Even when I was a kid, Christmas was my favourite time of year. But I got into the Christmas spirit long before November rolled around and we were able to start hauling boxes of decorations down from the closet. For me, the true kick-off to Christmas began in mid-September — when the annual Sears Christmas Wish Book was released.
I knew I’d have to wait until the middle of the month, but as soon as the August calendar page was gone, the anticipation began to build. Every day, I opened the mailbox with baited breath, absolutely itching to get my hands on the new catalogue.
I love catalogues, by the way. And I still collect and save a variety of them when I find ’em. Last month I was able to add to my Sears Wish Book stash when I was given a number of early ’90s copies from a family member. So I now have a nearly complete collection of catalogues covering the 1990s to present day.
Unlike the smaller Sears product catalogues that were released periodically throughout the year, the Christmas Wish Book was one that you had to go and pick up from the catalogue outlet. What you got in the mail was a little card telling you it was finally available for pick-up. And once that card hit my mailbox, it was “Let’s go get it! Can we go get it? Please? Now?? :D”
In Canada, the Sears Christmas Wish Book has been a holiday tradition since 1953. In 2012, it celebrated its 60th anniversary.
When the holiday season rolls around and I start feeling nostalgic, sometimes I’ll take out an old Wish Book and just browse through it, reflecting on items that I got for Christmas in years past, as well as picking out things I maybe wish I’d have gotten.
Looking through the 1991, 1992, and 1993 catalogues, I was actually surprised to not find more things that would make my “I wish I had gotten/I wish I could get now” lists.
What came as a very pleasant surprise though, was the realization of just how generous my parents were at Christmas. Not that I ever doubted that! I was NOT a spoiled child, but I certainly never really wanted for anything either. But it was an interesting experience to turn the pages of the catalogue and go, “Oh, I had one of those. *flip* Hey, I had one of those too! *flip* And I got this and that!”
So just for a bit of nostalgic fun, here’s a gallery of Sears Christmas Wish Book pages from those early ’90s editions that feature some of the gifts I received as a child (and a few that showcase something I wish I had gotten). Be sure to read/scroll the captions!
Wow, for me that was like Christmas morning all over again!
And you know what? I don’t mind admitting that I still feel this way every single year just before the Wish Book comes out. I still get excited. Still run out to get it. Still spend an hour or two going over it page by page.
Sadly, the beloved holiday catalogue has felt the effects of inflation, increased online shopping and the decrease of paper-printed materials. There was no card in my mailbox this year. I had to call the outlet and ask if they had come in. It’s only about a third the thickness it used to be. And after perusing it for only about 30 minutes (that’s seriously about all it took), I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that children today don’t even know what a “toy” is. If it doesn’t have batteries, plug into the wall, or talk to them, they don’t know what to do with it.
I know that one day, Sears will stop producing my beloved Wish Book catalogue. And sadly, that will mean the end of something wonderful. I feel sorry for all the children who are yet to be born; the ones who won’t know the joy of flipping through paper catalogue pages and eagerly writing down their wish list every year.
I guess that’s why I save the catalogues that were special to me. So that someday, any future children of mine can experience some of the same excitement I did. It won’t be the same, no, but it’ll be something.
Because despite the fact I was born in the ’80s, I still got to grow up with the Munsters and Scooby Doo and Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver. My parents made sure that even though the classic oldies were considered “out dated” relics by the time I came along, that I could still enjoy them, the same way they had.
Nostalgia is an interesting thing. It doesn’t have to be specific to your past. But in the process of introducing your nostalgia to a new generation, it becomes their past too. Something that was current for your parents becomes newly current for you when shared, becomes newly current for your children when shared, etc., etc., ad infinitum. And therein lies the magic. Remembering and sharing is what keeps things alive. What keeps them relevant. What helps them remain special. As Jonathan Winter’s character, Fats Domino, said in The Twilight Zone episode “A Game of Pool”, “As long as people talk about you, you don’t really die. As long as people speak your name, you continue. The legend doesn’t die because the man does.”
This truth holds not only to people, but it can be applied to things and traditions as well. So save the Christmas catalogues, and buy the classic shows on DVD, and put them aside for the children of the future who would otherwise be deprived.
Wishing all of my friends and followers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you all get exactly what you’re wishing for this time around. And if you’re buying for children, encourage them to play with and enjoy their toys, but also to look after them. It’s fun to look back at old Christmas catalogues, but it’s even more fun when you can still go and dig out the actual toys. 😇