In a few short days, Christmas arrives and it is really hard to believe it has come so soon. If it seems faster than normal, it is because this is one of those years in which Thanksgiving was as late as it could be making the Christmas season a short 26 days from the turkey feast day.

For those who have to make the time to go shopping for Christmas, the lack of extra time does make it difficult to fit everything in sometimes. When I was in college many years ago, my brother Jeff and I would shop together. It was our tradition all those years ago to shop on Black Friday.

Granted this was in the mid 1980s when there was not as much hype as there is today over that day. For us it was a matter of convenience to go that Friday since I was home from school and he was off as well.

We never went shopping at 6 a.m. and there were not many crazy pre-dawn sales, but it was still fairly busy, yet not unmanageable. We usually were able to get our shopping done in a few hours since it was only mom and dad, our grandparents, and great aunt and uncle for whom we had to purchase gifts. Usually we were able to even catch a movie before heading home.

That lasted for several years until he went to college and I moved into my career. At that point, things changed and we ended up shopping by ourselves.

After Jeff went to seminary, I got married and Christmas shopping changed again.Actually I started shopping much earlier most years for Christmas.When I got divorced and before I met Katie, who is the love of my life, I shopped a couple years again alone.We got married 10 years ago resulting in yet another shift in my Christmas shopping habits.

We saw some digital cameras that first Christmas that we believed would make great presents for our fathers. They were on sale at the Hazleton Wal-Mart. By this time those pre-dawn Black Friday sales started to become major events in their own right. This was typical.We got up around 3:30 a.m. and drove to Hazleton for 4:30 a.m. The doors opened at 5 a.m. but the sales did not start until 6 a.m.

This was the first time either of us had gone shopping early on Black Friday and it was quite an experience. We did manage to purchase the cameras, but I was truly in awe of the speed and accuracy most of these die-hard shoppers purchase items. At 6 a.m. sharp, the public address system announced the sale was starting and before the manager finished the sentence, merchandise disappeared as if locusts devoured it. People had coordinated attacks using cell phones and yet in all that chaos, we got our two items and made it from the store unscathed within 20 minutes.

That was the only time we ever participated in those early morning hi-jinks.The following year we shopped before and after Black Friday but avoided venturing into the stores on that day.Instead it became our traditional tree trimming weekend.

This year was the first time we deviated but only because we were sidelined with colds and tree trimming was not our desired activity that weekend. Sleep and chicken soup were our alternate activities instead.

Our latest Christmas shopping shift though reflects many of us today in that we are now almost completely cyber-Christmas shoppers.Katie still holds on to some traditional shopping trips, but the last few years we have done the majority of our shopping online, taking advantage of the sales and convenience while helping to make business for Fed-Ex and UPS through the generous use of Amazon and other e-commerce websites.

We still make one trip usually just to get a few special items, but for the most part our shopping patterns have become almost entirely virtual.

Katie proudly told me this year that she finished all her Christmas shopping for me within minutes on the internet and I have to admit I was able to do the same.

While we still put some careful thought and consideration into what we purchase for each other, we are able to quickly and efficiently do our mutual shopping without the hassle of checkout lines and stores. I prefer it that way simply because large crowds and long lines do not work well with my patience.

My dearest I believe is in agreement for the most part, but she is right that it is nice to make one shopping excursion and buy a few presents the old-fashioned way. One day she might change her mind as well, but for now that is a compromise I'm happy with making.

It seemed like we were not going to make it this year as we just finished, but this weekend will be filled with last minute checks and gift wrapping. Here's hoping you found everything you wanted and that your Christmas is full of peace, love and joy. Merry Christmas and have a wonderful holiday.