Shopping for, not at, Christmas

Christmas Tree 17-1The house I grew up in from the age of four on had a funny little built in cupboard off the upstairs hall, My parents called it the box closet. It was lined with narrow shelves, perfect for small boxes. I was told the gardener whose cottage this was originally, used them to ripen fruit. My parents kept boxes of different sizes that could be reused there, as well as to hide presents until Christmas came around. That’s how I got into the habit of doing my shopping for Christmas all year.

“Where do you do your Christmas shopping,” asked my physical therapist as she and I worked on helping my hip get better. I shook my head and smiled. “We don’t,” I told her, “At least not in the usual sense. We collect Christmas gifts all year long from wherever we find them—yard sales, thrift shops, white elephant tables, or any other alternative shopping experience you can think of. It’s more fun that way.”

In one sense what that means is that Stephen and I think about Christmas and people we like to give to, all year long. It is such fun to think about and to give presents. Many of our dear friends live at a distance from us, so we end up spending as much money on postage as we do on the gifts. What we save by not shopping in stores will most likely get spent on the mailing of them. However, we’ve avoided much stress and discomfort.

One can of course shop from catalogues and the Internet, and many do and will. Christmas catalogues flood our mailbox from October on. I used to try to tell them not to send me any, however no one paid any attention, so I gave up. I know you can also specify which you want to receive; however that too becomes tedious. I figure at least the printers and designers are making money producing them, so I don’t feel too bad about throwing them away. . It’s too easy to order and then be disappointed when the item is not what you thought.

Occasionally I buy a gift for Stephen from a catalogue–usually because he saw it and pointed it out to me. I seldom purchase from them for anyone else. I peruse one or two of my favorites but most go into the trash. While they are filed with lovely enticing pictures and descriptions, for the most part I prefer the physical experience of seeing and touching my purchases.

I find Christmas shopping at retail stores to be daunting. There is too much to see and think about. They are too full of hopeful shoppers trying to cross people off their Christmas lists. The glittery items do not attract me; I prefer to give useful, practical gifts. That’s what I like to receive. Furthermore, most children have lots of toys and games as well as stuffed animals. Our friends and relations often receive books we have found at the Friends of the Library. By supporting alternative spending there and elsewhere, we recycle and reuse. This is really a gift to Mother Earth as well, and surely she deserves one too.

Time To Mail Those Gifts

Time To Mail Those Christmas Gifts, By Tasha Halpert

In the home I grew up in there was a small triangular closet with a slanting roof under the eves on the second floor. It was lined with narrow shelves. I believe it may originally have been intended for the storage of unripe fruit to be kept for later use in the cold months. My parents used it to store away empty boxes as well as Christmas and birthday presents bought for friends and family during the year, perhaps on sale or on the trips they took. As an adult I adopted this practice and put away gifts I came across during the year.

Once we got together, Stephen joined me in this. All year long, we keep an eye out for items we think will be suitable for friends and family for the holidays. We store what we find away until it is time to get them out and in some cases, mail them off. Having suffered from waiting too long in the past to mail them, we have learned our lesson: we have become true early birds at the post office. Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is time to wrap and send off all that we have accumulated.

Because our apartment is small we have to squirrel things away here and there in out of the way corners. Finding all of the presents we have acquired and bringing them all out into the open is the first step in the giving process. They need to be sorted and decisions made as to for whom we bought which gift. Sometimes what seemed just perfect for someone several months ago evokes question marks when examined in the light of now. It’s fun figuring it all out. Once the gifts are arranged, we consult the address book for those we intend to give to and the wrapping begins.

The actual process of wrapping can be the most difficult part of all. Fortunately I learned some tricks a few years ago from a friend of mine who used to wrap department store gifts. Boxes we have been saving come in handy now, as does the extra tape I purchased and the paper bags we cut up and use to wrap DVDs and books. It is more fun to make use of free stuff than to depend on purchased padded envelopes or boxes. In addition, the rising cost of postage makes it important to be as thrifty as possible when it comes to the mailing of what we have chosen.

Over the years this little ritual has become the opening chords to Stephen’s and my Christmas celebration. Because many of our friends have moved away and some of our family live at a distance, we seldom if ever see them physically. Now the gift giving ritual of choosing and wrapping becomes a heart warming pleasure. As we prepare and address what we have chosen, we spend time thinking of our dear ones and chat about our memories of them. Thus in giving we ourselves receive a gift, and it is even more precious than anything we may mail away.