Indies Host Activities From the Traditional to the Unique This Holiday Season

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Booksellers are letting their creative streaks show this holiday season with a wide array of fun activities and special promotions.

The Reading Bug, a children’s bookstore in San Carlos, California, collaborated with the Wornick Jewish Day School for a children’s Hanukkah party that featured festive songs, snacks, and crafts.

Co-owner Lauren Savage said the religious school approached the store this year with the idea for the party, and every year the store hosts holiday-themed crafts, sing-alongs, and story times for both Hanukkah and Christmas each day in December.

“For our holiday dance parties, we usually get about 30 kids, and our annual holiday sing-along draws nearly 100 people each year,” Savage said.

As part of the store’s annual volunteer gift-wrapping program, holiday customers at Schuler Books & Music, with locations in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Okemos, Michigan, always look forward to getting their books wrapped by staff from the Wildlife Rehab Center. The animal rescue organization, a yearly participant in the program that includes volunteers from many organizations, is known to bring along a selection of unique forest animals for customers to pet, said store manager Tim Smith.

“They’re great with our guests and are always a big hit while they are here,” said Smith. “Our volunteers sign up for specific time slots during the busy holiday season, and our guests have an opportunity to learn about their organization.”

The organizations themselves have a chance to earn funds by collecting donations while they are wrapping presents, Smith added, “so it’s really one of those great situations that benefits all involved.”

This holiday season, Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, is also inviting volunteers — schools, nonprofits, and individuals — to help with gift wrapping at the bookstore during the busiest days of December, with any tips going to benefit the organization or to the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

On December 14, Greenlight also held a toy and book drive and potluck dinner for the residents of 60 Clarkson in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, an apartment building whose occupants are currently facing housing insecurity and which, until recently, had been a Department of Homeless Services-funded housing location. Donations were dropped off at Greenlight or at Blessings Herbs & Coffee in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and the bookstore wrapped and delivered the packages to residents.

Jamie Hope Anderson, owner of Duck’s Cottage Downtown Books in Manteo, North Carolina, said she plans to hold a Christmas-themed version of her store’s popular new “Coloring and Cocktails” event for $12 at Waveriders, a local coffee shop/winebar/deli. Anderson said 56 people attended the store’s first “drink and draw”-style event at Waveriders last month. The $20 admission fee bought guests their choice of a coloring book and an adult beverage, and Waveriders received $5 a head. Anderson said she hopes she can hold a few more of these Coloring and Cocktails events over the winter months.

On Friday, December 18, Waveriders is also hosting Duck’s Cottage’s last-minute holiday pop-up shop, which will feature a selection of jewelry by local artisan Maritoka Palmer and a selection of Nag’s Head Apothecary body butters, face serums, lip balms, and spritzers, as well as coloring books and fun stocking stuffers from Duck’s Cottage.

At Macdonald Book Shop in Estes Park, Colorado, store owner Paula Steige’s Festive Fridays feature entertainment and author events accompanied by free hot cider. On Friday, December 11, one of the store’s employees, Claudia Hook, dressed up as Mrs. Claus and performed on her viola throughout the day. 

“Being an accomplished and formerly professional viola player, Claudia sat by the fireplace and played whenever we had people in the shop,” Steige said. “It was very much enjoyed by many, including children, who accompanied her with jingle bells.”

At Bookbug, a children’s bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan, customers can choose to be a “gift angel” and fulfill the holiday wishes of local children in need, which currently hang above one of the store’s holiday tables. Customers find the child a gift, and Bookbug will deliver it to the Salvation Army in time to be wrapped and delivered for Christmas.

This year, Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery in Sheridan, Wyoming, is participating, along with other local retailers, in the Downtown Sheridan Association’s “Wise Men’s Night Out” shopping event on December 17.

During the nighttime event, which features deals from local downtown area stores, a contest drawing will offer a chance to win traditionally male-oriented prizes: a Ruger Collector Series 10/22 Carbine Rifle donated by Big Horn Trading, valued at $350, or a Spirit Decanter, bottle of Trail’s End Bourbon, and two rocks glasses donated by local upscale liquor store, The Tasting Library.  

As a thank you to their loyal customers, Eagle Eye Bookshop in Decatur, Georgia is giving out a complimentary Christmas gift to those who spend more than $25 in a single purchase. Additionally, all this month, the store’s e-newsletter has featured fun facts on various Christmas traditions and holiday myths, including the origin of the Christmas tree, gift-giving, and Christmas stockings, as well as the legend of Santa’s demonic counterpart, Krampus.

Eagle Eye has also set up a special shipping service for last-minute book purchases: If a customer needs to get a certain book in time for Christmas Day, they can place an order as late as Monday, December 21, and it should arrive at the store by Tuesday, December 22. Customers can have books sent to almost anywhere, including military addresses. Books can even be gift-wrapped and a gift message included for an extra $1.50.