I remember as a child going to Dayton to see the animated display in Rike’s Department store window. It was a big deal and it always seemed like the lights were brighter and the trees were more fragrant and the bows were more elaborate at Christmas in department stores. In many ways it still does. There are those who rail against the commercialization of Christmas and shake their fingers at us to remember the reason for the season. Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to be unaware that at its core Christmas was invented for commercial, or at least semi-commercial reasons.
Supposedly the celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas was not established as being in late December until 440AD (I am using AD rather than my more usual CE since that might both confuse and irritate! ) . In historical terms this makes the celebration relatively young. Historians set the birth of Jesus Christ as sometime six months on either side of Easter, which makes it either September/October. The decision to set December 25th or close to the Winter Solstice was, according to legend determined for several reasons:1) Winters were long and hard and cold and a celebration in mid-winter ( yes I know winter technically starts on the 21st of December, but really, do you think Thanksgiving is in the fall, remember all those Currier and Ives pictures with sleighs and things going to grandmother’s house?? ) was needed to keep the peasants and serfs from getting unruly, and to give the ruling classes a legitimate reason to kill and eat stuff and drink a lot ( Note: this is still true today, but usually they salve their consciences by contributing to charities, although some of them have recently taken to paying off layaways evidently, which does cloudy the waters about Christmas and commercialism since people say that is in the true meaning of Christmas. So paying Walmart or Kmart for toys made in China is congruent with a religious, solemn occasion? Just sayin’) 2) It helped legitimize and make popular with the surging Christians the old Druidic and other pagan cultural celebrations associated with the solstice like the Roman Saturnalia— which by the way was celebrated by bringing in evergreen boughs along with other less wholesome practices–sound familiar?, 3) it sold a lot of candles and oils for lamps, kind of like a precursor to Black Friday for the shop keepers.
So, my religious friends who are so quick to draw yourselves up and chastise us pagans for worshipping at the feet of Macy’s,aka Memnon rather than celebrating the birth of Jesus, you actually co-opted a pagan celebration to associate with the birth of the King of Kings. That does not, of course, mean you cannot use the day to reflect and worship and give praise and thanks, but it does mean you might want to chill out on using that phrase “ the reason for the season.” I am afraid the reasons for the season were far less pure than Jesus Christ.
One of the things I love about Christmas time, besides family and presents and food and the tree and friends and cards and carols and the hope most people seem to have for good or better things, is definitely shopping! To me shopping is a game of strategy, like chess, only you get to wear or use or eat the victories rather than simply bragging and annoying your opponents. Unless you are like the woman who decided to use pepper spray on her fellow Walmart shopper who were also vying for special bargains, you do not really attack people when you shop strategically, no, the opponent is the department store!
Now before one of you Debbie Downer or Nathan Negatives remind me that if you do not shop you can save 100%, let me remind you that going around without clothes on is not only illegal it is antisocial. Virtually everyone looks better clothed. There are too many things that should not be in places they are currently located on most folks to make being seen naked a good thing for society. But I digress. We need certain things, at Christmas we need more of those things. This makes it a halcyon time for us shopaholics. There is an excuse to buy! Which means there is an excuse to strategize.
Oh, you novices probably know the obvious. You know about department store coupons, special two-fers, all that. But that is for beginners, rookies,neophytes. Those of us who take this passion seriously know all of the ins and outs, and no, it does not include showing up at a store like some dork with 100 coupons for cough syrup. Those uber coupon people are scary!!
Let me walk you through some of my Christmas shopping—this would be a good time for you non-believers in the joys of shopping to excuse yourself. I start in January. The very best time to buy anything associated with cold weather, is January. Because the least fun people to buy clothes for on my list are the males, husband, two sons and son-in-law, I always buy their gifts in January for the next Christmas ( they get cash as their main gift, but being a dinosaur I refuse to only give money or gift cards) . This year it was monogrammed therma-fleece half-zips from Land’s End for most of them. They regularly cost $69, plus five dollars for monogramming and about $7 for shipping. I paid $17 each including monogramming and they were shipped free. Onward to my mother, LL Bean had all of their sweaters on sale last January, including cashmere blends, eventually they were 75% off and again, free shipping. The internet is a fabulous place to shop, you can compare thousands of sites’ prices and there is always a deal of some sort. If you are not familiar with it do visit Retailmenot.com to check for bargains online, they almost always have coupons for free shipping or discounts.
I saw a centerpiece I wanted for my coffee table at a department store. It was $79, I took a picture of it with my phone. I was able to use a decorative bowl I already had, buy the other contents at a craft store and created a virtual duplicate for $7. Got lots of compliments on it at my NC Christmas party.
Speaking of Christmas parties, we gave two this year, one in NC for 24 people and one in Ohio for slightly more. The party in NC starred a turkey dinner , of course. You know how much turkeys cost after Thanksgiving. My 22 pound bird only cost $16. I buy the makings for the other things, like cookies and cakes when they are on sale. You can always get cheaper nuts and chocolate chips, etc.in the summer, they keep. Because I was serving a full dinner at the NC party I did not want to use paper plates, but I did not want to deal with a bunch of plates either–your hostess leaving to load the dishwasher is tacky. I went to Walmart, found nice red plastic plates ( dishwasher safe no less) on sale for four for 75 cents. So, I bought plates I can use at Christmas for years and paid $3.75 for the lot, cheaper than decent paper plates and because they are thin they stack up nicely in the sink until you can put them in the dishwasher later.
I serve wine at my Christmas parties and since virtually every guest brings a bottle as a hostess gift I always get enough wine at one party to serve at the next one! So throw those Christmas parties!
After Christmas sales are not to be missed either. I went to Beerman’s yesterday, scored two of those faux suede jackets, one black , one purple, that had been $59 each for $14,99 each, and I had a $10 off coupon clipped from the newspaper. So each jacket cost me $10, plus tax of course. Also bought a new comforter marked down from $159 to $35, two other coupons brought it down to $21.
Finally, if you do not belong to Groupon or Living Social you are missing out. When I got back to NC I have a coupon for brunch for two at Cantina South that I paid $14 for and a mani pedi at a local beauty salon I paid $22 for. There are fabulous vacations, half-price dinners and tickets to events and all kinds of beauty products and services offered every day.
I love nice things, and I love good clothes and I love to eat out at cool places and I love facials and manicures and pedicures and massages. Alas, my employment and bank account do not afford such luxuries at full price. Fortunately, neither at Christmas time nor any other time do I ever pay full price. Maybe I will start a contest to see who can save the most on a single shopping outing. That would be fun!!!
Happy Christmas season, and happy shopping!