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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Think of home first

It’s that time of year, the Season of Light, with the winter dusk coming alive with the colors of Christmas.  Special songs and tunes are heard in churches, supermarket aisles and on street corners and the smell of fresh cut pine is on the breeze. Families are happily making plans to be together, and the faces of little ones brighten in expectation and wonder.

Wait a minute — isn’t it a bit soon for all that?

Yes, it’s also that other time of year — the Season of Complaints.

An old friend of ours once said he was beating the Christmas rush: “I’m getting depressed early.”

We won’t descend that deep into cynicism, but at times it’s hard not to be laid low by advertisers mobilizing into assault mode, running guilt-trips or begging us to buy! Buy! Buy!

A new buzzword in big-time retailing is “Christmas Creep,” describing the early (getting earlier every year) blitz rolled out to remind us that time is wasting for us to hurry on down to be separated from our money. And it all can take a serious toll.

The American Psychological Association has found seven out of 10 people are stressed by a feeling of not having enough money and more than half are often distraught about giving and getting gifts.

The commercialization of Christmas is in some ways very old news. Even the sight of shoppers knocking each other down to get into a store to buy electronics is now an American holiday ritual, with many people showing up just for the spectacle.

But something that’s being lost in the tinsel is going out to shop at a big box instead of making the time to go to a local store. Also, more of us are not patronizing any store at all, but choose to shop while staring at a screen.  According to Forbes, “Cyber week, including the five days from Thanksgiving, were up 7.8% compared to last year … Cyber Monday e-commerce spending in the U.S. totaled $12.4 billion, up 9.6% year over year.”

If some of these figures remind us to get up and out to visit our local merchants, then all the pre-Christmas hoopla doesn’t offend us at all. Shopping locally helps everyone. Economic studies show that for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, close to $70 stays in the community.

Local stores, shops, and restaurants pay the salaries of their employees, who in turn spend money on the Island.

In a world of  big retailers and shopping by clicking, our small businesses fight  to survive, to continue to stay open while providing us with goods and services along with the invaluable bonus of a welcoming connection to the place we live.

Shop local. See Around the Island this week for some ideas to keep Shelter Island prospering.