Some Buy Their Christmas Presents in July and Some on Christmas Eve
Perplexities of Holiday Shopping
There is a Christmas shopper who stands aloof from the hurrying throngs in the stores at this season and regards with smiling complacency their frantic efforts to be served.
She is the Christmas shopper of the new era. For want of a better name we will call her the Anti-Fret Purchaser. Her method of purveying Christmas presents may have slight drawbacks, yet it saves worry, care and vexation.
It is better to give than to receive. It is still better to purchase Christmas presents in peace and quietness than to join the frantic throng of belated buyers who are now besieging the counters from nine o’clock in the morning until late at night. It gives a more benevolent feeling to know that the Christmas present which you have sent was purchased while the mind was free from distracting thoughts.
There is no care resting upon the soul of the Anti-Fret Purchaser, for she bought her Christmas presents weeks and months ago. Last year’s New Year resolutions had hardly begun to weaken before she was giving thought to the gifts which she would bestow on the Christmas nearly twelve months away.
Her Christmas is distributed over the entire year. The glow of benevolence rests upon her like a halo from January till December. She is Lady Bountiful always. Wherever she goes her mind is filled with the thoughts of Yuletide. If she is in the dry goods store she may see some dainty trifle worthy of being stored up against that day. When humanity five deep stands before the Christmas counters. In the jewelry store, in the book shop, and in scores of places she calmly selects Christmas gifts and has them sent to her house in mysterious parcels, which nobody but herself is permitted to open.
Buys Furs in August.
She goes to the stores of those who sell furs while an August sun is beating down upon her sailor hat. It may be that furs are cheaper in summer than in winter. Supposing that they are, the Anti-Fret Purchase has a chance to distribute her holiday largess over a larger area. It is true that it requires a great deal of time, care and moth balls to keep fur garments presentable until the season when the air is filled with snowflakes instead of humidity. It was only the other day that one of the Christmas shoppers of the new school showed me a box of cigars which she had purchased last July as a Yuletide gift for her brother. It may be that the Havanas lost somewhat of their pristine freshness, but think of the Christmas benevolence which filled that young woman’s heart for half the year. The fifty “Dusty Beauties,” as Kipling calls the rolls of the fragrant weed, are, no doubt, somewhat dry by this time, but the spirit in which they were bought is as fresh and generous as it was on the day the girl bought those cigars with the “lovely red bands.”
No plan ever worked with absolute perfection. There is another drawback to the purchase of Christmas presents many months in advance. Friendships here on earth are apt to fade. The young man for whom a young woman would embroider the uppers of slippers last July may not be thought worthy of such a remembrance in December. The neck-tie pin which the youth was to receive for Christmas may never reach him, for in six months lovers may quarrel and drift far away. Then it often happens that slippers are consigned to a fiery furnace and that necktie pines are given to the gardener and hired man.
Some of the Drawbacks.
Then, there are times when vain regrets enter like iron into the soul of the Anti-Fret Purchaser. It is not a pleasant thing to discover that those things which were fashionable six months ago have gone out of vogue, especially when some of them were laid away for Christmas presents. The pangs of anguish which the beforehand shipper feels at that time is not to be compared to the dark woe which descends upon her soul when she finds that the price of what she has purchased is half as much now as it was a few months ago. It is enough to make any woman shed tears of remorse to see the label “49 cents, marked down from $1.25,” when she realizes that last July she paid the 1.25.
Yet, what are these slight circumstances compared to the general feeling of relief and rest which comes to the Anti-Fret Purchase when she sees her friends plunging into a wearisome campaign of Christmas shopping. Sometimes she actually goes with them in order to behold their looks of discomfiture when they stand an hour waiting to be served and half an hour longer to get their change. Then it is that she smiles and remarks that she secured her presents long before the holiday rush began. She thinks of various nooks and comers at home where there is a Yuletide treasure trove. She thinks of neatly tied packages laid away in chiffoniers and dressers. She knows that each package has been carefully marked months ago. She has a list on which are the names of all those whom she planned to remember. Opposite each name is a check mark, which signifies that the present has been duly marked and is ready to be sent away.
Her friends meanwhile are trying to remember whether it is “Johnnie” or “Jimmie” who would like to have a drum. They are vainly seeking to recollect the age of Aunt Sarah’s boy and to decide whether he should have a doll or a shotgun. It is hard to keep in mind such details when one is in a hurry.
Her List Complete.
It is not so with the Christmas shopper who has been slowly accumulating her budget of gifts. She has taken pains to inquire concerning the wants and the preferences of her kith and kin. Quite incidentally she discovered the kind of cigars her brother smoked and learned whether another young man will like to have a matchbox or a neck-tie pin. It is very awkward to ask point blank questions within a few days of Christmas. The wherefore of the inquiries is too apparent. Months before, however, the investigation can be conducted without exciting the least suspicion.
It is not at all likely that the Anti-Fret Purchaser will forget anybody whom she should remember. She has taken months to deliberate and to plan, and it is practically impossible for her to leave anybody out whom she should remember.
Even in the best regulated stores the delivery of packages is often delayed around Christmas time. Parcels are piled in the basements to a height of many feet. It is necessary to fairly scoop them up and place them in the wagons. It often happens that the packages which were to have been delivered the day before Christmas does not arrive until three days after the turkey and cranberry sauce have been served. There have been innumerable cases when the hearts of children have been broken because the presents expected on Christmas morning did not arrive. Then it is that the woman who has delayed her Christmas until the last minute uses language only fit for the recording angel to hear. The Anti-Fret Purchaser, however, has sent all her presents away the day before Christmas and is spending her hours in beneficent calmness.
The New York Herald 11 December 1898: p. 7
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is certain that all of her readers fall into the prudent, pre-holiday-shopper category…. Labour reformers were also in favour of “anti-fret” shopping policies. A heart-rending tale entitled “The Toxin of Christmas: The Story of a Little Shop Girl; Her Struggle with Late Christmas Buyers That Might Easily Have Been Spared,” related the horrors of exhausted shop girls forced to contend with heartless floorwalkers and demanding Christmas Eve shoppers, poisoning the weary workers’ Christmas celebrations. Editorials also urged merchants to close earlier and hailed the merits of shopping early in the holiday season, not least of which was consideration for the working girl. Mrs Daffodil notes that this year saw a controversy over “early openings” of stores for the holiday shopping season. Plus ça change….
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.