For most people, it seems, the Christmas rush begins in earnest the day after Thanksgiving and runs on through Christmas Eve. This is a tradition, just like folks shouting “Hey ya’ll watch this!” and proceeding to blast away three fingers with a small explosive device in celebration of The 4th of July (here in the U.S. of A.)
During this time people go into combat; the mission; to seek out and acquire the perfect gift for everyone on their list of close friends and family. Yes, friends, there is a reason that merchants rub their hands together gleefully as the pages get torn from the calendar, counting down the weeks to Shopping Season; it is the one time of the year that hordes of people will spend with abandon. It is well documented that most large merchants make around 50% of their annual income in that roughly 8 week period.
There are a few citizens who have decided to avoid the combat zone and shop early. Most of these that I know do a sort of Christmas grazing all year long. They keep an eye out for things that are of interest and on sale. The most organized among them will tag the purchases as to who they were for and mark the names off a master list as they go. Others trust to memory – and end up with a mini-department store in The Big Closet. And that works too… then they can do their holiday shopping in their pajamas, with a cappuccino in one hand and no worries about being trampled by the masses. Occasionally they find notes taped to some items, “I want this one – Tommy”.
For me, the Christmas rush is quite different. For the past decade or so the Christmas Rush begins in mid October and rather than me being out buying presents, I am incarcerated in my workshop; drafted by Santa as one of his elves. (Let’s skip the short jokes please.)
Throughout the years I have – until recently – kept busy all year; I usually work an 8:00 am to 5:00 pm day with an hour off for lunch, Monday through Friday. Sometimes some show on HGTV gets folks stirred up over something special and inquiries about that item pile in like snow through a hole in the roof during a winter storm. But most times it has been pretty steady and the work is not usually very stressful. In fact the creative process of turning a pile of raw lumber into a beautiful piece of furniture is quite gratifying. Being a custom shop, the pieces ordered are as varied as wild flowers in a meadow; it rarely gets boring.
Each October, things change. Orders for our TV Tray Table sets and wine bottle stopper display racks take two giant steps forward and become the lion’s share of what I’m building. It is at this time that I start working longer days and some Saturdays. By Mid November I have often been working 12 to 16 hour days six days a week. That will continue through December 23rd or so. At that point there is no chance of getting the item to the customer by Christmas.
Late-comers are told this would happen and arrangements were made to present their loved one with a nice card containing a picture of the item being made with a note stating that their Christmas gift will be a little late because it is being hand crafted just for them. I’ll continue working longer than normal days until the Christmas glut is cleared, but not double days.
For the past few years the harsh economy has made its presence known in our woodworking lives. In 2009 there was no Christmas rush at all. I got to go home in the evenings and spend the holidays with my family. And you know what; I *really* enjoyed that! Most of 2010 was so dead that I was out cleaning creek banks and building barns to keep the bills paid, but I was looking forward to another quiet, family Christmas.
Also in 2010 I started to revive my ties with the world of freelance writing with an eye to taking that back into full time self-employment and mothballing the woodworking. Because we paid cash for all the woodworking equipment and the building that houses it, we are under no pressure to sell them in order to get out from under debt. In fact, other than the mortgage on our home, we have no debt. So the equipment can stay and I can continue to build things for our woodworking website as I have time. I still sell a few pieces, especially as Christmas nears. But I’m looking more and more to my writing as an income source.
I would like to thank all the people who have come to read, especially those who take the trouble to leave comments or to share my articles here with their friends. Your kind words of encouragement are appreciated as is the discussion of the topic that you provide.
Thank you for making this a merry Christmas and I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year!