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As To Christmas GivingAuthor: Charles Messer Stow
(Article orginally published December 1928 by The Antiquarian)
Christmas: holly, laurel, evergreens, plum pudding, candles, trees, tinsel, snow, gifts.
The Antiquarian has been giving considerable thought to the yearly recurrent problem of the gifts. He has noted during the last few years an increasing tendency to give something at Christmas time which will be not only reminiscent of the giver but a source of pleasure and utility to the recipient. He has noted also through association with antique dealers, who sense the tendency of the time and who for reasons of the pocketbook are alert to the fads and fancies of the moment, an increasing tendency to give antiques as presents.
With this tendency, of course, he is in hearty accord, for he can think of nothing which so expresses the real spirit of these times as something used, prized and esteemed from out of the past.
He notes this difference between fabrications of the present and those of the past: the gifts today are produced on a basis of quantity and economy; the products of the past were made not so much for the pleasure of the moment as for the endurance of the years. Therefore, he reasons and he will challenge anybody to controvert his conclusions, that the workmanship of the past will endure while that of the present will very soon disintegrate and be forgotten.
So, when Christmas comes around, the Antiquarian advises all his friends to give gifts which will represent not only the cheerful spirit of the present day but also the careful craftsmanship of the days that are gone.
In speaking of antiques as suitable gifts for this season of the year, the Antiquarian does not refer particularly to those major objects, such as cupboards, credenzas, varguenos, dower chests or huge and costly tapestries, but to those smaller articles, such as any antique shop gathers into its stock, and which may be obtained for a few dollars.
The list of these objects is legion. From pot lids to candlesticks, from footstools to tester beds, from Lowestoft cups and saucers to Wedgwood plaques, from pipe tongs to andirons, from settles to Martha Washington chairs, there is unlimited assortment of treasure which may be selected.
Christmas gifts, after all, express the basic idea of love, and both giver and receiver, realizing this, would not like to consider a gift merely as the fulfillment of an obligation or the expression of a momentary affection. Gifts should be enduring, should express an appreciative estimate of the givers taste and at the same time should be an index of the giver's cast of mind.
Provided the one who the giver honors is sensitive to beauty, and provided also that the giver himself has a modicum of appreciation for the finer things, what could be chosen that would better express the true Christmas spirit of love than an antique?
Craftsmanship of the past was based on honor, fidelity to tradition and a peculiarly strong sense of utility. Craftsmanship of today (and Heaven forgive us for taking liberties with an honored word) is based on quantity production, profits and a restless guess at the predilection of the moment. To be sure, there are certain craftsmen fabricating furniture, glass, pottery and silver who put honest workmanship into their products, but they are greatly in the minority when compared with the vast numbers of day laborers who are engaged in turning out the things which their employers fatuously hope will beatify our home.
Therefore, the Antiquarian would strongly urge the giving of antiques for Christmas remembrances, feeling as he does that honor and faith and a sure intent best express the spirit of Christmas, which is nothing more nor less than love for one's fellow man.