OK, the wait is over. Now it’s official: The holiday season is upon us.
Regardless of the fact that the candy aisle in our local grocery stores immediately transitioned from Halloween to Christmas a month ago; despite the presence of Christmas trees and Christmas lights at major shopping malls weeks before we started shopping for the Thanksgiving turkey; despite the endless hours of sappy Christmas shows on the Hallmark cable channel since mid-November, now… finally, at long last it is time to celebrate.
Now is the time for preparation. Now is the time for shopping for family and friends. Now is the season of advent – preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.
I love this time of year. There is a crispness in the air. Children are making Christmas lists. Santa is checking his list for good girls and boys. He’ll check it twice before making his rounds. Children are spending time adjusting their behavior to the positive side. They know that Santa will soon be coming to town.
Now is the season of joy, love and peace; the season of celebration and giving … and shopping.
In the Riley household, we have never marked the beginning of the Christmas season by the appearance of the candy aisle at the grocery store, the decorations at the mall or the sappy Christmas shows on TV. Nor do we ever, under any circumstance, participate in the Black Friday mayhem … never.
We have always waited until after Thanksgiving. For the past nine years, we have marked the beginning of our Christmas season with the Hometown HoliDazzle Illuminated Parade and Festival. That’s when we really feel that Christmas is in the air. Unfortunately, this year it was more like a HoliDrizzle Parade.
But, despite the rain, the parade was dazzling and fun for everyone who braved the elements and gathered along the parade route. Thank you to everyone who came out to share the joy of HoliDazzle and a special, huge, Wilmington thank you to the team of people, led by Rob Jaehnig and the committee who made the event sparkle.
Now, let the shopping begin.
This year we are encouraging people to “Buy Local,” but, we also encourage people to “Shop Small.” As always, we want people to support our downtown businesses, but this time of year it is even more important to buy local and shop in the small stores throughout our community. Forget the mall … shop small.
I love remembering my first Christmas in Wilmington. It was 1976. Our family had been living on Westfield Drive since that summer. Our love for Wilmington had been growing step-by-step, but that Christmas, our love for this community grew by leaps and bounds.
Decorations went up throughout the downtown area. The huge pine tree that once stood on courthouse square was aglow with lights that had been put up by local volunteers using equipment that was on loan from the power company. Santa’s sleigh, complete with reindeer, flew above the South Street and Locust Street intersection. People walked from shop to shop purchasing treasures for under the Christmas trees or for stockings that were ready to be stuffed by Santa.
Downtown Wilmington was a beehive of activity. We loved it.
Sheeter’s Five & Dime had a huge variety of gifts. If you couldn’t find the perfect gift at Sheeter’s, there was a great chance it was waiting for you at the Kaufman Syndicate store or Fairley’s Hardware or the Murphy Benham Hardware. Hayworth’s Hardware store was so stuffed with stuff that it was hard to maneuver through the aisles and among the bins that overflowed with … stuff. Shops specializing in men’s clothing and women’s clothing were downtown. Sales clerks were on hand to measure you for a suit or for shoes.
Shopping locally was fun. Shopping in the small shops scattered around downtown Wilmington was a joy. Crunching through the snow, stopping for a bite to eat, smiling and exchanging Merry Christmas wishes with people on the street defined the joy of Christmas.
On the way home, we would stop at Swindler & Sons to buy a fresh, real Christmas tree.
Let’s do it again. We might not have as many hardware stores. Real Christmas trees are harder to find, but we can renew the spirit of Christmas long-ago by visiting the shops and restaurants in downtown Wilmington.
As we did nearly 40 years ago, you’ll find the true joy of Christmas in the smiles and the warm Merry Christmas wishes that are waiting for you in downtown Wilmington.
Come downtown and share the joy of Christmas.
Randy Riley is Mayor of Wilmington.