Christmas Shopping

Two topics come to mind when I think about Christmas shopping. The first is an earlier recollection when I was selling goods at my father’s shop and the second is later and more personal when I was buying gifts for my family.

Dad and his brother owned a hardware store. The Christmas season was their busiest time of the year. Of course it was summer in New Zealand with all kinds of activities. On the farms, shearing was in full swing. And these were the days when the country raised 70 million sheep. Our small town was the hub for a large farming community. In the weeks leading up to the big day, Dad was also occupied with the extras he did like stringing tennis racquets. When I was old enough to use the cash register without screwing up, I sold things in the shop. Before that stage I was only useful for unpacking crates of china and dusting.

It was all hands to the deck on the 24th and my mother and aunt also lent a hand. Dad would change his shoes and socks twice a day. The shop’s floors were tough on the feet when you were scurrying around even faster than usual. We stayed open late on Christmas Eve often selling items that had sat on the shelves all season. When the shearers came into town with their pockets full of cash and desperate to buy any gifts for the girlfriend and family, we were ready to be helpful. We went home exhausted but pleased to have done well.

I look back on those days with nostalgia. As a young child, I learned not to wake up my dad too early on Christmas morning to show off my presents. I did wonder at the time why he was so tired. Later when I had my own family and worked full time, I learned to pace myself at Christmas.

In Canada I worked in a college program that ran all year round so we were encouraged to take some of our vacation at times of the year other than summer. To reduce my holiday stress, I used to take some days at the beginning of December to complete all things Christmas. I bought and wrapped gifts, baked cookies, selected the turkey and decorated the house in one mad week. I was beat by the end of that time and could have used a vacation. However, I was also smug as I watched and listened to other staff members rushing around in the days before we closed at midday on the 24th trying to finish their shopping.

Spending the months from October to April in New Zealand meant that we missed a Canadian Christmas. I must have been the earliest seasonal shopper in the district as I bought presents and addressed cards in September. We simplified our giving as our kids and grandkids grew older and now we tend to give wine and gift cards. Since we are in Canada this year, I have tried to be more personal with my presents. After all I have the time to think about these things.

In the next week, I will write about more seasonal topics.