the Capitol Hill and Ballard neighborhoods.

So if Black Friday crowds at the big-box stores are just too much, consider Small Business Saturday. As the name implies, it’s a great day to think and buy local.

Good luck finding those deals. Happy shopping.

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