Up the hill

Spending Christmas in our small towns

November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving is gone, so it's safe to put out the Christmas stuff, though some major retailers thought it was OK to get started in September.

Thanksgiving is gone, so it's safe to put out the Christmas stuff, though some major retailers thought it was OK to get started in September.

If the mid-week forecasts are correct, the weekend should be pretty good outdoors for that sort of stuff. What it will also be good for is spending some money with the small, independent retailers in the area. Saturday has been designated Small Business Saturday, a day shoppers are being encouraged to spend money with an independent retailer.

There are plenty in our readership area, but unlike some years ago, we don't often think about those shops as places to find Christmas gifts. Not since the Harford Mall arrived in Bel Air just in time for the Christmas 1972 shopping season have the downtowns of Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and Perryville been the primary shopping centers for their communities.

Even before that, trips to Baltimore, Price's Corner, Wilmington and parts beyond the three towns were often necessary during the Christmas shopping season.

For those without either the means or the motivation for longer shopping trips, there were holiday saving catalogs. Where would folks have been without Sears Roebuck and Co. or Montgomery Ward? (As a digression, who started calling it Monkey Ward and why?)

Those were the forerunners to the Internet and online shopping. A trip through a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog was not unlike looking for a favorite toy online. But then, there were fears, sometimes realized and sometimes not, that the precious gift(s) wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas.

Catalog ordering and shipping in those days were nothing like the world of today's online shopping. All online retailers can tell you the exact time and day, which is most often printed prominently throughout their catalogs, that you must order by in order to have your gift delivered in time for Christmas. Some offer guaranteed Christmas Eve or Christmas Day deliveries.

Once those orders are placed, retailers inform their customers via email that they've been shipped and offer tracking numbers so you can follow your packages online as it comes your way. No more waiting and wondering; today's technology eliminates the mystery.

But back to the retailers who need our Christmas shopping dollars the most – our local independent ones. No one needs to be reminded about our crappy economy. Or that it's a wonder how some businesses survive. They don't.

For those that have survived, Saturday is the day to find out if one of those small businesses might just be selling the perfect gift for someone on your Christmas list. There are some that are must visits at this time of year, but I won't name them for fear of overlooking some I haven't yet added to my holiday tradition.

Saturday is the promotional day to support those businesses, but there are plenty of other days those proprietors would be just as happy to get some of your money.

After this weekend, which doesn't exactly follow the best tradition established in the 1947 classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street" that the Christmas season starts when Santa Claus closes out the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, our communities welcome the holidays in their own way.

It's Christmas for real in Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and Perryville, starting Dec. 2 with First Fridays and the annual Havre de Grace Christmas parade and downtown tree lighting.

Aberdeen follows Dec. 3 with its day of activities leading to the annual Christmas Street Parade at 3 p.m. Perryville also does its thing Dec. 3 with its Christmas celebration and the annual lighting of the Cecil County Holly Tree, which for those of certain generations is the Jackson Holly Tree or the B&O Holly Tree.

The Town of Perryville holds its Christmas Open House and tree lighting the following Saturday, Dec. 10, next to Rodgers Tavern. And then there's the 39th annual Havre de Grace Candlelight Tour Sunday, Dec. 11.

The area's Christmas season comes to a close the day after the big day with one of the nicer celebrations – the annual Christmas Tour of Havre de Grace churches.

Thanksgiving is, indeed, over and it's time to indulge in the "most wonderful time of the year…"

Just remember to savor every morsel of the season.

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