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September 2, 2014

The War on Christmas is a Civil War

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

~The book of Luke

 

And they brought forth the discounted cell phones, and displayed them in a giant bin, because they were the advertised special.

And there were in the same country, shoppers lining up in the parking lot, keeping watch over their spot all night.

And lo, the manager of the store came upon them, and the door was opened to them, and the large fluorescent bulbs shone all around them, and they were sore amazed.

And the manager said unto them, be not meek for behold, I bring you electronic devices made in China, which shall be for all people.

For unto you is brought this day to the city of Moultrie Georgia, a lost leader, which is the deeply discounted gadget.

And this shall be a sale unto you. Ye shall find the phones at the back of the store, wrapped in shrink-wrap and lying on a pallet.

And suddenly there was a trampling of the manager by a multitude of the discount shopper, praising the box store and saying, “Glory to Black Friday,” now get the hell out of my way or I’ll elbow you in the face.

 ~The Book of Walmart

Like it or not, the commercialization of the Christmas holiday is a fact of life. This year, even the preceding holiday, named itself for gratitude, and formerly celebrated simply by spending a day and a good meal with family and friends counting our blessings, has now been swallowed by the Christmas machine and named “Gray Thursday” for its status as Black Friday Eve.

Now, low-wage retail workers are expected to give up their Thanksgiving evening, starting work as early as 8:00pm, before the tryptophan has even worn off, and while the rest of the family is going back for seconds on pie. And bargain hunters, lured by the ever more deeply discounted sales, voluntarily give up their Thanksgiving night to stand on line and wait in the cold for the shopping event of the season.

But Gray Thursday, and Black Friday 2012 are now a memory, and all that’s left are the contusions. It’s a new day, which also has a title – Small Business Saturday. The idea today is to support local businesses. And no, that doesn’t mean the Wal-Mart that happens to be in your town, or the one on your end of town. It means the businesses where the owners are likely to be behind the counter – not lounging on their second yacht in the Caymans making more in the hour it takes you to wait on line than their employees do all year.

The War on Christmas is not about Christians vs. Secularists, or Humanists, or Pagans. The War on Christmas is a Civil War in which spirituality, good will, and peace on earth and in our hearts were the first casualties. We worship the trinity of Money, Stuff, and Greed. And most of us haven’t even noticed. But the monetization of Christmas is a cultural norm, and as such, there is something we can do about it. We can practice commercialism with a cause.

Running a local retail business is a difficult job. When I opened my business in Anchorage, there was no Barnes & Noble – there was Cook Inlet Book Company. There were no Lowe’s or Home Depot – there was McKay’s Hardware. There was no Toys ‘R Us – there was Classic Toys and Over the Rainbow. There was no Bed, Bath & Beyond – there was Habitat Housewares. There was no WalMart, or Kmart, or Target. People still bought things, but many of the places they bought them from are businesses long gone, whose names have been forgotten, and whose customers fled in pursuit of the biggest selection, and rock bottom prices.

Since those times, when the advent of the big chain store meant certain doom for some local businesses, there are some local retailers that have learned to adapt, or who have found a niche market that a big chain could never fill. Local businesses will often order you just the thing you need, or they offer gift wrapping services, or personalized customer service. Some offer to make gift baskets, or provide services rather than products. In the cutthroat world of retail, those who adapt survive. But they also need our help.

So stop in at Classic Toys, Over the Rainbow in the Huffman Business Park, The Jewelry Cache, Grass Roots Fair Trade Store, or Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge. Buy a gift certificate for a massage, or a car wash, or snow removal services from one of many local businesses. Give some local flavor to those Outside with a gift from the Ugashik Wild Salmon Company, Alaska Wildberry Products, or ArXotica skin care products. After your shopping day is done, enjoy a meal at Spenard Roadhouse, or Villa Nova or The Middleway Café in Anchorage – or Jack Sprat in Girdwood, Lemongrass in Fairbanks, or Chinook’s in Seward. Use locally grown potatoes and carrots in your holiday meals, serve up some Alaskan libations from Bear Creek Winery, or Midnight Sun Brewing Company. Order a case from The Grog Shop in Homer. Make it your mission. And make it last longer than Small Business Saturday.

Local business owners are grateful to you. Believe me, I know. And they can’t always provide you the best deal because they simply can’t buy in bulk like Target can. But maybe we as consumers can pay a little more, give one or two fewer presents to those who already have everything they need, and pay our giving forward to those who work every day to drive our local economy.

Your dollars will go for things like braces, and piano lessons, and soccer uniforms – not second yachts, fourth houses, and 12th cars. And you can feel really good about that, wherever you live.

