Holiday Nostalgia: Christmas Catalogs

November 4, 2014





As a child, Halloween is what symbolized the beginning of the holiday season around our house. Once the day full of costumes and candy was done, my brother and I could think of nothing but Christmas.
Granted, it was still months away and back in the 70's, I don't remember trees and reindeer decorating store aisles quite as early as they do now. However, on the day after Halloween, the toy catalogs started coming. Big, thick and full of possibilities, they were a clear indication that Santa was on his way.

We would get so excited to look through those giant books full of the latest toys and games, marker in hand, ready to circle anything and everything we were  sure that we needed to make our Christmas morning spectacular...and it always was spectacular. Santa was a very generous guy (or gal~ thanks mom) and our family room always looked like Toyland. It was a magical time, that's for sure.

Today, when I find myself thinking about those lovely childhood holidays, I'm often smiling at the memories of those catalogs, more than the actual toys received. It was the anticipation of the day and the dreaming that was so very captivating. Flipping through page after bright, shiny page of the hottest toys, drinking hot chocolate around the dining room table, listening to my mom's old Mitch Miller albums on a cold November afternoon while my mom and dad watched football and my older sisters hung out with friends. At 46, am I too young to say, "Ah, those were the days?"

Well old or not, Halloween is over, the leaves have begun to turn and the temperature has definitely dropped. The Thanksgiving menu has been set and preparations for overnight guests are underway. I think I may have even heard a Christmas carol yesterday. It really is the beginning of the holiday season around here....and you know what? You know what I miss??

Catalogs! Plain old paper catalogs.

Yes, yes, I know, they are terrible for the environment. I also know that everyone shops online. You know what I say to that? BORING!

Yes, boring. I miss paper. I miss pretty books filled with toys and housewares all displayed in fabulous colors. I miss finding the giant holiday buying bibles in my mailbox. I long for the gift giving inspiration and peeking at items I didn't even know that I wanted or so desperately needed.

I get it, it's all about Pinterest now and yes, I am a huge fan of Pinterest, but to very honest, unless I'm looking for a recipe, I rarely go back to my boards to just browse around. I have good intentions, but it just doesn't happen.

When I got a catalog, I used to sit on the couch with my hot mug in hand in front of a Christmas movie and thumb through the shopping guide slowly, circling items, folding down pages to mark what caught my eye. Then that book would sit in my magazine rack or on my coffee table for weeks, if not months, where I would regularly pick it up again and revisit my dog-eared pages. I would see if I still had a craving for my circled treasures. I would hold the pictures up in certain rooms to see how something would look in context, drool over dreamy bedrooms and highlight crafty items I wanted to emulate. I could look and look. It's just not the same online.

My computer screen goes into sleep mode after a short period of inactivity. Apparently, gazing and swooning are too passive for my Mac.

It doesn't do too well with hot chocolate spills either and if I wait too long to revisit a webpage, I'm often greeted with "page not found"...that's not very festive. I could always find the pages when they were in the catalog.  Page not found...

I know, it's all about progress and I guess I am just an old dog who misses the old days.

Well, at least the grocery circular still comes in the mail and I've got my marker ready.

Do you miss the old catalogs?


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29 comments:

  1. I do miss those, Kim. Living on a farm the Sears Dream Book was a magical carpet that would take me out of the mountains and soar into Toyland. Our book was marked and crossed out and re-marked In retrospect, I don't think I ever got a single thing out any of those catalogs. We had very modest Christmases but they were filled with lots of baking and candy making and oyster stew with aunts and cousins on Christmas Eve.

    I am the same-I don't do Pinterest much-although I have intentions of doing so...and I miss all those wonderful dream-filled pages of Seasonal goodness. xo Diana

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  2. Kim, this post hits a pleasant chord with me. Our catalogs were Spiegel and Montgomery Wards and we kids wore them out! When we were very young, Mom would order most of our school clothes from Spiegel, but those Holiday books were what we always anticipated in the mail! I love my computer, but catalogs and magazines still fill many shelves around our house!

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  3. I used to wait for the Sears and JCPenney books! They were packed with toys! Once I got older and especially once I started to furnish my own home, JCP was always fun to look at, they have the best bedding! :)

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  4. It's funny Diana, now that you say, I don't really think we ever got much (or anything) from the actual catalog either. Mom was a bargain shopper and quite creative. I don't think we went back to check if our catalog wish list items were among our Christmas treasures. We were happy with whatever showed up, but the browsing was so much fun! :)

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  5. Yes, I miss the catalogs. In fact,they meant so much to me when I was young in the 40's, that my older brother bid on a 1948 Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog, on e-Bay , 10 years ago, and gave it to me for Christmas. And yes, at my age 75, I still look at it now and then, to see the toys that I wanted when I was 8 years old. Some of the toys I received, and some not.... Lots of memories in that catalog.

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  6. What a wonderful, thoughtful gift Bonnie! Funny, isn't it, that now the actual catalog is what we crave instead of the items inside? I do enjoy the convenience of online shopping, but it really isn't the same. My kids don't get it at all, being born in the digital age. I'm glad that someone else can relate! Thanks so much for the comment and I hope you have a lovely week! :)

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  7. Standing in line at the post office to pick up the JCP and Sears (and earlier, Monkey Wards) catalogs... ah, the memories! Word would fly through our small town when the catalogs arrived. The post office was a little corner in the general store, and the mail came into town on the train, so there were no secrets when the catalogs came. Such fun! We also looked and looked at those pictures. I think we did get a few of the things, because shopping by catalog was the easiest way. There were not stores in town besides the grocery store, and a trip to 'town' was an all-day affair of 2 or 3 hours' drive each way.

