Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas bookshopping, ca. 1886 (vintage Good Housekeeping)


Some Hints And Helps Concerning Christmas Gifts.

"IN season" is the "sign-manual" before which many a door swings open, and a little forethought saves the futile knocking at many a portal, or, instead of a grating, reluctant opening, secures a magical movement of harmonious hinges. Christmas preparations, to be satisfactory, demand an early beginning. Left until the Christmas stir is in the air, and the Christmas shoppers are in the streets: till the days are shortest and coldest; till the nerves are tense and quivering with hurry and excitement; till the mind is confused with the sight of many beautiful things and tempting bargains; till our reckoning gets awry, and expenditures are sure to slip beyond the bounds of prudence, and we have to show for them, moreover, articles whose utility and fitness we more than doubt, giftmaking becomes a bugbear and a burden. With many of us) gifts must, in large measure, be bought with little savings, made at odd moments, or in the intervals of other tasks, and be determined, perhaps, by the little sacrifices or the labor of love we may find possible to allot to them.

A little careful, generous forethought, a judicious reckoning of what we can spend, and a thoughtful apportionment thereof, will add to the pleasure of giver and receiver, and leave some space, perhaps, at the blessed Christmas-tide for the fellowships, the recollections, the influences, of which gift and greeting are only accessions and reflections. The gifts planned beforehand, too, will be likely to be most valued after Christmas. We are more likely to take account of individual needs and preferences. I must confess to a liking for those gifts which supply some real want, which are more than bric-a-brac, which are meant not only to be admired and treasured, but to be used and enjoyed, to become some real part, however small, of the life and belongings of the one who receives them. Such gifts have a double preciousness, for they reveal the thoughtful love which, only, could have prompted them, and bespeak for it, on the part of the receiver, a grateful recognition and remembrance. Not all gifts can be such, perhaps, but the ideal gift will always be, like the love behind it,
"A simple, fireside thing,—
A thing to walk with, hand in hand,
Through the every-day-ness of this work-day world."

Christmas cards are a happy invention of some one, and they serve a gracious purpose, but many times the money they cost might buy something which would be more truly a delight than they. And it may be possible for deft fingers to fashion some dainty or durable article that shall better represent herself and better serve her friend's need.

Never, it seems to me, could one make choice of so many beautiful, expressive, serviceable tokens with but a little "siller in the purse," as now. The lovely little books of daily readings are the choicest of souvenirs. They come in all sizes and at all prices. As I write, there is at hand a late announcement of new books, and I especially note some new books with Scripture texts for one month (E. P. Dutton & Co.), for ten cents: "Sunshine for Life's Pathway," with daily readings, accompanied by poems by Miss Havergal and others, for one month, thirty-five cents; and in Cassell's "Chimes Series," uniquely bound, illustrated volumes, at fifty cents,—"Bible Chimes," "Daily Chimes," and "Old World Chimes," containing readings for every day in the month, and "Holy Chimes," being "thoughts in verse for every Sunday in the year," which last, it seems to me, would be an especially appropriate gift for those dear invalid friends, of whom doubtless we can all count one or two, whose Sabbaths are brightened by no song of choir or words of preacher, and whose sanctuary is home. "Helps by the Way," one dollar (D. Lothrop & Co.), will be a help and comfort evenday of the year to come. And there are many other books, to be had at the cost of a Christmas card, which would outlast and outweigh a score of such tokens. There are two or three of Mrs. Ewing's delightful stories,—"Jackanapes," "Daddy Darwin's Dovecote," and "The Story of a Short Life," which Roberts Brothers, of Boston, issue, with illustrations, and in comely, serviceable bindings at thirty-five cents each. The two books first named, by that English woman whose stories are so fast finding place beside our own best-loved household authors, are, perhaps, best adapted for children. That last mentioned can hardly fail to be full of interest and significance to that invalid friend. The three, bound together, with life of the author, comes at one dollar.

Of other costlier books there is little need to speak. These are specified because of their peculiar fitness for inexpensive gift-making, and the possibility of their commutation for gifts of far less worth and fitness. And what gifts do we give that are so likely to be treasured, so sure of a welcome, so certain to perpetuate the finest part of our friendships, stored with such pleasantness and helpfulness as some coveted or well-chosen volume? How often such a book brings to Our friend wiser and more potent suggestions than the one most loving could!

Of the little gifts one may make with little trouble, it may be well to mention a few, which are to be especially commended to the attention of busy, not over-skillful people, in that they are all very simply and speedily fashioned, and they require, moreover, little outlay. [Directions follow for small gifts such as needlebooks.]
All the things I have named are the simplest and most inexpensive of gifts. They may, therefore, be within easy reach and answer a purpose that richer gifts could not. Or, being simple, it may be possible to remember, with some of them, some weary toiling, discouraged body who, maybe, will not have else even such gifts as these. And to bestow such gifts, to give a bit of gladness, even at a little cost of time or money or effort, to some one no other may remember, some one we ourselves remember only with Christian love and kindliness is to embody the spirit of the day, to express the spirit of Him, "who, though He was rich, yet," on this day, "for our sakes, became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich."—Olive E. Dana.

Original link:  Good Housekeeping 1886
Photos copyright Dewey's Treehouse.

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