Be sensible, Janie. Put aside first exactly what you can afford to spend, including postages, for postages mount up considerably, and begin in good time. Then choose sensible things. The shops at this season are often full of useless ornaments; buy something which will last. I find my friends like books better than anything else. Very nice books can he bought for a penny, and are far more useful than cards, which are too often hardly looked at, while for 6d. and 1s. really beautiful presents can be made. I advise you to send for Partridges' list, telling them some of your wants. You could give your aunt one of their Devotional Books Series ; then there are nice text calendars for your brother's rooms, and beautiful books for the children. In fact, 9, Paternoster Row can supply wants suitable to every purse, and no rubbish.
“CLARA”, who keeps a little shop, says she used to give small presents to her customers at Christmas, but competition is so keen and trade has been so bad, that she has had to give it up. Still, she is sorry; she does not like to be thought mean.
It is not meanness, Clara; you must be just before you are generous. Remember you have children to support. I know in villages like yours the custom of giving Christmas boxes to customers still lingers, but in large towns it has been almost, if not altogether, extinguished. The population has increased so rapidly, and competition is so much keener, that tradesmen came to an unanimous conclusion that they couldn't afford it. All the same; you might do something in a quiet way. I think we all ought to try to cheer the heart of some lonely person at Christmastide. Is there no one who has seen better days, who you know is out of the pale of the ordinary charities and doles, whom you might take this opportunity of doing a little kindness to? No one is offended at receiving a present at Christmastime, be the gift ever so small; it shows kindly thought on the part of the giver - a thing much more prized than the gift itself. Too often people who have seen better days are overlooked. I remember a case of a minister's daughter, whose father being dead, her income was greatly reduced, and she had to live in small rooms. She was well known and respected, and when Christmas came people said to themselves, " Oh, I won't send anything to Miss B; she is sure to receive a number of presents far better than any I could offer: she has so many friends.” But one old lady said, " Well, perhaps she may be offended, but I'd like her to know I thought of her loneliness this Christmas. I've been baking some mince pies, and I shall take her one or two over." This was on Christmas Day morning, and the old lady came back to say that was the only present the minister's daughter had received. Everybody had been thinking that some one else would look after her. So try and do something for some lonely person, Clara, and perhaps your thought will be far more appreciated than if you had sent presents round to all your customers.
"RESTLESS ONE." - You are restless because you are not satisfied with the state of your heart before God. As the year dies away, I guess your conscience is reproaching you for neglected opportunities of drawing nearer to God; of unkind, cutting speeches you have made; of friends you have snubbed, some of them, perhaps, now dead; of your nextdoor neighbour's gossiping words about you, which you overheard and don't intend to overlook.
Yes, you must overlook them, poor, restless heart, or you will not find true rest. Christmas time gives one grand opportunities of forgiving and forgetting. Make it up with her; you cannot recall the past, but you can do better for the future. And that very restlessness about Divine things in itself is not a bad sign - it is far better than not caring at all. That good saint of old, Augustine, said in one of his beautiful prayers: " Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless till they find their rest in Thee."
There is a restlessness that is Divine
God sends it to those souls He fain would bless,
Who, weary of the world and all its ways,
Do thirst and hunger after righteousness.
For Thou hast made us for Thyself alone,
And all the souls of men must restless be,
Till, guided by the Spirit of all truth,
They find their true and perfect rest in Thee.
"FANNY" - I have not forgotten my promise to give you some more fireside hints for those little fingers out of your scrap-bag. Needle books are always in request, and are most acceptable Christmas presents to those people who like to see something pretty in their work-basket, yet are always too busy sewing for other folks to dream of making anything pretty for themselves.
Take two pieces of card - the ordinary visiting card answers the purpose very well. Cover each card on one side first, with a scrap of bright-coloured ribbon or satin; this is done by drawing the silk by needlefuls of long thread across the card inside; then cover the inside with a piece of silk or sateen by seaming it to the edge of the satin. When both cards are thus covered, join them together by seaming them at the back with coloured silk; line them with bits of fine white flannel, neatly gimped with scissors round the edges; fill it with a few needles; stitch on two ends of narrow ribbon to tie up; and lo ! you have a pretty needle case. A flower or sprig, worked in silk or painted on the outside, greatly improves the appearance. They sell well at bazaars; also the long needle-books, but these require, more care in making. Any strips of wide ribbon for the outside, and scarlet or white flannel for the inside, are suitable; and if a little pincushion is made at the end in bolster shape, it is all the more saleable.
"PROUD MOTHER." Yes. I'm very glad your little Eva is so intelligent, but don't overtax her brain by feats of memory, and if, as you say, she takes note of everything, be very careful what you say before her. Parents should remember that children have ears and are very imitative. Let them hear and see nothing that you would be ashamed of any outsider hearing and seeing. Sometimes one hears such conversations as these:
" Mother, what made you marry father, when it was you that had all the money? "
" Hush, child. What do you mean?''
“Why the other day, mother, when Aunt Maria was here, you said he was poor, and had you known you would have been burdened with so many of his relations you might have thought twice about the matter."
"My dear, we must have been talking of somebody else - your Uncle Bob, I expect."
" Oh, no, mother; it was father you were talking of. You said there was a time when he drank too much, and that it was a good thing you moved here, out of the way of temptation - that your money paid for the move – and - "
"Maggie, you must never repeat what you heard – never - never."
But all the same, the mother had had a lesson.
"YOUNG MAID" wants to know how to smooth a creased or rumpled ribbon. Lay the ribbon evenly on a clean table or board, and with a very clean sponge damp it all over, missing no part. Next roll it smoothly and tightly on a ruler, or some round piece of wood wider than the ribbon, and let it remain till dry. Afterwards transfer it to a fresh block of wood (which must be perfectly dry), rolling it round that. Wrap it up closely in coarse brown paper (white paper makes marks), and keep it thus till you want to use it. Don't iron it; ironing a ribbon is apt to discolour it, and give it a faded look even when new, besides making it limp.
"EDITH'' - By all means go to the Watch-Night Service on the last day of the old year. It is one of God's ways of calling His people to Him. Only if by going you so knock yourself up as to be unfit to get your old grandmother her early cup of tea next morning, then I think you would show true self-denial by staying away. Your prayer to God in the quiet of your chamber would be far more acceptable in His sight. To all it is a solemn thing, this departure of the old year. We know not what the new' year may bring - what changes, what disappointments - perhaps death itself for some of us. Life is so full of problems, and vexations, and struggles, it seems to many of us so hard to live at all and pay our way. Dear friends of the Tea-table, I would say to you all, Trust in God.
The Heavenly manna fell each day at dawn,
So when thy trial comes, thou too shalt find
All will be right.
That each reader of " THE FAMILY FRIEND " may have a truly happy Christmas and bright New Year is the earnest wish of