    Wonderful post. Thanks!

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  8. Nancy, what a charming imagine of small town life you just conjured up in my head! I love it. You just warmed up my chilly evening a bit. Thank you so much for sharing your childhood memories, it really was a magical time, wasn't it? I hope it's a great week! :)

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  9. Dear Kim,

    There is A LOT that I miss from just 25 years ago. There are some great things about our new technology, but I do miss the feel of paper in between my fingers when looking through a stained-page recipe book.

    I miss people looking into my eyes. I despise seeing so many people looking only at their phones and I am saddened by the closing of independently owned shops..this is our world. BUT! The great thing is that WE EACH can contribute to life in ways that bring back the human experience, but it takes effort...and celebrating the holidays with family and friends is one of those ways we can keep alive through TRADITION!

    Happy day dearest Kim! Anita

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  10. Oh yes, Anita! I agree completely. I see the my own kids gathered together with friends, hanging out in a room, totally ignoring each other, staring only at their phones. My husband and I just shake our heads. I make them drop their phones when we converse and especially at the table. I am also saddened by the closing of small shops. We try to support them whenever we can to ensure that our small town feel, keeps its small town shops!

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  11. I used to love looking at catalogs! It's funny because I rarely go back to my Pinterest boards first. I may after I can't find what I'm looking for, but I usually forget. I still can't believe the holidays are upon us! :)

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  12. It really is so easy to go back and browse through my boards, but I usually get so caught up looking at NEW pins that I don't have time to go perusing through the old ones! I do want to go back and look at my Christmas boards though, I think I pinned some really good stuff last year in anticipation of the holidays....which yes, I cannot believe are upon us! Thanks for the visit, Dee!

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  13. I remember, as a kid, waiting for the Montgomery Wards Christmas catalog to come every year! What a joyous day that was for my little brother and me to circle all of our Christmas "wants" and sending our letters off to Santa! I miss everything about Christmas past:(

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  14. I do miss them too. I loved when my kids would get so excited to circle what they wanted from the Toys R Us catalog when they were little.

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  15. The Toys R Us catalog was the holy grail of mail when I was little...and I think my kids circled everything on every page in that book! I miss that, too! Gift cards aren't half as much fun to shop for as toys! ;)

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  16. It's a totally different era now, Rhonda, that's for sure. Do kids even mail letters to Santa anymore? Or do they email or text him now! ;)

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  17. There is hope yet. My two kids went hunting around tonight for the Toys R Us and Target catalogues to see what they could circle for Santa. It was nice to see that especially after reading your blog. It brought back great memories.

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  18. Tracy, I love that! I honestly thought that today's kids just texted their lists or made a wish list of items on Instagram! ;) I hope they get what they want!!

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  19. Not only the toy catalogs but then the summer / fall one would come out, and I'd dream about this or that dress or outfit for back to school.

    But the Christmas toy ones were the best. I don't remember being in stores seeing the toys or even very much television commercials...the catalogs were the main thing!

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  20. It all started with those toy catalogs, but you're right, Deb, as I grew and I became interested in clothes and then housewares and decor, so did my addiction to the pretty pictures!! I was an equal opportunity reader! ;)

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  21. Oh, I miss those, too! The only ones we get any more are Target and Toys'r Us. You are probably too young to remember Miles Kimball catalogs. I loved when those came in the mail. I have a few Christmas pieces from them that are going on forty years old. Geez, does that ever make me feel old! I know MK is online, but it's definitely not the same, and most things just don't look as charming. Anyway, thanks for sharing your "nostalgic" look back!

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  22. I don't remember getting a Miles Kimball catalog, but I do remember Gimbal's and Gertz! Those are some old names...I'm going to check out MK online now! ;)

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  23. Oh, I do love catalogs! I just got the FAO Shwartz and my little grandson is over the moon with it. Love seeing Christmas through his eyes!
    Hugs,
    Patti

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  24. Kim, so enjoyed your reminiscing about those Christmas catalogs, and yes, I do miss them, especially since I don't buy anything online. Instead, I love going into shops all decorated for the season, browsing all the different aisles, listening to the carols, smelling the cinnamon/orange/clove blends of candles, potpourri, or soaps, debating on whether to purchase that pretty red sweater with just a touch of glitter - you get the idea. Interestingly, as much as I LOVE my decorating magazines, (especially Canadian House & Home), I do NOT miss their price tags, so in this case, I make an exception, since the internet and blogland provide all the inspiration I need to indulge in my passion for festively charming rooms.

    Poppy

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  25. I had almost forgotten about that one, Patti! When I was little that was the real "dream" catalog. Everything seemed so luxurious...and I agree, Christmas through the babies' eyes is the best! :)

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  26. I love to shop locally too Poppy and since my kids are older now and we have pared gift giving down with extended family, I can do more of it. We are lucky enough to be surrounded by several charming villages, each filled with the sweetest shops that are always decorated to the nines for the holidays, complete with Santa handing out small tokens on the street. I think when I was a child, a visit to see Santa, in person, was the only thing that topped the magic of those dream filled catalogs! :)

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  27. Your so right, Jen, the paper ones are much cozier when cuddling up!! :)

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  28. I was just talking to my husband about this last night. It was the JC Penney catalog for me as a kid. I remember how huge it was and how excited I was when it came. I'd pore through it and circle everything I wanted. Nowadays all we get is a thin Target holiday gift magazine. Makes buying gifts for my daughter a bit more complicated.

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  29. I agree, Stephanie, that thin Target pamphlet just isn't the same! Thanks for popping by and taking the time to comment! I hope you visit again soon...and have luck shopping for your daughter! Believe me, I totally get that!! ;)

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