The busiest shopping period of the year has arrived, and area residents have already joined millions of other Americans in their annual search for that perfect gift for family members, friends and business associates. Whether this gift-giving is done as the result of affection or obligation, cash registers will be ringing from sea to shining sea.

Given the slow economy, merchants are also concerned that those ringing sounds won’t be heard as loud as they have in past years.

Complaints about the commercialization of what at its core is a sacred Christian observance — the birth of Jesus Christ — have validity. But it is also true that without the surge of retail activity seen during the final weeks of each year, hundreds of thousands of businesses and the jobs that they create would not exist. Those firms depend on Christmas sales to literally make or break the year financially. Those sales create jobs that keep Americans to prosper and help others not as fortunate.

So where a shopper chooses to make purchases is critical. “Shop at home” campaigns typically make similar points, because retail dollars spent in a community do generate economic activity which multiplies geometrically. Those purchases also generate sales taxes for cities, providing them with revenue needed to provide services like police and fire protection. As Brown County continues to expand as a regional shopping destination, the options for local buyers grows as well.

The message deserves to be repeated. Local businesses have supported the communities where they do business throughout the year. At this important time of year, it is only proper that shoppers support the firms that have made donations to schools, organizations, youth activities and charitable groups. Shopping with them allows us to give not only Christmas gifts to friends and relatives, but also a big gift to our community as well.

Brownwood Bulletin