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by Patricia Beurteaux


`Tis the season to be stressed.

This may seem a bit early to be writing about The Great Event but the stores are full of Seasonal Merchandise now that Hallowe’en is over.  Many were already in holiday mode before this.  I understand that shopping at this time of year accounts for the major portion of their annual earnings.  I once was in the retail business myself — my second career.

I really liked Christmas when I had children to celebrate it with.  Buying toys is so much fun and the kids always were pretty specific about what they wanted, but it’s not nearly as much fun without them.  It’s not that they’re no longer in existence (she hastens to add); they just aren’t children anymore.  In fact they are what used to be middle-aged — not that they look it (sometimes they read these pieces)!  Still, Santa Claus does not stop here anymore. 

The thing is that I know very few people who actually need anything within my price range, which is somewhat less than, say, Bill Gates’.  They’re all employed (yahoo!) and self-sufficient.  

And there’s the other little thing which is that I am a little ascetic by nature.  Just a little, mind, but enough to hate shopping.  I am also gifted with a sense of style which is somewhat — unique.  For example, I needed a new pair of snow boots.  They’re gold with a zip up the side and laces down the front and put me in mind of the boots boxers wear.  They should have come with a replica Heavyweight World Boxing Champion belt.  They are comfortable and have excellent traction for our icy sidewalks and they are waterproof.  I never lose sight of the practical aspect, being an ascetic, but even I have to admit that things I might wear are not seen on others on a regular basis.  They are usually heavily discounted so, once again, my conserving nature is satisfied.

It is my contention that the vast majority of North Americans have no idea what’s in their homes, and when they do have a look, the result is a garage sale so that they can pass all that stuff onto others (who probably don’t need it  either) and make some dough so they can go shopping for replacement stuff.  Even I, who had to downsize brutally last year, occasionally discover I own an item I never use and don’t remember buying.

What to give people who might not have everything, but who have an awful lot?

Last year, I relied heavily on books and subscriptions to The Walrus magazine.  I think there will be more of the same this year.  Food is always good.  I live in a city blessed with a population of folks from all over the world.  I’m sure the cupboards of most people will not contain the kinds of sauces and confectionary and spices I can so easily buy.  The Internet is a shopping coward’s best friend so I like that option.  But the best present I have decided is a gift from one of the international aid organizations.  We might not need a latrine or a goat or a dozen chickens, but somebody else does.  I can find something that will fit into my budget, appeal to our nobler selves, remind us to be grateful and not offend anyone.

How good is that?

Born and raised in a small Ontario town that became a large bedroom community post-war, Pat Beurteaux began her career as a primary school teacher, a career that permitted her to travel to Australia as a `working holidayer' in the mid-60s.  At that time any British Commonwealth citizen could travel and work in any other Commonwealth country under certain conditions; a good deal of fun was had by all. You may reach Pat by emailing zenimation (at)


©2006 Patricia Beutreaux for
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