in which christmas begins

12 December 2009

I’ve always been something of a late comer to Christmas.  Part of that is hanging on to history and family tradition.  Growing up, Christmas really started around my sister Jane’s birthday on December 19th.  I’m kind of stubborn about not wanting to milk the hell out of something good, and I’m sure that’s to do with my parents and growing up too. Those of you who put up your trees in November probably have a more relaxed time of it and enjoy a good long holiday season.  But it’s my feeling and experience, that if I keep the time frame small, and the gift giving modest, then I really experience the spirit of the whole thing.  I’m probably sounding pious and judgemental, but it’s how I feel, and it’s how I enjoy the season. 

I’ve mentioned here more than once that in my family we’ve vastly reduced our gift buying in lieu of charity giving over the past few years.  And that takes much of the scramble out of the whole thing .  Still, there is some shopping to be done and that began for me this week.  There is a free shuttle to a mall close to my office, which I take advantage of during the week.  Shopping at lunchtime is substantially easier than shopping in evenings or on weekends, and it’s usually running over for one item or another.  However, I’ve already been elbowed by more than one intent shopper and snapped at by no less than three middle-aged Sears sales clerks seemingly five minutes late for their lunches.  “Christmas spirit, Christmas spirit…” I think to myself as one nasty clerk gives me the most amazing “you are a fucking idiot” attitude when I ask her if one particular item is on sale.  I’ll kill ‘em with kindness even if it kills me first.    

Today, Saturday, I Christmas shop in my Toronto “Beaches” neighbourhood and it is a really good day.  The shopping section is busy during all seasons, but today it isn’t any more of a bother, in fact it is rather wonderful.  Everything I could possibly need to buy is here.  Back in the 70s they built shopping malls to bring all this inside, but one thing they didn’t bring in is the neighbourliness. 

Sales clerks are chatty and pleasant everywhere.  In the linens shop everyone drops everything to gush over a new baby in a sling worn by his mommy, who had visited the store over the months of her pregnancy.  The hardware store has better buys in lights, batteries, paper, tape and random “man” gifts than anywhere else.  And an owner who will forgive the nickel you’re digging for at the bottom of your purse. 

The newsagent, with the best selection of magazines anywhere amongst my travels, who I had seen being so patient and kind to a mentally ill local only last week gives me a free Saturday paper.  And he knows exactly the magazine I’ve been looking for and tells me to come back Monday after work because it should arrive then.  The clerks in the beautiful little gift store completely understand that I need to poke around and look at every single thing only to buy one small stocking stuffer an hour later because everything in the store is something *I* think is beautiful even if it doesn’t fit the profile of any gift I am looking for. 

UK expats and others chat in the specialty handmade candy/British food goods store.  As people do in the independent book store while the clerk is taking down someone’s phone number to call after she gets a hold of a nicer looking copy of a particular book.  Dogs snub their noses at me as they wait patiently outside stores for their humans.  People and their computers loll about coffee shops.  Friends have beers and watch the curling match in the pubs. 

At the temporary Christmas tree lot at the park by the library, folks hold up trees for inspection and put wreaths and cedar garland in wagons alongside their kids. 

As I walk home, with the whirr and “ding ding” of the streetcar alongside, I’m thinking it’s been a really good day in my neighbourhood.  Today Christmas started.

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6 Responses to “in which christmas begins”

  1. Hay Says:

    Sounds lovely. Yeah, I always sigh when decorations go up in October…xmas overload!

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Oh yay, it happens in NZ too? I thought my “non-north-american pals would say say “wha?”

  3. Reluctant Blogger Says:

    Yes, that is my main complaint about Christmas – that it goes on too long. I like everything to be short and sweet really. I’m not good at sustaining excitement or even my attention for very long.

    I must do a bit of shopping this week though – I really must . . .

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Oh, you’ve loads of time yet RB!

  5. uncostunk Says:

    Sorry for commenting Off-Topic … which WordPress theme do you use? Looks cool!


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