“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.”

Originally titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” the famous poem by Clement Clark Moore was originally written in 1822, just to entertain his family, and not intended for publication. The poem “went viral” after it was published in a newspaper. According to carols.org.uk, it is believed that a family friend named Miss H. Butler sent it to the New York Sentinel, which published it Dec. 23, 1823, under the condition the author remain anonymous. In 1844, Moore published the now-famous work in a collection of poetry.

It’s a month before Christmas and some folks have been planning all year for a traditional or nostalgic holiday, complete with kerchief and cap, and others are a bit more spontaneous.

This time of year brings about more than just “visions of sugar plums,” for most, this imagery is coupled with the stress of holiday shopping. Braving department stores for Black Friday is for some a headache all by itself.

There are simple ways to cope with the stress of holiday prices and the stress of holiday shopping. Aside from basic self-care techniques and chamomile tea, one can also find relief at the thrift store.

The East Mountains have quite a few thrift stores. Thrift stores are hidden gems this time of year. They offer a great selection and prices that cannot be beat by even the lowest-priced store.

At a thrift store, often one dollar can buy more than one thing if the shopper straightens her spectacles and pays attention.

At Bethel, for example, one dollar can buy 10 books—meaning any avid reader can go crazy at that price. And for the heinous task of perusing through many books in the thrift store’s loosely organized stacks can often reveal real gems at yard sale prices. Imagine if our hypothetical shopper had five dollars to spend on books.

Hug a Horse thrift store also has great prices for books, and they offer ALL kids’ books for free. Get some hot cocoa going and have a Christmas read-a-thon with those children and grandchildren.

Thrift stores also offer the benefit of having items that might be considered “out-of-date,” but that is part of the beauty of second-hand shopping. What if one wanted to find a book from their childhood and share it with their child? A thrift store is the ideal place to look, and often reveals well-loved treasures.

Thrift stores are also an opportunity to create nostalgia. Perhaps a person in one’s life used to love corn husk dolls in their youth, or they haven’t heard Nat King Cole’s Christmas album on vinyl since the 40s, or maybe someone has been searching for one final piece of milk glass for a collection. All of these items can regularly be found at a second-hand shop.

Records usually vary in price from about 25 cents to a dollar. Dolls of all kinds, vintage included, range from about a dollar and up. Single pieces of milk glass or even carnival glass range from about 25 cents to $5.

Aside from selection and the price, there are environmental benefits from reusing and recycling items.

Before throwing away something that broke at home, scour the thrift stores. Often, one can find single items like tools, pieces to furniture, knobs, hinges, single Tupperware items like lids, coffee cups…the list goes on.

A small gesture like finding four feet for grandma’s old chair is both thoughtful and a way to prolong the life of a favorite item and doesn’t need to cost a ton of money. Salvation Army in Edgewood has a great selection of items like this.

Also kids like to participate in holiday shopping, but most children lack the eye for a good deal. Have no fear, Bethel Storehouse in Moriarty has already come up with a solution, called “Children’s Shopping Day.”

Bethel hosts this event every year, and it will be Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They price selected items super cheap, so a child’s dollar can go a long way. They also close off the children’s shopping area to grown-ups. Only children 4 to 12—who will surely later snuggle down in their beds, with visions of presents they bought themselves dancing in their heads—are allowed to shop in this area on this day.

It’s an opportunity for kids to be part of the Christmas shopping and afford the items they want to buy for their families. It is also a learning opportunity. Kids can learn how to stretch their money and get a gift for all the important people in their life and like the grown-ups they also get to approach the register and count out the money and pay for their goodies.

Put the whole package together: huge dollar savings, treasure hunting, learning opportunities for the kids—thrift stores can offer real relief at a time when many people lose the Christmas twinkle under an onslaught of stress. And as if that weren’t enough to send you out thrift store hunting, it keeps your money in the local community, too.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Enjoy the Holidays and Happy Thrifting!