Figurines and other ceramic pieces were typical, as were wall hangings, inexpensive jewelry and small craft pieces like a framed "Home Sweet Home" sampler.
A magazine writer in 1913 described them as "tawdry and gaudy gimcracks, flimsy gewgaws, ephemeral and unbeautiful; purchased often with lassitude, received with distaste, and soon relegated to the limbo of attic or ash heap."'
While gimcracks were most associated with gifts to friends, many gifts to relatives also qualified for this category. Spending differed little between gifts for friends or those for family.
In the first decade of the 20th century, people and organizations began to criticize this new pattern of gift-giving that had emerged in America's cities.
Given the poor quality of the gimcracks and the considerable time that it took to purchase, wrap and deliver them, no wonder Progressive Era reformers looked for alternative ways to celebrate the holiday that were less burdensome and more gratifying.
American Christmas Traditions - Christmas Cards
That paved the way for Christmas cards, which became the ideal small gift for acquaintances and business associates.
A survey of the mail system in 1911 reflected the shift, showing that the total number of items posted had increased while their total weight had dropped significantly.
Several other changes helped make the holiday less burdensome for workers. In 1906, the Consumer's League formed the Shop Early Campaign to discourage last-minute purchasing, a practice that strained everyone in the retail trade.
The league also pressured stores to maintain regular store hours throughout the holiday season so that their employees could fully enjoy the celebration.
They maintained and publicized a list of stores that complied in the hope of encouraging shoppers to choose them over stores that placed more burdens on their employees.
In 1912, Progressives also established the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving (known as SPUG).
Its goals were to curtail the presentation of gimcracks (which they regarded as inappropriate as expressions of mere acquaintanceship), and to curb the practice of store clerks giving presents to their supervisors ( the gifts were "extorted" rather than heartfelt).
The general success of the Progressives in reforming Christmas, as well as previous efforts to mold the festivities, supports the notion that the celebration can be changed, just like any other cultural phenomenon.
So don't accept current complaints that Christmas has spun out of control and dictates our holiday behavior, driving us to ever-higher levels of spending.
People can and should run the celebration, not the other way around.
American Christmas with Perry Como
A roaring fire, something warm to wear (probably a cardigan), and the sounds of Perry Como - such has been the comforting recipe for countless Christmas celebrations for generations.
Now, for the first time, here are ALL of the holiday- themed recordings Perry made for RCA over 36 years, with liner notes by longtime admirer Richard Carpenter!
The first eight tracks hail from the original 78 rpm album Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music (1946). Next up is the 1953 album Around the Christmas Tree. That’s disc one; disc two leads off with the 1959 stereo album Seasons Greetings from Perry Como, plus the 1967 singles Christmas Bells and Love Is a Christmas Rose.
Then comes the 1968 album The Perry Como Christmas Album, plus the album outtake Some Children See Him, the single release Christmas Dream and Perrys final holiday song from 1982, the appropriately-titled I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever. 51 tracks!
Families and friends come together at Christmas and, as they do, they will return to this marvelous collection of holiday stores year after year. Here are engaging stories about love, secrets, friendship, bravery, conflict, and compassion.
The collection features thirty stories by a galaxy of talented writers, including Charles Dickens, Laurie Lee, Philippa Pearce, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jacqueline Wilson, Nicholas Fisk, and many, many more.
So whether you want to slide with Mr. Pickwick on the ice or find out what's on Adrian Mole's Christmas list, there are delights and surprises to be discovered in this wonderfully varied anthology of stories illustrated in both color and black and white.