Some News and History About Presents. Plus: Merry Christmas!

The holidays are here, and we know you’ll have plenty of happy/merry distractions that will keep you from perusing all your blog news here at AVPS, as well as taking you from all your other “regular” rounds.

Christmas with Lucille Ball and Bob Hope

But before we lose you to holiday merriment, a quick spot of news after all: It turns out that “Super Saturday,” which just passed, actually exceeded “Black Friday” as the season’s busiest shopping day.  “According to ShopperTrak,” as one CBS summary has it, “retailers will pull in as estimated $10-billion in sales on what is referred to as Super Saturday. This year Black Friday netted $9.1-billion in sales, according the ShopperTrak. Analysts say a strong job market and low gas prices have led to more last minute buying.”

But how did all these present-buying begin in the first place? There weren’t always “Super Saturdays.” An article in The Week, on the history of holiday presents, helps run it down: “Pagans in Europe and the Middle East gave presents at several winter festivals, including Saturnalia, a raucous Roman festival in honor of Saturn, god of agriculture, which began on Dec. 17. During this weeklong holiday in the cold, dark dead of winter, pagans would lift their spirits,” by the act giving other gifts, including “pottery figurines, edible treats like fruit and nuts, and festive candles.”

This winter tradition was actually banned for several centuries, without a “thaw under the ice,” as it were, until European immigrants started landing on America’s shores. Of course, Christmas wasn’t even a holiday in America yet, and its observance was seen as too frivolous is several colonies (as we’ve written about in past holiday blogs).

But “when Christmas celebrations became legal in the 1680s, gift giving boomed. Rural Americans carved wooden toys and made pieces of needlework in the agricultural off-season to give to family members and neighbors. The Industrial Revolution saw those handmade items replaced with mass-manufactured trinkets and toys.

“By 1867, the holiday present industry was healthy enough for Macy’s in New York City to keep its doors open until midnight on Christmas Eve for the first time.” And now, a century-plus of Christmas parades, Thomas Nast’s Santa drawings, and Peanuts Christmas specials later, here we are: Black Friday-ing and Super Saturday-ing it up, making and taking payments of every variety.

But we also know that gratitude, really, is the main “flavor” of the season. So thanks for reading along with all our hopefully helpful news and analyses all year long. May you be safe, happy, and prosperous in all the ways that matter, through the holidays, and the new year to come.

One more blog post to close things out for 2014 coming next week. Until then, enjoy all the gifts of the season.

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