Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Shopping

If you celebrate Christmas, there's no getting away from the need to buy or make gifts.


The good thing about having a Thanksgiving holiday it that it acts as a sort of buffer against early Christmas hysteria. The downside is that people start putting the decorations up as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is digested, even though it’s still often November. There should be a law against that.

Since all my family is in England, I am forced to focus on gifts before the tans have faded from everyone else's summer holiday. The mailing deadline is some time in early December, and back when you could send stuff “surface” (ie. not air mail) the deadline was some time in October. Having sorted the UK presents out, I typically sit back and forget about everyone else until, like now, it becomes a bit of a stressor.

I used to be the online shopping Queen, but with the shipping and handling coming in at $5-10 extra per gift this year, it looks like I’ll just have to brave the madding crowds and actually venture into a couple of shops.

Problem is see, I don’t live in the burbs where there are mega-malls every couple of miles; my nearest shopping destination is the famed Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (Think Regents Street on its busiest day, with tourists wandering round gazing up instead of looking where they’re going and you’ll get the picture.) There is no "quiet time" since tourists stay at the downtown hotels, chomping at the bit to get out there and shop as soon as the revolving doors open. 

Oh dear, oh dear. I must conjure up the motivation from somewhere.


Our Christmas shopping is all but done.  The little bit I have to do I’ll probably finish this coming week.  But then, Christmas shopping for us involves mostly walking into town to peruse the Christmas market stalls, wander through the mall and visit the shops on the high street.   In addition to that, the majority of our gifts this year we made ourselves.  Mostly that is down to my wife; she not only made all the cards herself (and addressed them because my handwriting is illegible) but has been knitting and patchworking like an artsy-crafty demon since October to come up with some unique and appropriate gifts for most of her friends and family.  (All I did was publish a book that everyone in my family is, goddammit, getting as a gift whether they like it or not.  And you can see how close my family is by knowing that they haven’t already gone out and bought multiple copies themselves.)

But that’s just us, because of where we are now; we’re all about being Green and returning Christmas to the season of giving, not receiving.  I’m sure we’ll just piss everyone off, but that’s just part of the Christmas spirit.

I say all that knowing, even for Britain, we are an anomaly.  Not many people have a town centre just a few minutes walk away with such an abundance of shopping opportunities.  Also, it is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Christmas shopping American-style when I lived there.  Going to the mall, jockeying for a parking space, fighting the crowds, spending inordinate amounts of money—that was what made Christmas Christmas in my view.

That time has passed, however, and now I’m happy to pick up gifts locally when I can, make my own when appropriate and judge the success of the season, not by the amount of money I have spent, or how many of the items I ticked off of the “I want this for Christmas” lists sent to me by my sons.

And if my wife has to put up with my home-made cards every year, well, that’s the price she pays for scaling Christmas down and trying to return it to the pure and joyous occasion it was meant to be:

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  1. I think Thanksgiving acts as a instigator to the Christmas season. It gets people going instead of buffering them against it. It's like a gunshot to start them off.

  2. Christmas seems to have crept up on us really fast & without warning this year. probably because the mild weather has fobbed us off from thinking about the time of year..
    As we have no Thanksgiving over here, I used to make half term my time to Christmas shop. Hover, now I'm not working, everything has gone haywire.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  3. I have a really lovely mall nearby where I spend a lot of time. It is classy and does not even have lots of screaming kids running about. I spend a lot of time 'chillaxing' at Brookstone where they just let you sit in the massagbe chairs. It is an easier experience than shopping in London on crownded Regent Street. That said I do miss the lovely christmas windows of Selfridges, Hamleys, Liberty's, Harvey Nicks etc.

  4. I've been an Amazon Queen for the last week (that's the website, not the rainforest) and today I went to Solihull to 'finish off'. I bought myself a top, and hung my nose over 2 coats, which I couldn't decide between. I decided to see if I could get an online discount so didn't get either, but neither of them are reduced online! Grr. Now I'm going to have to go back tomorrow to get one.

    Oh, I did buy a few stocking fillers but that's it.

    God bless Amazon, I say.

  5. Just found out, courtesy of Melissa (Smitten by Britain) that if you're a student with an "edu" e-mail address, shipping from Amazon is free. Will get on to that toot sweet.


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