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Fewer Gifts This Season, But Christmas Will Still Be Special

Dave Stancliff
The Times-Standard

December 21, 2008

Things will be different this year.

There won't be as many Christmas toys and luxury items sold nationwide. Analysts are already lamenting the lack of shoppers. Sales are sagging as storekeepers from Boston to Monterey mark down their merchandise.

Hi-tech gadget retailers feel the pinch as walking, talking products pile up unsold in the vast wasteland of Circuit City's bankruptcy. Other electronic retailers still hope for a seasonal buzz.

There's a cold financial freeze upon the land and this holiday season. Americans are preparing for dark days ahead. Families are bracing themselves for a “lean” holiday.

In Boston, a letter-writing campaign was launched by a group of people who call themselves “Commercial-Free Childhood.” About 1,400 of its members and supporters have contacted 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express concern about television ads aimed at kids.

They say the ads place parents in the unenviable position of having to tell their children they can't afford to buy the products advertised on television. The toy industry points out that they're not doing anything wrong.

The fact is, they aren't doing anything wrong. The parents are doing something wrong. Their children are constantly exposed to advertising products wherever they go. Cut out the television if necessary. More important, talk with your children and make them understand they can't always get what they want. Tell them about the real meaning of Christmas.

Yes, some things will be different this year, but some things will be unchanged.

Families, will gather and give gifts, but the days of obsessed shop-a-holics running up holiday credit card bills are over. Like a blanket of snow, a time of austerity has settled upon us during these final days of 2008.

This holiday season may see families come closer together than ever before. Times are hard in America, and people tend to pull together when that happens. There may be less gift-giving, but that will be offset by enjoying the holiday for what it is, a time to get together, and to count our blessings. We are a resilient nation. We've done it before and we can do it again.

Some say we are in the throes of a depression. Others call it an “official” recession. Whatever pundits and commentators care to call it, we face more financial challenges every day. At least we have a social net to help the poor, unlike conditions in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

That's not to say our social safety nets don't face financial problems. They do. People are tightening their belts in anticipation of what next year will bring. No one knows what to expect. Not even the experts.

Some people warm themselves with thoughts of positive change next year under a new administration. Others wonder what kind of work will be available if they lose their jobs. Millions have already lost them in this cruel year.

Americans nervously ponder their fate as they spend each precious dollar.

Experts warn that heating costs will go up this winter, but the price of gasoline has gone down. Undaunted by money worries, many will enjoy every moment of this holiday season because they know what's real and important in life.

After all, none of us know if we'll be alive from one day to the next. The opportunity to have fun with friends and family should be embraced regardless of current events. There's a holiday spirit out there and you can see it in the smiling faces of babes, young children, adults, and seniors alike.

Parents will read “The Night Before Christmas,” and children will still be enthralled by the image of a fat, jolly old elf climbing down their chimney in the middle of the night. Handmade gifts will be given and appreciated more than anything bought in a store.

Wallets may be light, but volunteers will feed and shelter those in need. Churches and nonprofits will do their best to bring holiday cheer to everyone. Magic will be in the air as families decorate Christmas trees and enjoy holiday meals.

Some things are different this year, but the meaning of Christmas always remains the same. Peace and goodwill to all.

For every story of hardship, another story will warm our hearts. People will persevere. There will be laughter and hope. Children will sit on Santa's knee and smile, or cry, while proud parents watch.

As It Stands, so what if there's less gift giving this year? People will get back to what Christmas is all about.






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