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updated: 12/21/2010 1:44 PM

Sounds of carols ease strains of holiday shopping

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  • The sounds of carolers in downtown Naperville can help ease some of the last-minute holiday shopping stress.

      The sounds of carolers in downtown Naperville can help ease some of the last-minute holiday shopping stress.
    Courtesy Stephanie Penick

 

It's no secret that this time of year many of us reflect on Christmases past.

As a local columnist, I was drawn to come up with a memorable holiday story. Not sure where to begin considering I've been trying to pay attention to all the breaking news that will affect our future.

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I found it interesting the other day to be reminded that playwright Neil Simon urged writers to "Write what you know." That's why I love to share my memories.

That said, a friend recently lent me a copy of "Searchlights on Health," copyrighted in 1919, and one of more than 1 million copies published by J.L. Nichols and Company in Naperville.

The writer, professor B.J. Jefferis, who addresses a plethora of topics, suggests "Tell a story, if at all, only as an illustration, and not for itself. Tell it accurately."

So here goes.

Folks who know me well know I'm not a shopper. Christmas shopping is never on my preferred list of things to do, so I usually wait to shop until Dec. 24. I'd rather bake cookies or sit around the table creating some handmade, personalized Christmas ornament than run from store to store searching for just the right gift.

Fortunately, Santa Claus took care of Christmas morning when our three children, now all adults, looked forward to his filling their modest Christmas lists.

For a number of reasons, but mostly to test the shopping experience at the end of the first decade of this millennium, I broke tradition this year and began hitting the stores last week.

My parents, who are avid bird watchers, will receive a heated bird bath with a stand. I know they don't have one. They'll be surprised.

As I continued down my Christmas list, plotting out my shopping destinations, I had a rude awakening.

I discovered that starting earlier takes longer than when I wait until Christmas Eve. Here's hoping the long lines are good for the bottom line of local merchants.

Maybe it's just this year, but all the up-selling and information-gathering really were a turn off to me, as were many of the shoppers on cell phones talking loudly while they waited in line.

When did people stop having conversations with each other in the spirit of the season?

And then, why all the questions when it's time to pay?

"Do you need stamps?'

"Would you like to donate a dollar to our charity?"

"What's your phone number?"

"What's your ZIP code?"

"Do you have our frequent shopper's card?"

"Would you like to sign up for a frequent shopper's card?"

"Do you have any coupons?"

Oh, my gosh! Some shoppers even had combinations of coupons they thought they could apply to the same purchase. I have a new appreciation for sales associates.

All I wanted to do was pay for my items and go home.

As I was wrapping up the weekend's shopping haul late Sunday afternoon, I headed back to downtown Naperville, forgetting that even during the holidays, many shops still close at 5 p.m. on Sunday. I thought, "Good for them."

Then, on the northwest corner at Jefferson and Main streets, I came upon about two dozen carolers, mostly teens, dressed in late-19th century attire and singing Christmas carols.

The temperature was frightfully below freezing, but huddled together, the youthful singers appeared warm and their voices were pure as they sang a medley of many of my favorite traditional Christmas songs.

Cars of families stopped to listen. The corners across the street attracted an appreciative audience. Cameras captured the event.

I couldn't help but wonder about the simple joys and gifts that make this season bright.

Merry Christmas!

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