It’s that most wonderful time of the year! Even though December 25th is the equivalent for Thanksgiving Part II for most Armenia’s–there’s still something special about this month. And even though it never snows in Glendale where most Armenian Americans live–it is still a pretty exciting season. Living in the United States–no one is immune to the Holiday festivities–not even Hindus–Muslims–or Buddhists. This is the time of year when Santa’s Toy Shop (which was relocated to China in order to save on manufacturing and increasing Elf Union pension costs) starts buzzing. It’s when every corner you turn–you are bombarded with mass marketing campaigns for items you would never buy for anyone during the 11 other months of the year. But somehow–around December–an electronic nose hair clipper kit in a designer leather carrying case seems like the perfect gift for grandpa.

The abusive marketing blitz is just the tip of the Holiday iceberg. For those of us who procrastinate or aren’t disciplined Holiday shoppers–December can be a downright disgusting month. Take my recent trip to the Glendale Galleria for instance. In my defense–the last time I stepped foot in the Galleria was because I had an insatiable craving for a hot dog on a stick and some lemonade three years ago. Needless to say–I avoid the Glendale Galleria at all costs–save for those emergency cravings. Anyway–as soon as I stepped into the concrete and red brick temple of worship to the gods of capitalism–I realized why I avoid this place like the plague. A quick trip to the mall at any time of day will include hundreds of Armenian teenagers just strolling around the place in packs of 3 to 6 dressed like gang members from East LA. The girls all walk around wearing next to nothing carrying bags upon bags of items all purchased on daddy’s credit card. The parents walk around like they own the place. And the store clerks? Well–they’re just clueless and worrying about transferring from Glendale College to CSUN in four semesters instead of six.

The incompetence of most store employees–the constant buzzing of teenagers laughing and yapping–combined with the smells of shopping mall pop corn or pretzels along with the pushing and shoving of rude determined shoppers–is enough to drive absolutely anyone insane. And this is inside. Don’t get me started about pretentious–rude–stuck-up Armenian mothers in giant SUVs driving around the parking lot trying to fit a car the size of a military tank into a spot that was originally designed for tiny Japanese models. (Sigh!) So you see; this is why I can’t stand going to the mall and this why after the kid at Macy’s couldn’t tell me what 25% off of 179.99 was plus tax–I ran out of the store and decided I’m going to do all my shopping from home or over the internet.

In order to save you the same pain and suffering that I endured last week–I’ve decided to share my shopping tips and secrets with you–my dedicated and wonderful readership. Take this information and use it for whatever it’s worth. Just don’t say that I never give you anything.

First of all–let me recommend the online shopping route. It’s fast. It’s simple. And you can find some pretty cool stuff online. After all–why bother with the throngs of people at Target fighting over the last three-pack of "vardeegs" or "koolbahs" with candy cane print–when you can just order the same stuff online. And the real difference between shopping online or at the store is that if you shop online–you can actually help the Armenian Cause. Yes–you can be a couch potato activist from the comfort of your own home. Here’s how. Log on to www.ARMENZONE.com. Using this portal–you can shop at dozens of your favorite stores from Amazon–to Toys R Us–to Barnes and Noble–and even Target. Every time you purchase something through these sites having gone through ARMENZONE.com–a portion of your purchase goes to help Armenian organizations–schools–social groups–etc.

If you want to purchase something a bit more Armenian–then I suggest ordering from www.madeinarmeniadirect.com. The stuff on this site can be pretty pricey but it’s great art from Armenia and your friends and family will love it. Where else can you get a walnut wood–hand carved box to hold uh? stuff in? Or a clay pot with a spoon to hold umm.salt. Listen–don’t worry about the impracticality of these items–most of them are for display and dcor only. Just go–buy–and support Armenia’s economy.

As far as supporting local business based in the US–if you want to really make a lasting impression with friends and family–you can pass up the chance to send generic greeting cards with teddy bears hugging baskets of poinsettias for a more classic and culturally stimulating greeting card with Armenian themes. You can find these man’script miniature cards at www.Roslin.com. These are beautiful cards with Armenian themes such as pomegranates–peacocks–grapes and angels. Plus–most of them say "Merry Christmas!" instead of the generic "Happy Holidays" or "Peace!" (Pretty soon–we’ll only be allowed to wish each other "Happy December")! You might also want to check out www.HMCards.com. These are beautiful handmade cards from Armenia and even though they run a little bit more than regular cards–some of them are just very very cool. When you look at the details and realize some little Gago or Shooshik made this entirely by hand–it sends goose bumps up and down your arms. Say whatever else you want about Armenia’s; we are damn good when it comes to the arts and crafts!

And while you’re making the cheese boregs–madzoon soup–roast leg of lamb with a side of candied pecans and yams for the Odar Christmas Dinner–why listen to Kenny G’s Christmas album when you can listen to some great Armenian music? There are a few sites that offer great Armenian music selections and one of them is www.cdrama.com. The prices are about the same as any other major outlet BUT you can find some rare treasures. Send your family some CDs featuring Houshere or Zulal or just grab a copy of Harout Pamboukjian’s greatest hits to listen to around the house.

I’ll come up with more shopping ideas next week and if anyone has any suggestions in the meantime–feel free to email me. Next week I’m going to give you a few more sites (hopefully at the suggestion of my wonderful readers) as well as some great organizations that you can make donations to in order to do your part for the cause AND get that tax write-off in before the end of the year!

Skeptik Sinikian will be hanging out in front of your local mall with a blue and orange bucket next to the Salvation Army’s red buckets throughout this weekend. If you have a bell he can borrow or maybe a tambourine–email him at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com or check out his? You know what? don’t even bother with the blog–it’s ridiculously outdated.


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