Christmas is days away and local shopping centres are packed with shoppers scrambling for last-minute bargains and procrastinators who suddenly remembered they have gifts to purchase. Scenes filled with mobs of shoppers and frazzled sales clerks appear to have been as common a century ago as they are now.
While researching a holiday-related piece, I came across a special Christmas section of the Toronto News from December 15, 1909 that urged readers to shop early. Note the thoughtfulness expressed towards those who get the short end of the stick at this time of the year—a century later, these suggestions could spare us a lot of grief.
Christmas is almost at hand and the spirit of Yuletide cheer already here. One can feel it in the air—can read it on the face of the passerby. Thoughts are turning to the selection of gifts—each one to add to the cheer of the time.
If only those thoughts could be converted into action.
If instead of thinking of selection the great public were buying now.
How the Yuletide cheer would swell and grow, until every clerk—every delivery boy in every store in the land would rise up and call the Christmas shopper "blessed."
Now is the time to do your shopping—now while the stocks are fresh and clean.
Now while the stores are yet uncrowded and the air is pure.
Now while the clerks have the time and spirit for courteous and smiling service.
It is to your advantage to do your Christmas shopping early.
Your choice is better—shop service is better—you are surer of satisfaction in every way.
Make your shopping motto "Early in the season—early in the day."
Make this your gift, the most welcome one on earth, from the shopper to the worker.
Just as surely as you do you will do your part toward banishing the cruelties of a time which should bring nothing but joy.
Picture a moment the usual late Christmas rush in various shops, which has grown to such proportions in the last few years.
Think of the seething crowds of nervous people—irritable—tired of body.
Think of the workers—girls with aching bodies and pale drawn faces—paying tribute to the demands of a thoughtless people.
Step a moment back of the scenes. Think of the shipping, the packing, the wrapping and delivery forces working in feverish haste to the very limit of human endurance.
And still further back think of the candy makers, toy makers and box makers, whose health destroying "overtime" work follows the belated orders of the late Christmas shopper.
Think of this tumult keeping up until eleven o' clock Christmas eve.
And then for another moment think that all of this could be so easily avoided by a little thought and foresight on your part.
Is the world, indeed, heartless and inhuman?
Is it only heedless?
Does each individual buyer imagine that his neccessity differs from all others and that he alone is justified in his late buying?
Does one impulse of pity for the worn-out shop people visit a single breast?
We wonder also what the simple Workman of Nazareth, if He looked down here on things below, would think of the manner in which the most enlightened of nations celebrate His feast. Is it consistent with the spirit of Christmas expressed in the words "Peace on Earth—Good Will Toward Men."
Based on a report printed in the Christmas day edition of the Mail and Empire, shoppers do not appear to have heeded these words of wisdom.
Don't expect to see me at any major shopping centres on Christmas Eve—I'm doing OK in the "often useless, but always absolutely necessary" department. - JB