Before the last of the Halloween 90% discounted leftovers have even disappeared from their shelves, retailers are already hoping against hope that you’ll get even more motivated to return for their next huge sales. This time it’s gonna be a biggie.
It’s Christmas! So what if there’s no sign of snow and the mercury has not dropped below 50 degrees? At your local stores, chances are they’re hoping you’ll ignore the weather and focus instead on what’s most important this Festive Holiday Season.
It’s hard to resist. The wildly decorated windows chock-a-bloc with “must-have” items for this season lure us in. And once we step inside the stores, we’re toast. Why? Because if we have not turned up at 2:30 a.m. on Black Friday, standing shoulder-to-bundled shoulder with our equally crazed co-shoppers, we’re not likely to score the really good stuff for a great price. So instead, limp sales flyers in hand, we approach the overflowing shelves usually with a bit of reserve and our pocketbooks jealously hidden. We peer hopefully around our neighbors’ heads, silently cursing them to Christmas shopping hell, as they’re inconveniently blocking us from the one thing we even remotely hope we can afford this season. It might be a cuddly teddy bear, a set of glassware, or perhaps the erstwhile Snuggie. Whatever special item we seek, invariably our best-intentioned lists drop, forgotten, to the depth of our pockets and our souls despair at another holiday of trying to fulfill some lost commercial void.
Times are tough out there and unless you’re a trust-fund baby, you’re likely to find yourself in this situation at some point before now and the Big Day, with a too-lengthy wish list and a too-short stack of twenties.
So what can we do about this dilemma? Vow to give only to the kids this year and exchange cards or small boxes of candies with the grownups in our lives? Splurge on everybody on every conceivable thing they even remotely mentioned wanting, putting the whole shebang on our credit cards, and then hide from the mailman come January? Or are we going to boycott the whole thing and attend the latest incarnation of A Christmas Carol, identifying with old Mr. Scrooge or try to emulate the hapless Grinch?
There’s another solution.
The holidays are coming, and whether or not we’re ready to celebrate whatever particular aspect thereof, gifts will likely still need to be provided. So if you’re not planning on knocking over a bank (helping yourself to some of your taxpayer-provided bailout money), I’d suggest looking at another avenue for your gift-giving this year.
This practice (which I admit to quite happily doing myself) is no longer the stuff of hippies or folks down on their luck. It’s become hip and cool to cruise the aisles of your local thrift store for a holiday treasure.
This revolutionary idea has finally reached the mainstream. According to author Crystal Ray, in her article, “Ideas for Thrift Store Christmas Gifts,” on the Yahoo Voices website,
Christmas gifts do not have to cost a small fortune or come from a retail store to make a grand impression. On the contrary, some of the very best holiday presents are found in unlikely places. With prices of goods at an all time high, many people are shopping at their local thrift store, and they are finding items that are unique and well worth giving.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Like I’m going to give a musty-smelling sweater to Dear Aunt Gracie!” Not so fast, doubting Rudolph. With a little time, knowledge of product value, and a little ingenuity, a savvy thrift store shopper can score a plethora of truly unique and soon-to-be-treasured gifts.
Know somebody who collects vintage ornaments? For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can most likely find a special trinket or two in the holiday aisles, sure to please even the most discriminating connoisseur. I’ve seen Shiny Brite™ ornaments scattered amidst the cracked candy canes and the one-eyed reindeer plush dolls. Any self-respecting ornament virtuoso will tell you that such a find is worth the time spent knee-deep in the thrift-shop dust of ages. These fabulous ornaments, first made by Max Eckhardt in 1937 were hugely popular and were sold by the thousands in stores like Kresge and F. W. Woolworth. According to the website, www.ornamentshop.com, it’s all about nostalgia with these particular pieces.
For those in the Baby Boomer generation, childhood memories of Christmas often revolve around the tree and its ornaments and other decorations as much as they do of a specific present (unless it was a pony – everyone wanted a pony; fortunately, few of us got one.)
Originally selling for around 10-20 cents, these colorful pieces of glass decorated many a home during the 1950s and 1960s, and now their popularity owing largely to nostalgia, has shot up the price to well into the $20 range for a set of 4 reproductions. If you want the originals, try eBay. One listing had a set for $150.
If ornaments aren’t on your list, a detailed perusal of the clothing racks may yield a surprise or two. Many times, retailers like Target will sell discontinued merchandise (think of the red clearance tags and the end caps in the stores) to Goodwill. Usually these items are perfectly new, with tags still attached. Again, for the price of an afternoon, the potential to save hundreds of dollars on truly valuable and quite appropriate gifts makes it all worthwhile.
Know somebody who gets all wistful at remembering their childhood Christmases and receiving that special toy? With a little time and some ingenuity, it’s highly possible that they could revisit that amazing day with all the kid-like excitement of finding their coveted diaper-wetting/speaking/walking dollie or action figure. A great resource for these toys is timewarptoys.com. I personally had the thrill of finding an almost-perfect Steve Austin (not the wrestler; come on old-timers, explain who the Six Million Dollar Man is to your kids) doll on the shelf of my local Goodwill. Peering through his head, out his bionic eye, I could almost look back 30-plus years, watching my brother’s face light up as he unwrapped this cool toy.
Other possibilities include vintage LPs for the vinyl purist on your list, books (some with the stickers still on the dust jackets), unique glassware, wreaths, baskets, funny mugs, and picture frames. And what book lover would say no to receiving a vintage copy of a childhood favorite? The list is virtually endless for those intrepid enough to venture into the land of secondhand.It’s for you!
After all, aren’t the holidays about spending time with those we cherish rather than shelling out wads of cash on something perhaps they’ll never use again? The true value of the holidays, I’d hazard a guess, is in the smiles of our loved ones as they gather with us on those special days, reminiscing about days gone by, laughing at old stories, and sharing a meal or two.
As Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss reminds us,
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
~ Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), American author of children’s books. From ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas.’
Photos courtesy Nossirom and Canna W from SXC.hu