Archived Story

Christmas shopping used to be fun

Published 7:43am Sunday, November 27, 2011

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

My legs started to fall asleep and I felt a little dizzy. From my crouched position next to my cart I discovered I was eye level with a row of candy, so I hunkered down with a Toblerone and prayed that soon it would be over. It’s true what they say: There are no atheists in checkout lines four days before Thanksgiving.

Every year I skip into the grocery store singing, “When it says Libby’s Libby’s Libby’s on the label label label nothing’s better better better on your table table table,” and an hour later I’m hiding under my cart with borrowed chocolate all over my face. I’d like to stay there until Christmas Eve, but I know that eventually I have to stand up, pay for my turkey and its embarrassing sidekick, Tofurky, and soldier on through the next 30 shopping days.

As I told you a couple weeks ago, I love Christmastime, but I can do without the crowded stores and crazed shoppers in pursuit of the cheapest largest TV set on Black Friday. Is it un-American that I’m not dissatisfied with my 32-inch set?

It wasn’t always this way. When I was little my dad would hand me $20 sometime in mid-December, and I’d head to the mall to buy Christmas presents.

I’d roam through the stores and end up in Woolworth’s because they had the really good stuff like oven mitts for my mom and Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers for my sister. By noon I’d be finished and sitting in Big Boy with enough money left over for a kiddie burger and fries if I used one of the Halloween coupons my mom bought every year and forgot to hand out. If I didn’t leave a great tip, I’d have a few pennies to throw in the fountain in the middle of the mall.

That was Christmas shopping, and it was fun. When our family got a little bigger I asked my dad for more gift money. He said what I needed wasn’t more money, but more imagination, so I bought some yarn and started crocheting, but I never got the hang of turning a corner, so a lot of people got crocheted dog leashes for Christmas before any of us had a dog.

As I got older the shopping season became frenetic and stressful. I’d spend Thanksgiving talking about how I was grateful and didn’t need anything more than what I already had, but by Friday morning I’d be getting hit in the shins by a stroller racing to the cashmere sweater table at the Gap. There was no time for lunch or throwing pennies in the fountain. I had to get to Victoria’s Secret before the two for one nighties ran out. I don’t know if you’ve been to Victoria’s Secret lately, but between you and me, I think it’s been a long time since Victoria kept anything secret.

Eventually Black Friday started to give me the creeps, so I quit. I didn’t participate again until I moved to Minnesota and my nieces began visiting for Thanksgiving. The first year they were understandably tempted by that devil’s playground, the Mall of America.

It had been a long time since I’d suited up Black Friday, and I’d never done it in a mall that was so big it had its own amusement park. This was back when the Peanuts gang still lived there, so I paused to ask for strength at the statues of the three wise men, Linus, Snoopy and Peppermint Patty. I couldn’t light a candle, so I crossed myself with a bit of Orange Julius and prayed, “Linus, thank you for teaching me that above all Christmas shopping is about carrying a blanket and not being afraid to suck your thumb. Peppermint Patty, saint of sensible shoes, please help me to fight off errant baby strollers and their wild drivers today. Snoopy, give me the strength to stay cool.”

That was my Black Friday finale and now everything’s come full circle. I do a little local shopping and end up wherever I can find a good burger and fries. Before I leave I look at the coins on the table and remember hanging over the side of the fountain with my Woolworth’s bag at my side, and I’m grateful to have had those simple times. I wouldn’t trade them for all the giant TVs in the world.


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at