 

 

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24 Responses to “The War on Christmas is a Civil War”
  1. russellsq says:

    Time again to retell the story or my friend from Thailand, He and I sat and talked, he is the head monk in Surin, about 200 klicks from Bangcock. ” You in the west have so much, but you are so unhappy, we in the east have so little, but we are so happy”. It is enough to hug your children, smile with your friends, and be at peace with yourself. So to Irish Girl, Bubbles, and all the mud puppies, peace on earth good will to all.

  2. mea says:

    i don’t shop at walmart. i shop locally. i live pretty far from any big town, so the temptation isn’t there for me.
    went to New England, and was entranced by all the “cottage industry” back there, so i did some shopping there.
    i am famous in my family for sending beautiful rocks from my western world as my gifts. the price of mailing them was worth it, and keeps my local post office healthy, too. Shop Small!

    • We were recently in Massachusetts and I was struck by how many towns we saw without any of the familiar big chain stores. I started to wonder if people there actually shopped at all or went out for lunch or dinner. Then I realized that their version of the little strip malls that we have everywhere in the Puget Sound region just looked different. They fit in with the old farm house style instead of being made like concrete boxes. I really liked it. We did eventually find a mall or two and some strip malls, but those were only in larger cities.

  3. I love Christmas – the part with my church but also the whole decorating thing and gift giving. However, I hate shopping and it seems to get harder each year to come up with gifts for our daughters and their husbands who are now in their 30s. And buying for my husband is a challenge. He is like I am – if I want something I tend to buy it instead of waiting for someone to get it for me. We are fortunate that we are able to do that.

    I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve shopped at Walmart in the last year. I don’t like it. It’s too big, with too many items made some place else by people whose living and working conditions are horrible. So I try very hard to not support that store. Every Friday when I volunteer at my local food bank there are a number of people who come in for food even though they have a job – at Walmart, where it’s not possible for them to support their family on the salary they earn there.

    So since I hate to go shopping I avoid the stores when I know they will be crowded. I never shop on Black Friday. I did however, go to get a mocha at a local shop on Small Business Saturday. They’ve been in business in my town for as long as I’ve been here and I don’t go often enough. I’ll have to do it more. And I found two stocking stuffers when I was there – so I have done some shopping.

  4. Zyxomma says:

    Too bad so many of the Black Friday shoppers have no idea how to behave. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything but food on Buy Nothing Day (the other name for Black Friday).

  5. bubbles says:

    i dislike buying anything in crowded stores and like so many of the Mudflats’ people i have stopped shopping in big chain stores like Macys (they sell Donald Trump crap).
    as some Pups know Bubbles Baby Girl just purchased a home in Santa Barbara after achieving tenure at the university there so i think that is where i will be for Christmas this year. although my friends in Ohio (think Merry Cricket) are not happy and i will certainly miss them i hope to be enjoying a little warmth with my holiday feast.
    i have so much to be thankful for this year that presents are the least things on my mind. so many people are still suffering here in NY and my heart hurts for them. i will try to find a way to donate some toys or warm coat and hat for a little one who has nothing.
    i am sorry to have been absent for a while but health concerns have kept me quiet and withdrawn. thanks to Forty Watt i am well on my way to better health and lower chronic pain issues. Mudflats and Mudpups are my gift of choice so everyone stay well and be joyful. will come back when i can. bless you all. ♥

  6. merrycricket says:

    I do what my son does, if I go to Walmart, I only buy one thing, usually its printer ink, because that costs th money. I get my pizza from a family owned business and there is now a great food truck that sells fried chicken I like to frequent. I have a membership to a local food coop that sells organic and natural products. It’s really not that hard to change some of our buying habits.

    I read an article the other day listing the 12 lowest paying companies and walmart topped the list. The others? All of the ones that have squawked about healthcare and threatened to cut employees hours. No big surprise there. Also in that list? Sears, where I used to work. Its high time we start supporting the real people who keep our economy going.

  7. UgaVic says:

    I have to agree on the words spoken before me on how important those sales are to local, or family owned, businesses and how the dollars DO stay in the area.

    As a Bristol Bay based business it is hard at times to fight all the logisitics of getting our product, Wild Alaska Salmon, to the customer, but we are determined. Many people interact with us, and encourage us, before the product gets to our customers.

    With a recent change of airline companies in our area we are still seeing a few hiccups but we will all get there. What we ship out helps employ everyone from a fisherman to the post mistress!

    We also love being able to support special events or gathersing and get special little gifts to them for their attendees. So, if you know of an event that gives a small ‘gift’ and it would make sense to get a jar of salmon, have them contact us.

