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Rockin Shoppin Eve

by Angela Lindsay

December 4,2005

There’s no place like home for the holidays, especially if you are in the mall the day after Thanksgiving. Now, I know there are a lot of people out there who would probably disagree with me here. After all, perhaps at no other time of the year can you find a greater paradox in action—festive, holiday cheer clashing with moody, irrational creatures known as holiday shoppers. But despite the fact that on this biggest shopping day of the year there are some us shoppers who can make the Grinch look like a Christmas elf, for me, the holidays at home in Charlotte would not be complete without it.

If you ask most Charlotteans, they can probably point to that one activity around the Queen City that signifies that the holiday season has arrived. For some it’s the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree at South Park. For others, it may be once the city puts up decorations on the streetlights near Pineville. Still others usher it in with the Thanksgiving Day parade downtown. For me, going shopping the day after Thanksgiving is a longstanding tradition in my family. Well, it is with the women anyway. (My father, brother and uncles will have no part of it until Christmas Eve.) But we gals find it perfectly logical to wait outside the glass doors of the mall at 6:00 in the morning —Bojangles biscuit in one hand, a fistful of coupons in the other—crouching like Olympic sprinters on the blocks about to take off running as soon as the doors open. But the shopping is just part of it.

After living though a holiday season in Los Angeles, I can tell you that, despite what those of us from the frigid east coast may imagine this time of year, there was something about the thermometer still hovering around 75 degrees at night in November that didn’t seem quite right. So when I finally did come back to Charlotte right before Thanksgiving two years ago, I was delighted, yes, delighted, to find as soon as I got off of the plane that it was a full 50 degrees colder than the place I had just left. To me, that meant cozy fires, a legitimate reason to drink anything warm from Starbucks, and the possibility that I could, perhaps, maybe see a snowflake. Couple that with the familiar sound of holiday carols in every elevator and the lighted Santa and Reindeer decoration atop the Harris Real Estate Company building across from South Park mall, and it wasn’t long before I realized how unique these little things make spending the holiday season here—beginning with my mall ritual.

This year, I got a phone call from my cousin at 2:00 in the morning from something called the “Rockin’ Shoppin’ Eve” inside Carolina Place mall the day after Thanksgiving. And with that, it began. Sure, a few crazed shoppers hurdled baby strollers and knocked over mannequins to get to the early-bird specials. And there may have been a few Hatfield-McCoy worthy showdowns in the toy store. Still, that old Yuletide spirit muscled its way though all the chaos: shoppers donating spare change without a second thought to the man ringing the Salvation Army bell out front; the faces of children sitting on Santa’s lap; the feeling of familiarity in running into old friends and new church members. These are the moments at the mall that may get overlooked but define the season to come.

So, we may never witness a white Christmas while living in Charlotte. But we will always have the spectacular display of lights at McAdenville (which incidentally celebrates its 50th anniversary this year); we will always have the Southern Christmas Show at the Merchandise Mart; and, yes, those of us who dare will always have shopping the day after Thanksgiving. And regardless of where you’re from or where you’ve been, anyone fortunate enough to find themselves in Charlotte during the holiday season is ensured plenty of special memories—no matter how you choose to celebrate it.

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