now. The first night of Hanukkah began at sundown on Tuesday.
the days get shorter and darker. And of course, Christmas has
and red trimmed ornaments perch atop street lamps. As someone
after Halloween this year. It was as if, concerned with the
without interfering with Back to School sales.
shopping. As someone who works in retail, I will say this: If
to be about joy, good will and giving. It is difficult to do
mounting bad temper.
So, I will say it again. I have seen countless Holiday
to bludgeon anyone with an inflatable, glowing Santa.
- Do not go to a mall on Saturday. Just don’t do it. I
know you think you’ll do it all in one fell swoop, and get it
over with, but that is what everyone is thinking. You
will only end up hating most of humanity, because you will see
them at their very worst. If you have no other options, go to
the mall as early as you can so that you can get out of there
before it gets really busy.
- Most malls have Holiday hours. The thing is, most people
don’t know about them, or have no desire to shop that late. If
a mall is usually open until 9, but they are staying open
until 10 0r 11, you are guaranteed to have better customer
service, short or non-existent lines, close parking spots and
a better overall shopping experience. In fact, most stores use
this time to do re-stocking as well, so you may be able to
find things that appeared sold out during the busiest rushes.
Check your mall website for holiday
hours. They also usually list what sales you can expect to
- Consider not going to a mall. I know they are convenient,
because they have lots of stores in one area, but they are
incredibly loud, and even the ones with high ceilings begin to
feel cramped and can induce claustrophobia with their
incessantly recycled air and blaring Holiday music. As an
alternative, consider outdoor shopping areas.
Some of my favorites in the Easy Bay include the shopping
center in Emeryville. Get there early and get an
enormous $2 breakfast at Ikea, and then shop outdoors at
places like Pottery Barn, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble and the
Gap. Less than a mile away you’ll also find a Best Buy, Toys R
Us and Ross. Granted, it’s still a mall, but the fresh air is
a great way to perk yourself up after the crush of Holiday
shoppers, plus you can get some fantastic peppermint icecream
Another good one is Solano
Ave. near Berkeley. It’s right off the freeway, and
although parking is a little more difficult, it’s an excellent
place to shop. There’s everything you could want there, from a
small Oaxacan folk art shop, to a Tibetan store that sells
jewelry and clothes. Of course, my very very favorite is The Bone
Room, a store that sells real and cast skeletons, jewelry
cast to shape vertebrae and skulls, mounted butterflies and
bugs trapped in lucite. Nothing says Happy Holidays!!
like a voodoo inspired chicken foot! There’s also some amazing
restaurants on Solano, although the prices can be a little
high. Try Sophia Cafe for some fantastic kosher food and
the nicest servers you could ever hope to meet. Seriously,
they even ask you if you prefer your water with or without
While you’re over there, why not stop by Telegraph Ave,
too? You’ll find a lot of great gift ideas in both the shops
and the tables set up on the street, and you can stop by both
Rasputin and Amoeba to get some great alternatives to the
never-ending Holiday music, as well as truly one of a kind
gifts at the vintage and resale stores like Shark’s Vintage
and Buffalo exchange. If you’re getting cold and hungry, stop
by either Bongo Burger (try the lamb burger, I swear you won’t
regret it!) or Smart Alec’s, which has some of the best
homemade soup I’ve ever tasted! As a word of warning, they
love to give parking tickets in Berkeley, but the good news is
that most of the businesses on Telegraph will happily validate
you for the parking garage just off Telegraph on Durant. Also,
you’ll find some of the most amazing fresh flower merchants on
Telegraph, and I highly recommend the one outside the book
store on Haste. The arrangements they put together truly are
art, and are far less expensive than anything you could buy at
the grocery store.
- A couple miscellaneous tips: Don’t eat at the mall. Far
from being a relaxing way to avoid the Holiday crush, you’ll
wait in long lines, be surrounded by screaming children and
tired frustrated shoppers, and your options of fast food will
leave you feeling bloated and tired. Budget yourself an extra
$20 and treat yourself to dinner after you’re done shopping.
-Don’t bring anything unnecessary. Heavy coats, large bags
and your doggie satchel will only get in your way. However,
remember that most malls are still air conditioned, and
outdoor malls can’t protect you from rain.
-Remember that all of this is about the spirit of
giving. If you find yourself having a really lousy time,
consider just going home. Many people already have more than
enough stuff. Personally, I would rather have some home made
cookies as opposed to a mass produced gift that was bought
under duress and unhappiness.
Holiday survival tips. What’s your favorite way to spread