Christmas Catalogs – Filled With Tchotchkes

With all the texting, tweeting, blogging and emailing going on, why are we surprised that our mailboxes are filled with that most old-fashioned of communications – the Christmas catalog? This time of year, these catalogs are weighing down the mailman and filling our recycle bins.

Starting with the 1894 Sears catalog, the self-proclaimed “Book of Bargains,” seasonal gift catalogs were designed to tempt consumers with page after page of items they never even knew they needed.

Who Would Want This Stuff, Anyway?

Were you hoping to find a 3-foot-tall plush moose footrest, complete with antlers, under your tree? The Grandin Road catalog claims that the footrest is “crafted for years of comfortable lounging or display.” What a bargain at only $179! You could display it alongside the 3-foot-tall plastic Santa boots with gold buckles that they also sell. With all these useless objects littering Grandin Road, we’re not sure we have the courage to walk there.

this won't take up too much room in the den

What about the handcrafted “obol” from Brookstone – a cereal bowl that has two sections, one for milk and one for cold cereal? This ridiculously impractical solution for children (and adults) who don’t like one food touching another will set you back $19.99. Why not order a set of 12 for your obsessive-compulsive breakfast guests?

Does personalizing a stupid gift make it better? For your family movie night, the Personal Creations catalog offers a set of five metal “Popcorn Buckets” that can be personalized with the names of every member of the family. “No more fighting over sharing popcorn,” the catalog promises. This gift creates problems for us. It’s too big to cram into an already overloaded cabinet. It has limited usefulness: How often do we all agree on a movie and then actually sit down to watch it together? We can’t regift the buckets because they have our names on them. And it would make us sad to just stuff our husbands’ names in the trash.

Who Put Us On These Lists, Anyway?

We’ve ordered coffee and music and shoes online. Like the rest of the free world, we’ve one-clicked for books on Amazon. We’ve sent a fruit basket or two through the years. Now it seems that Harry and David have given everyone our addresses and spread the word that we’re ready to shop. Maybe that’s how we got on the mailing lists of stores we’ve never visited – like Zingerman’s gourmet foods in Ann Arbor, Michigan, or the Disney Collectibles Store in Orlando, Florida.

We received the catalog from the Container Store because we have bought plastic bins and desk organizers for our kids’ college dorm rooms. But we have little interest in their 45-page catalog filled with snowy reindeer gift tags, gift wrap with red and black Scottish terriers, and two pages of glass, cellophane and candy cane-printed Chinese takeout containers for the Christmas cookie exchange. If we are ever invited to a Christmas cookie exchange, we’ll be bringing a pound of shnecken.

Whose Idea Was This, Anyway?

This catalog rant all started when Ellen received the Crate & Barrel Christmas catalog. We love Crate & Barrel; we shop there often, but when Ellen saw the picture of their Jingle Elf Plate, she plotzed. Was she the only one who noticed the mistake?

What is wrong with this picture?

Who was the Art Director who thought that graham crackers weren’t attractive enough for the photo of s’mores? And who thought that matzah would be a better visual? We did a double take when we noticed this cultural confusion faux pas.

Speaking of elves and double takes, Joyce can’t get over the Brookstone holiday catalog. After the pages of cool electronic iPad gadgets, kids’ travel toys and massaging lounge chairs, she came across a page labeled “Elf Help.” It featured mini personal massagers and intimate moisturizers. What exactly is an elf’s job if this is the help he gives? We thought they worked with reindeer and toys.

What Would We Do With All This Stuff, Anyway?

If we were Christian, we know we would already own a lot of this Christmas stuff, because although we can resist that moose footstool, we’ve spent years dreaming of the lights and tinsel and the 300 ornaments we would have for our sentimental family tree. If we had a tree. We sublimate by purchasing ornaments for friends who have Christmas trees.

There is not a lot of Hanukkah stuff to tempt us, and with all the clutter we already have in our houses, that’s a good thing. In the flood of catalogs, there was not one devoted to menorahs, dreidels, or silver and blue snowflakes. That’s why our Hanukkah supplies fit in one plastic bin. (We’re heading to our attics to bring them down now).

We love what’s crammed into our little bins – menorahs our kids made in preschool, the same cutouts we hang every year and an endless supply of Hanukkah candles. Because they are one of the few attractive holiday items we can buy, we do so every year.

Whether your halls are decked in red and green or silver and blue, we wish you Happy Holidays.

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