Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Holiday Gift to Shoppers

  • November 22, 2016
  • Jenna Maxwell

When it comes to shopping there are those of you who love it, and not surprisingly, there are plenty more of you who don't. For those who don't necessarily embrace the concept of retail therapy, the holiday season creates a unique set of dilemmas. Christmas shopping, for those who abhor crowds, lines and traffic can be agonizing and downright stressful. On the other hand, there are plenty of those diehard and brave souls who will face whatever is necessary--all in the name of scoring a great deal. The good news for shoppers no matter what your shopping passion level may be is that there is always a way to get that Christmas list nailed.

It used to be that Black Friday was just catchy label created for the shopping day that comes after Thanksgiving. Black Friday was like the proverbial gun that goes off for the race to finish one's holiday shopping. Because so many people were off work and school, Thanksgiving weekend became a very busy time to shop for gifts, and during that period, retailers were bustling. With so much happening in stores and businesses it didn't take long for sellers to figure out that the crowds could be further maximized and substantially increased by offering sales, specials, and huge discounts. That was the point when Black Friday started to get just a little bit crazy.

As the years have gone by, Black Friday has become a bigger and bigger deal. Some retailers offer up something akin to a mini press release, to give shoppers a head's up on some of the most spectacular deals they will be offering come the Friday following Thanksgiving. Other retailers have chosen to up the ante on Black Friday even further by holding Black Friday presales and specials along with increased store hours on Thanksgiving Day itself. It seems that some shoppers would rather forego turkey and football to feast instead on Black Friday discounts. Over the past few years, Black Friday sales have become increasingly popular and with good reason. At this point of the holiday season, the stores still have a good selection of merchandise. Scoring a fantastic deal on something before Christmas (instead of after) is a huge boon for shoppers--particularly those who are seeking fabulous prices on specific gift items.

For those of you who are not into the whole Black Friday scene, do not despair. More and more companies are offering up fantastic Black Friday specials online, meaning you can shop with the best of them, right from the comfort of your home. And there is even more good news for those of you who may want to avoid the chaos of Black Friday entirely. Although it hasn't been around for as long as Black Friday, there is a new kid on the block when it comes to holiday shopping. Cyber Monday (as it is affectionately known) is the next big thing when it comes to deal shopping. For those of you who prefer to buy things online--Cyber Monday events are made just for you.

Many online retailers will offer an exciting array of sales and discounts the Monday following Thanksgiving. On Cyber Monday, online shoppers will see exceptional bargains, easily obtained within just a few mouse clicks. With many retailers also offering free or discounted shipping charges, the convenience of online shopping is just what the doctor ordered for many folks who prefer to avoid crowded malls and superstores during the holiday season.

On your mark . . . get set . . . SHOP! Happy Black Friday and Cyber Monday from your friends at Halloween Express!

Making Your Christmas POP with Christmas Crackers

  • November 18, 2016
  • Jenna Maxwell

The Christmas season has a myriad of traditions, many of these having roots deep in history. Part of the magic of yuletide is that in spite of modern technology, we still continue to love the old-fashioned, time-honored rituals of days gone by.  Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, lights and holiday gifts--these are just some the wonderful customs that we all look forward to each and every year during the holiday season.  There is a lesser-known Christmas tradition, however, primarily embraced by those who live across the pond in the United Kingdom.  Consider this your official introduction to Christmas Crackers.

"Christmas Crackers," you say? "Meaning those little round flaky biscuits served with cheese?" No, dear holiday loving friends, the Christmas Crackers we're talking about here are far different, definitely not an hors d'oeuvre, and we think you are going to love the very idea of them.

Back in the mid-nineteenth century, there was a candy maker named Tom Smith.  Tom Smith enjoyed making sweets, but when business began to slow down a bit, he needed to find a way to perk up his sales. Tom came up with a novel idea using French bonbons as his inspiration.  Taking a tube of cardboard, Mr. Smith filled the cylinder up with sweets as well as a sentimental message and wrapped it all up in brightly colored paper, tying off each end, so it looked like a large piece of candy.  Tom liked what he had come up with--but he still felt that something was missing. 

One night as Tom Smith sat beside the warmth of his fireplace listening to the burning logs crackle and pop, he got an idea.  What if he created a tube that when it was pulled apart made a distinct popping sound?  This stroke of inspiration changed Tom's unique gift from that point going forward.  Devising a tube that used a friction strip containing materials similar to those in a cap gun, Tom was able to create a container that would indeed "pop" when pulled apart.  The Christmas Cracker was born!

Eventually, the sweets inside the Christmas Crackers were replaced with small trinkets or toys, a silly party hat and instead of a love note, the tube now contained a brief motto or even a riddle.  The tradition of the Crackers caught on, and in the United Kingdom on Christmas day it is popular to see holiday dinner tables set with a Christmas Cracker as a party favor at each place setting.  Rumor has it that even the queen herself has been known to participate in the Christmas Cracker tradition.

Christmas Crackers can be used in many different ways.  As we mentioned, one of the oldest traditions is to have the crackers set at the table during Christmas dinner. When guests sit down, before eating, each person will hold their cracker in their right hand while using their left hand to simultaneously assist the person next to them in pulling their cracker apart.   The crackers will pop and spill open, the contents then revealed.  Nowadays, Christmas Crackers hold a wide assortment of novelty items or even small prizes.  The love notes or mottos once contained within the Cracker's, have over time, devolved entirely into some pretty groan-worthy, corny jokes - but this is all considered to be part of the holiday fun. As bad as the jokes inside of the crackers may be, it's considered tradition to share them aloud with the other guests. And speaking of tradition, the party hats contained within each of the Christmas Crackers are supposed to be worn during the rest of the festivities.  These crown-shaped hats are said to symbolize the crowns worn by the legendary Three Wise Men who traveled to see the Christ child thousands of years ago.

For over 150 years, the simple ritual surrounding Christmas Crackers has delighted many families overseas as well as here in the homeland.  Perhaps the Christmas Cracker tradition is just what you need to add a little bang to your own family's holiday festivities!