By Ashley Lodato

Winthrop was bustling last Friday, as visitors and residents alike scoured the shops for last-minute gifts. I had an errand at Winthrop Mountain Sports and was forced to park all the way down by Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe and walk practically the whole length of Riverside Avenue!

I sometimes need to remind myself how easy we actually have it running errands around here, except for the fact that during the couple of days before Christmas you run across so many friends and neighbors doing the same errands as you that you wind up getting more and more behind with every stop, due to chit-chatting and catching up. But I’m guessing that most of us wouldn’t have it any other way; we wouldn’t trade the efficiency of anonymity for the gratification of familiarity.

As I was dropping off packages at the post office (too late to have them arrive by Christmas but feeling a sense of accomplishment nonetheless), I suggested to Dena and Louise behind the counter that they start a seasonal cottage industry, selling wrapped and boxed gifts that would ship immediately. For each generic type of person there would be one option, e.g. local coffee and beeswax candles for the 50-year-old woman, a wool hat and some chocolate for the 20-year old man, etc. You would show up at the post office with your packages, realize that you’d forgotten one beloved aunt, and voila — there would be the solution, all ready for shipping.

We brainstormed for a laughing moment before they reminded me that the government frowns upon employees leveraging their federal employment positions for personal business gain. Oh yeah, right; silly me.

Like no other, the winter holidays are a time for traditions. One ritual practiced by several groups of people around the valley is Christmas caroling at neighbors’ houses. As my group of carolers interrupted a family eating dinner next door and basically forced them to come out on their porch in 2-degree weather in their shirtsleeves and listen to us singing (poorly, I might add) three non-denominational winter songs, I wondered, “Who is giving whom the gift in this situation? Is it us, serenading the neighbors? Or is it them, enduring the singing with smiles on their faces while dinner gets cold on the table?”

Our party of carolers discussed this question later over dinner, half mortified at the thought that our caroling might be a burden, but half certain that — at least in this situation — the good intentions and affection of both singers and audience simply fanned the flames of the spirit of Christmas.

PREVIOUSLY, IN WINTHROP

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