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I do my very best to avoid department stores at Christmas time, and since Christmas shopping now begins even before Thanksgiving, I have been sticking to the grocery-store aisles for weeks.
I would rather be just about anyplace than standing in line Friday morning, waiting to run through a store just to grab a few bargains. Some stores opened as early as 4 a.m. Friday and while I'm up that early at least six of seven days each week, I refuse to join the race, no matter how big the bargains.
I'm most often a cash and gift-certificate shopper and with no kids of my own, I'm spared the madness so many people put themselves through. In fact, I fear many people buy things they don't need. Christmas ads in our newspaper help to pay my salary, however, so I'm not oblivious to the economic impact of Christmas shopping, especially in our area. I shop at home as often as I can.
I don't have a huge problem with the commercialization of Christmas since I find it easy to separate my religious beliefs from holiday sales and shopping. But I feel some of the magic of Christmas has faded in recent years, at least among adults. We pack our schedules so full the holidays become a chore and we're robbed of the magic that enthralled us when we were young. I still see the magic of the holidays in children at parades and when they are crawling over Santa's lap with round eyes full of wonderment and awe. The holidays remain alive in those who give of themselves, contributing to others in need, or who make homemade crafts and cookies for others.
As far as my little household of one, I'll be spending the holidays hosting dinners for family and friends and baking cookies. As I write this on Thanksgiving night, one of the four geese I placed in my freezer a week ago is thawing for a Saturday dinner. The others will find their way to the table around Christmas.
The remaining four snow-white geese I received as chicks in spring were spared the chopping block and are spending their days happily in the lake in front of my house, making friends with the ducks who live there. As long as the geese stay out of my mother's strawberry patch come spring and don't make too much of a mess on the sidewalk leading to the lake, they are safe.
St. Nicholas Day
If you're looking to keep a little of the Christmas spirit alive and perhaps begin a new tradition with your children, observe St. Nicholas Day Dec. 6.
In many countries, small gifts are exchanged on the saint's feast day or during the evening before. Many of the saint's supposed good deeds, such as putting gifts in stockings, come from St. Nicholas and developed long before Santa Claus. Some people have their children put out their shoes on front steps or the back porch the night of Dec. 5 in hopes the saint will come and drop in a few pieces of candy or quarters.
While many kids will grow tired of their Christmas gifts before the arrival of New Year's, I will give nephews and nieces educational, but fun, games and a few clothes. I will give some adult friends bottles of bourbon, Belgian genever or schnapps to go with their tins of Christmas cookies. That way, they can toast me throughout the year.