Christmas Present – December 1923

A reader remarked to me one day that I had given no hints on the great business of Christmas presents. There were two reasons for this neglect: — One, that my circumstances have not been favourable during the last few weeks; it came to me with a shock yesterday that it was exactly two weeks till the great anniversary of the awakening of the year; and, more to the point, to speak or write of Christmas presents is surely superfluous when every shop window, every advertisement column, every woman’s column shrieks it aloud.

Surely there can be no difficulty in choosing a suitable present for scores of friends and relatives, if one has sufficient cash, and disposed to spend it in that way. Even our tiny village shops have their windows strung with holly, tinselled cotton wool, and Japanese lanterns, and beneath there is a miscellaneous assortment of articles labelled “suitable gifts” in large coloured capitals.

Inside, one apartment is cleared out for the Christmas show, and one’s amazement at the sight of the extraordinary collection, useful and other, is equal to what one experiences in viewing the underground caves of Santa Claus in a city’s big emporium.

Where is the money to come from — in these reputedly hard times — to buy a quarter of the things? I can’t go in — to the village shop I mean — for a reel of cotton or a bit of elastic but I am invited to inspect toys and dolls of every make, bags, purses, beads, collars, picture books, parlour games, the “very thing” to delight a small boy, something to charm his little sister, and a bewildering selection of “useful gifts” for his parents.

The difficulty for most of us is how to square our obligations with the modest limits of our purse and how to avoid buying things that may be useful or ornamental enough in themselves, but which we cannot be sure will be valued by the recipients.

There are some, usually unmarried or childless women with not too large an income, who always have something on hand for next Christmas. They can do wonders with a needle and scraps of cretonne, silk, linen, leather; or crochet the most dainty little conveniences for a few pence.

“As soon as Christmas is over I have to begin again, or I’d never get my presents made if I left them till late, “ said one such worker to me. Said another, “I couldn’t afford to buy as many gifts as I feel compelled to give, or as I like to give, so I plan all sorts of trifles I can make cheaply with my needle.” Here the greatest pleasure remains with the donor who is the worker. It is only a trifle, but trifles, pleasurable or sad, make the tissue of our lives.

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