In a way, it is Christmas 365 days a year here in the Ohio Valley. That is because many local businesses rely on holiday-season sales to make it through the rest of the year.
In exchange for our patronage during the next few weeks, they will play the part of Santa Claus both before Christmas and during the rest of the year. They do so in ways we often take for granted.
Those paychecks thousands of Northern Panhandle and East Ohio residents work hard to collect are not a government entitlement. Many of them, employed in stores and restaurants, would not have jobs were it not for the boost their employers hope for during the holidays. As certainly as if every paycheck came with a red bow attached, then, many of our neighbors and friends rely on Christmas season business for their livelihoods.
Many local businesses do not simply pocket the extra money that flows through their cash registers during late November and early December. They give back to their customers, their communities - and the less fortunate.
Very few fund drives for worthy causes ranging from new uniforms for the youth baseball team to toys destined for children from low-income families could succeed without the generous donations given by local businesses.
That is far from all they do for us. Throughout the year, the taxes they pay to local and state governments help fund our schools, keep our streets paved and safe, and provide hundreds of other government services.
Some people have decided doing their Christmas shopping at local stores is too much trouble. They think they're just too busy to take the time for that.
Before placing an Internet or phone order for Christmas gifts, try this: Contact the owner of the far-away business in question and ask him to make a contribution to the local food pantry. Or perhaps you could request some help with your school system's budget. Finally, ask how many Ohio Valley residents he employs.
Be prepared for a hang-up, gales of laughter or a reply of, "Are you crazy?"
Local businesses are operated by our neighbors, friends and sometimes members of our families. They support thousands of us directly, and a variety of government and private entities upon which we depend indirectly.
Internet and phone-order businesses do none of the above. They are not in the habit of playing Santa Claus.
There are other reasons to shop locally, of course. Over the course of your Christmas shopping, it is likely you will pay less for the gifts you buy if they come from local stores. Most of them will be offering great bargains right up until Christmas Eve.
By shopping at home, you will be able to see, feel and perhaps even smell or taste the items you are considering as purchases. Local clerks will help you select the perfect gifts. And if, for some reason, they have to be returned, it's no problem.
So this year, do all your Christmas shopping right here in the Ohio Valley. It's the smart thing to do, especially if you, too, want to play Santa Claus all year round.