Gift buying kicked into a higher gear this past week

Millions of Americans took part in the shopping madness that's become almost as much of a tradition as Thanksgiving. Millions more stayed home, some watching videos of fights over computer games and discounted TVs from across the country. Those scenes and just driving by huge crowds at malls and big box stores keep a lot of people at home on Black Friday.

There was also some outrage about retail employees having to work on Thanksgiving, because many stores opened even earlier this year with Christmas specials. Of course, a lot of people already have to work holidays and weekends, but for some reason this was different.

It's difficult to blame businesses for trying to get an upper hand. The number of days until Christmas is compressed this year and their profits this time of year are critical to how many people are employed and even if some businesses keep operating. It's business, and making a profit is necessary.

What we would most like to see is a trend towards buying from local businesses and artisans. We want and need them to be successful to keep our small businesses thriving and the money spent there stays in our communities. Judging by how proactive our local merchants have been this season, they are doing all they can to attract customers and provide service that can't be found in most corporate stores.

There is something unsavory to a lot of people, though, about seeing so much attention paid to material things during this season, but it's been that way for decades. It's not a new phenomenon. For some folks, going out and braving the crowds is fun and a shopping tradition. For others it's misery. The great discounts make it even more worthwhile, though.

The good news is that those craziest days are behind us and regular Christmas shopping is upon us. Even better news is the trend of people not spending money on themselves but using that Christmas cash to help those in need. As we've seen in the last couple of years, people pay off layaway items for others and take needy families shopping. That's as good as it gets when it comes to holiday spirit.

Enjoy the season, however you celebrate, and let the wrapping paper and ribbon flow. And buy locally if at all possible. It will be money well spent.