There is a way to escape this annual madness. Many ways, actually. In the time it takes to reach the mall, park, shop and stand in the cashier's line, you can be well on your way out of town for a leisurely day of sightseeing while gift shopping.
Maryland offer the opportunity to enjoy new landscapes and to purchase handmade gifts, from white oak baskets in North East to antique decoys in Salisbury to Mennonite quilts in Western Maryland.
At some locations, visitors can observe as a craft is made as well as steep themselves in the history of that craft and related folkways. With a little sleuthing, daytrippers can also find state parks, museums, restaurants and other nearby attractions close to their shopping destinations.
Here are several suggestions for shopping adventures beyond metropolitan Baltimore. This is by no means a definitive list -- craft centers, studios, galleries and seasonal shows featuring traditional and modern wares can be found in profusion throughout Maryland and surrounding states.
In an unassuming way, the Day Basket Factory in North East is a remarkable place. Here, smooth, functional and beautifully simple oak baskets have been produced since 1876. There are bushel baskets and pie baskets, berry baskets and firewood baskets. All are woven on site from Maryland-grown white oak that enters the workshop as logs that are planed, steamed and stripped to make thin, supple splints.
The wooden basket molds and tools used to fashion the baskets are as lovely in their stolid way as the finished products themselves. Visitors are welcomed into the factory workshop, where they can see and touch these tools.
They can also watch as Karen Jackson prepares and weaves each basket, then sands and trims it to splinterless perfection. The entire process typically takes three days, she says.
Because of their authenticity, many of the baskets are sold to historic sites for wood storage, gardening chores and other period necessities. The baskets, sturdy and durable, are signed and dated.
Bob Friedrichs bought the basket factory more than four years ago, when it was teetering on closure. "It's something you have to like to do. It's not for the money," he says.
Basically, the company's basket design hasn't changed in over 100 years, Friedrichs says. When the workshop burned to the ground in 1946, a longtime employee, Walter Hall, re-created the basket molds from memory. Hall retired in 1969 at age 90, after 80 years with the company.
A scrapbook for visitors summarizes company history and, over the century, how Day baskets were used in everyday life. Most intriguing to me were the conical eel pots used when eel fishing was once a common local livelihood. Original eel pots made by the Day company can be found at the nearby Upper Bay Museum, a treasure trove of waterman artifacts.
Baskets range in price from $25 for a small basket to $120 for a firewood basket. The baskets are made and sold in the back of an expansive antiques mall, where shoppers may also find furniture, art and trinkets.
Day Basket Company: 714 S. Main St., North East