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Chasing Down The Muse: Give a gift that matters

December 02, 2010|By Catharine Cooper

Gentlemen/women — start your engines!

Shopping engines, that is, for in all sincerity, the holiday rush/crush has begun its roar through December. Before the 12th month could even peek through the calendar, consumers were overwhelmed (I don't say that lightly) with advertisements and teasers for "Black Friday."

The name itself inspires me — not to shop — but to hide under the covers until whatever makes the day black goes away. A quick Google search reveals that the name originated in Philadelphia in 1966 as a way to describe the disruption caused by heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic that occurred on the day after Thanksgiving. The term stayed local until 1975, when retailers, hungry for a gimmick, adopted the name. An alternative explanation evolved at the same time (out of embarrassment?), that the day was one in which retailers turned a profit, or were "in the black."

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Following Black Friday, the weekend presses toward Cyber Monday. For those of you not already drenched in holiday gift purchasing, the week that follows Thanksgiving is devoted to sales and discounts in the stores of online merchandisers.

The "Cyber Monday" term made its debut in 2005, as a clever campaign by a website named Shop.org/BizRate. The campaign drove online sales up 77% that year. Following its success, CyberMonday.com was born — a one-stop portal for all online deals. In 2009, consumers spent $887 million online on Cyber Monday, the second highest spending day of the year.

No one needs to remind us that we are a consumer driven society, and that to pull ourselves out of financial muck, we must fuel the gross national product. So we face the crush of other shoppers, doing our part to buy-buy-buy whether or not the gift is needed, or even wanted.

I'm not Grinch. Far from that. I have a sense that the true spirit of Christmas is far from the parking lots of glitter-laden malls. It's in the hearts of one another. In the care that we give and share. In the time we take to acknowledge our strengths, our weaknesses and our commonalities. The spirit is, yes, one of giving, but of giving ourselves, not another pile of soon-to-be-cast-a-way things.

As I have for years, I have an alternative idea. Instead of giving to those who have no need, give to those who do. Send gifts to your favorite charity organizations in the names of those you love. It's a kind of give-give program that enriches lives on many levels.

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