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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Making Holiday Shopping Fun Again

I can't believe that we're almost finished A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR for another year!  It's crunch time now, as Christmas Day gets closer and closer.  Any minute now, I expect Santa to finish his last minute errands before setting out in his sleigh to deliver toys to every girl and boy in the world.

Well, every girl and boy who happens to be on the nice list, that is.

Today is Day #23 in the advent calendar, and I've been trying to come up with a suitable topic that is holiday themed that I have never talked about before in this space.  You'd think that would be easy, but I've also been doing this blog for almost five years now.  I'm starting to run out of ideas.

So, you know something?  I think I'm going to talk about another personal memory.  A memory that actually takes place at a store chain that essentially doesn't exist any longer.

And, I'll warn you ahead of time, Canadians will likely have a better memory of this store than some others who may be reading this.

I still can't believe that it has been almost three years since Zellers shut its doors.  The Canadian retailer - which began operations in 1931 - closed up shop in March 2013 (save for two stores which run as liquidation centres).  The stores were mostly bought up by Target in 2013, only for the Canadian portion of the business to collapse just two years later in April 2015.

It's really too bad that Zellers is no more.  I remember when I was a kid, I used to really love going to Zellers.  The Zellers store in my hometown back in the 1980s was a great place to shop, and it was hard not to love the loveable bear mascot that Zellers had representing the store.

It was a mascot known as the Zeddy Bear.  Cute, huh?

Anyway, right around the holiday season, I remember that Zellers would have these special sales that would happen every weekend before Christmas.  And the special thing about these sales were that they always happened during the night hours.

They were known as Moonlight Madness sales...and I do believe that I went to a couple of them when I was really young.  Mind you, I don't think I remember buying anything - I think if anything, my parents would often put me in the care of my siblings while they went Christmas shopping for deals.

But the Moonlight Madness sales at Zellers were quite fun.  It was rather unusual to have sales start at night - and if I remember correctly, Zellers used to close their store for two or three hours in between the daylight hours and the nighttime hours so that the staff could have time to set up the displays for the sale.  That wasn't a whole lot of time for the staff, and now that I work retail, I have huge appreciation for people in retail who had to set up store displays on such short notice.

But once the doors opened up for the sale, there were definitely a lot of things that were available that were quite nice.  I seem to remember wanting to go to the toy department to see what they had, hoping that Santa Claus would think I was good enough to have him bring them to me!

Truth be told, I really do appreciate businesses that think outside the box when it comes to selling items.  Especially since we now live in a world where the almighty dollar seems to take precedence over fun and enjoyment.

And it's not right.  It's just not right.

There's no reason why Christmas shopping shouldn't be filled with fun and creativity, right?  Case in point, I have examples of this - once again from my own childhood.

Everyone knows that part of the fun of shopping is finding and buying that perfect gift that will make the person getting the gift squeal in delight - kind of like what I did the year I got Super Mario 3 for Christmas.  But what if you didn't have to pay for the gift?

And, by that I DON'T MEAN FIVE FINGER DISCOUNTS EITHER.  Stealing is wrong.  Santa doesn't like thieves.

No, I mean entering your name into various raffles and silent auctions that were held inside of the local shopping mall.  It was fun to enter all of these contests, trying to see what prizes you could win.  Whether it was a nice chunk of cash, a video game console, or a Cabbage Patch Kid during the shortage of '83, every prize guaranteed that someone would have a Merry Christmas.

I also want to praise the church craft sales and the bake sales held at community venues.  I went to one of these last year, and it was definitely one of the greatest places to get homemade gift ideas for people.  They had everything from chocolate covered pretzels to hand made jams and jellies, to hand crafted fountain pens, and even whole pieces of furniture!  And in many cases, you can pay a lot less for these items than you would at say, IKEA, Michael's, or the Real Canadian Superstore!  Seriously, check out these craft fairs when they come to town.  You won't regret it, you'll be helping local artisans continue to do business within the community, and in some cases, the money you spend is donated to various fundraising organizations throughout the community.  And really, isn't giving back to the community a fine way of saying Merry Christmas?

I also like to see businesses take part in the Angel Tree program as well.  That's where they set up a tree filled with the wish lists of kids who may be having a tough time during the Christmas season.  If a person wants to help out, they take an ornament off the tree that has the child's age as well as what they want for Christmas, and then they buy the item and place it underneath the Angel Tree so that it is delivered to them on Christmas morning.  I've even seen trees that have wishes from senior citizens who may be forced to spend Christmas in a nursing home or hospital, which I think is equally a nice idea.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in this...the last final stretch before that Christmas shopping doesn't have to be the headache most seem to think it is.  There are lots of ways to make the experience more fun.  Come visit Santa Claus at his village.  Stroll the streets of the town with hot chocolate in hand gazing at the Christmas lights twinkling in the streets.  Do your shopping when the sun sets so that it will be easier (and besides, the stores will be less crowded).

Most importantly, know that it's not the gifts that matter...but the thought that goes behind each one.

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