One of my earliest recollections of the Christmas season was riding up to Macy’s in New York City and walking in with my mom. As I was only about three feet tall, the store appeared huge with gold and silver garlands hanging from the ceiling and all over the retail counters. Lights were so bright that my eyes hurt, but I was focused on the floor–to–ceiling Christmas tree with silver, gold, red, and green balls, silver and gold garlands,and tiny white lights. The goal that day was to have my picture taken with Santa Claus. Wow!
In 1958, we moved to New Jersey, which was a breath of fresh air compared to New York. During our first Christmas season here, we went to the Garden State Plaza, where a three-story–high Santa Claus coming out of a chimney waved to the crowds of cars entering the parking lot. The open air Plaza had two new stores, Gimbels and JCPenney, along with Bamberger’s. In between were about 90 smaller stores that sold books, shoes, jewelry, clothes, candy, and anything else you could think of. There were also benches and flower gardens where patrons could sit and enjoy the sun and fresh air.
At Christmas time, customers walked through a large rack of 30 gold bells with holidaymusic playing as they shopped. Since it was open air, people were out in the elements and would run from store to store to get warm or out of the wind. If there was a light snow falling, you couldn’t help getting in the holiday spirit. One store sold hot cocoa that took the chill out of the air.
That was then. Today, malls are going out of business and brick and mortar stores are disappearing. Sears recently announced the closing of its Willowbrook store, Gimbels is gone, and Bamberger’s is now Macy’s. Can good old JCPenney be far behind in announcing it will shut its doors (as it did in the Garden State Plaza last year)? Somehow, the magic of Christmas is lost on sites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Sorry,but you can’t get the Christmas spirit by looking at a nine-inch screen like you can by taking a walk in the mall. The colors, lights, ornaments, and trees in each store make you want to buy. Besides, you can’t sit on Santa’s lap for a picture at home.
If you haven’t done it already, go take a walk in the mall. You will find the Christmas spirit, get some exercise, enjoy a hot cocoa at the food court … and yes, they have sales going on! To all my readers, have a merry Christmas and a heathy and happy new year.