    It is also fun to learn a little more all the great mudpuppies when they order from us…THANKS for the support!

  8. Ripley In CT says:

    Living in rural CT, there are plenty of owner-operated establishments to shop at. I try to do this as often as I can, and avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. There’s a big complex a couple of towns over with a bunch of chain stores and restaurants which I also refuse to patronize. If I need it bad enough, I’ll find it somewhere other than a complex. I have Flea Markets galore at my disposal. Always a bargain. And if I can’t find it there, I’ll borrow it.

    Every day should be small business day. This is not only rewarding, but you get recognized if you frequent them often enough. I also use local carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. every time. Everyone knows someone who does the work you need done. Heck, my own business depends upon the fact that I will maintain a working relationship with you. The casinos have spas and massage therapy services, but again, that’s mass marketed and far too expensive for regular people. We small business people want to actually connect with people. The chains just want to connect with your money.

    PS: Shameless Plea: I started a new blog, if you want to stop by. Click my name. :D

    • Ripley In CT says:

      Oh PS again: I never shop for Christmas anymore. I bake. My nephews and nieces can’t wait to get Auntie’s Christmas package in the mail. Filled with goodies and a lot of love. When they were little, presents were a lot of fun. As Teenagers, it was all about the money. Now they are adults, two of them with their own little ones. That package of cookies, bars, breads and a homemade card make their day.

  9. tigerwine says:

    Amen to the aforementioned comments by AK Pi,, John, Lacy Lady and Beaglemon! I hate crowds, and just the idea of fighting fellow human beings for so-called “bargains”, leaves me cold. In fact, it’s scary.

    I live in a small town, and sometimes stuff is limited and quite pricey. I have already done most of my shopping by mail, and get a lot of guff from friends about paying extra for shipping. I point out that a trip costs gas and usually involves lunch, and I feel it evens out. I have gotten some very good deals this year! Now I can concentrate on local stuff and be more focused on what I am really looking for for those still on my list. (Which reminds me, I must contact Victoria about her salmon!) And. . .can’t find purple candles for my Advent Wreath locally, either!

    The important thing is that you give love and thought to your gifts, and take the time for yourself and enjoy this wonderful time of year. Am sending all mudpups a virtual bottle our Cabernet Franc!

  10. lacy lady says:

    I can’t imagine going to a store at Midnight or waiting for hours to get into a store to buy junk.
    As a potter and fiber artist, I love to give my friends something I have made. Also baked goods to friends and family.

    .

  11. Beaglemom says:

    Well, I have always loved Christmas. As a child I loved the anticipation, the decorations, and, yes, the presents. But always, as child and now as adult, I love Christmas because it is a magical time – a wondrous birthday to be celebrated and relished. When our son was very small, he was allowed to stay up to go to the traditional Christmas Eve service at church. We took along a lovely book about a mouse who finds a warm stable with straw under a tree with beautiful lights and ornaments in a house to shelter in on a winter night. Our son is grown now but I still love to think of reading the story before going to church and then watching him look at the pictures before the church service began, before the lights were dimmed and the candle-bearing choir members walked up the center aisle.

    I refuse to partake in the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy and most of my purchases are made locally or, simply because of the isolation of our town, over the internet. I certainly appreciate all that local merchants and their employees do during this complex season. It cannot be easy. And I must admit that I have fun shopping for gifts for family members and close friends and I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. My favorite part of getting ready for the holidays is wrapping gifts (but no packing them in cartons to mail) and trimming the tree. Above all, all of this hustle and bustle is aimed at the special day itself.

  12. John says:

    We have fallen into a trap of only wanting to buy the cheapest things, on sale, so we can have more stuff and still save a few bucks and then, turn around and pay higher taxes so we can give food stamps to the families who sell us our cheap stuff, and then we complain that everything we buy is made in China and there are no jobs for people here.

    I am as guilty of all this as the next person, but I try to buy locally, and I try to live with less stuff. And I avoid chain stores and chain restaurants like the plague.

  13. Alaska Pi says:

    As manager of a small locally owned business, I can tell you your dollars also go into a locally owned bank, which sells locally owned mortgages, into the weeks the owner takes off to help with local projects for our kids every year, and the time we have to invite young people from all over the state into the shop for a birdseye view of running a business and/or preparing for a job.
    Your dollars go to paying the best wage we can afford to staff who work hard to take your special order and help you find just-the-right-hoolibob, even if it means calling another shop to do so.
    Our prices are quite competitive though unexamined perceptions don’t realize it and we tell the best stupid jokes in town.
    Most locally owned businesses here have similar qualities, none of the box stores/formula shops do.
    Come shop locally!
    Coffee’s on!

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