December has been a very messy month so far. Winter weather came a little early to our neck of the woods. We usually expect our ice and snow events sometime after Christmas. The recent ice, cold and slippery roads have put a dent in many festivities and shopping.

The lack of shopping opportunities doesn't affect me very much. We have an abundance of trinkets, lights and ornaments so didn't have to get any decorations. Not only that, since there are no small children around, I don't go all out with decorating.

As far as gift-giving is concerned, that is very simple because we have few to shop for. The biggest challenge is deciding which charity to help. Many charitable organization appeal for help this time of year. The mailbox is stuffed full of requests each week. In general, I limit my gifts to local charities and often wait for a later time to give, as groups have special projects and need help at another time of year.

One purchase that helps more than once is buying fruit from the local FFA boys and girls. The kids make money, and I am able to put fruit bundles together for friends. Many of my acquaintances don't need any more "things," but do like nice grapefruit, oranges or apples.

I know how important Christmas giving is, and I appreciate the desire to go shopping. I know the joy and excitement that comes from choosing a present for someone you love. I hope everyone has been able to get out to do their shopping. I just hope they haven't forgotten the true spirit of Christmas or how important it is to give their gifts with love.

One Christmas, when I was a child, I had some money. Heavens knows where I got it because my family didn't have much. But just before Christmas, the family drove to the nearby, much large county seat. One of my older sisters took me with her as I shopped for a gift for my mother. We probably went to a "dime store," because I remember there were so many things to look at.

I finally choose a set of salt and pepper shakers. I remember they were glass and had pointed red plastic tops. They may have cost 19 cents or so, but I was glad to pay for them, myself.

I believe the clerk even gift wrapped them for me.

In my childhood, going to the "city" at Christmas time was so special. The many lights, the music and the store windows were a delight. Just walking down the street and window shopping was a gift as much as getting a doll or a set of play dishes. Everything I could have wanted, dreamed about, or discovered was on display. And living on a farm when electricity was not widespread, made all the lights in town truly amazing.

I hope today's children feel as good about buying a gift for their mother or someone they love. I hope the joy and excitement of shopping with their sister or other friend is still a big thrill. And I hope they understand that giving is truly a part of Christmas.

Kay Hively writes a weekly column for the Daily News.