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Christmas Eve Stores Close

Shopping for Christmas has become as much of a season unto itself as the actual holidays. It seems that the start of shopping deals creeps up earlier and earlier. Now many stores open on Thanksgiving, and "deals" on products can start even sooner.

However, in 1914, this state of commercialism had some focus at the opposite end of the shopping "season." Shoppers rushed around stores on Christmas Eve, staying late, pushing into the personal lives of the store owners and workers.

In Grand Forks, the Daily Herald noted that "Residents of both sides of the river have crowded the stores searching frantically for gifts in the frequently picked-over piles. Like all eleventh-hour shoppers, they have become impatient at not being able to find what they want and have added to the burdens of the tired salespeople. ... The day before Christmas is hard enough, but the last few hours of shopping in the evening always have proved exceptionally difficult."

Advocates had been pushing for an early close to stores throughout the country, noting that this would allow sales people to celebrate Christmas Eve with their families. On this date in 1914, some stores in North Dakota began to follow this advice.

In Grand Forks, many stores closed by 6pm. Some, such as the Ontario Store and the Odell Company, even decided to be closed the full day. All merchants in Grand Forks were asked to consider closing early – and the consensus seemed to be that most would not mind, as long as their competitors also closed early.

There was a push for locals to shop earlier, with stores reminding their clientele that waiting meant looking through picked-over stock. Some also pushed for useful gifts, called "Spug," which stood for the Society for the Promotion of Useful Giving.

Yet this short, editorial note from the Grand Forks Herald, showcased other attitudes for this season, saying: "For our part, we don't care whether or not all the stores close Christmas Eve. Our shopping can be done in two minutes any afternoon."

And of course, one place stayed open later than the rest. For the first time in Grand Forks, St. Paul's Episcopal Church took up the "new" custom of holding a midnight service on Christmas Eve.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

Grand Forks Daily Herald, November 21, 1914, p12

Grand Forks Daily Herald, November 24, 1914, p10

Grand Forks Daily Herald, December 10, 1914, p8

Grand Forks Daily Herald, December 22, 1914, p10

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 12, 1913, p6

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 16, 1914, p8

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 24, 1914, p8

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 26, 1914, p5

Jamestown Weekly Alert, December 31, 1914, p2

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