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Growing up in a Catholic family comes with a long Christmas list.

I need gifts for my parents, five siblings, three of their spouses, my new nephew, my mother and father-in-law, my husband, his sister, his brother, his brother’s wife… if you’re counting, that puts us at 17! 

So, Daniel and I started browsing Amazon and brainstorming ideas in early November. Alone on the couch in the weak glow of our laptop screens, I felt anything but the “Christmas spirit.”

There was no enjoyment in the endless scrolling. Adding gifts to our cart and getting them delivered to the door was effortless, but not in a good way. The whole gesture just felt empty.

So, what are two tech-addicted millennials to do?

This year, we’re celebrating Small Christmas instead.


What is Small Christmas?

No, it’s not scaling down the cost of our Christmas gifting or even the amount of people on our list. 

Small Christmas is simply a commitment to buying all our Christmas gifts from local businesses. Amazon is out, dragging our asses to real, literal stores is in.

And so far, it’s a massive success.


boy and baby in a book store

After much deliberation, Small Christmas has been baby approved 


The Benefits of Small Christmas

The more I started thinking about Small Christmas, the more I loved it.

Honestly, it comes with so many benefits. Committing to a Small Christmas means we get to support our local community, minimize our impact on the environment, and spend more quality time with family.


Support Your Local Community

This one speaks for itself. When was the last time you chose locally-owned over a big box store?

Did you know “small businesses account for 99.7% of all businesses in the US”? Chances are, there are more than you may think in your city. A town can only be as creative and innovative as the community that supports it, these businesses depend on you for survival. 

Plus, studies have found if you spend $100 at a large business, $43 stays in the local economy. At small businesses, though, that number jumps up to $68. 

This year, stop into the shops you’ve been meaning to see, chat with the owners, and browse the shelves – your dollars will make a difference and you might just find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.


Dan and Di at Clash Dayton

…or just a sweet fur coat. Either way, it’s a win.


Minimize Your Environmental Impact

Lately I’ve been trying to be more conscious of my impact on the world.

I’m learning to think global and act local by taking tiny steps in my own life to make a difference, no matter how small it may be. Eating vegetarian a few days a week, taking shorter showers, and sharing rides with friends are all examples.

Purchasing locally made products means none of my gifts will be shipped around the world this year and reduces the carbon emissions I’m responsible for. With 17 people on my Christmas list, shopping small can have a big impact.


Spend Quality Time With Your Family

I don’t think I’m alone in the sentiment that Black Friday is a literal nightmare. Long lines, huge messes, no parking… it’s something I avoid at all costs.

This year though, my whole family ventured out and we actually had a blast. Instead of going to Target or Best Buy, we went to the small businesses downtown.

Drinking mimosas, watching my cousins play chess, and taking endless photos of my nephew were all so much better than fighting through the typical crowds or staring at a screen in my room, mindlessly buying gifts in silence. 


girl playing chess in a coffee shop


Where to Start Your Small Christmas Shopping in Dayton

Little ol’ Dayton isn’t the same city it once was. There’s a thriving small business scene growing not only here but in neighboring towns as well. Check out these three hotspots to start your Small Christmas shopping this year. 


The Oregon District

Of course, the Oregon District is first on the list. On Black Friday we went to:

  • Heart Mercantile
  • Luna Gifts & Botanicals
  • Hedges & Wolf
  • Bonnett’s Book Store
  • Brim
  • Clash Dayton
  • Press Coffee Bar
  • Omega Music
  • Feather’s Vintage Clothing
  • and Eclectic Essentials

I’ve been downtown a thousand times but never noticed just how many small businesses are on one street! With great food (and even better breweries) nearby, the Oregon District was the perfect place to ease into Small Christmas and I scored earrings, sunglasses, shirts, art, and more for my gift list.


Hedges and Wolf in the Oregon District


Downtown Miamisburg

Downtown Miamisburg is really on the rise. It’s similar to the Oregon District and even has two of their own breweries to unwind at after your Christmas shopping – Daniel and I picked up a growler at Star City Brewing. 

Locally owned shops in Miamisburg include:

  • Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop
  • The Little Shop of Stitches
  • Bear Creek Donuts
  • Curious Styles and Coffee Shop
  • Christmas on Main Street (Open in November and December only)
  • M & Co.
  • St. James Thrift Shop
  • Miamisburg Art Gallery

… and many more that I surely missed. 

To fuel up for your trip, I strongly recommend stopping for lunch at the famous Hamburger Wagon. It’s been operating since 1913 and still sits on its original 100-year-old wagon wheels.

Just know that the mini burgers here come with pickles and onion only, so don’t bother asking for sauce or even worse… cheese. Try the fried patties as is and you’ll quickly see why this staple has survived a century in Miamisburg.


Hamburger Wagon, Miamisburg, Ohio


Yellow Springs

Three’s a trend, and Small Christmas in Dayton delivers. Yellow Springs is the third stop for your Small Christmas shopping in the city.

I’m not really sure how a town that seems to run solely on good vibes, art, and coffee shops still exists, but I’m so happy it does. I like to visit at least once a year and go to:

  • Wildflower Boutique
  • Urban Handmade
  • Dark Star Books & Comics
  • Asanda Imports
  • Ohio Silver
  • Super Fly Comics & Games
  • Yellow Springs Pottery

…and any other storefront on Xenia Ave. that happens to catch my eye.

Yellow Springs also backs up against the Glen Helen Nature Preserve and John Bryan State Park so you can start a hike directly from downtown. Go on a nice day to take advantage of the nearby trails and then finish your evening with drinks at the Yellow Springs Brewery.


Where Else Can You Shop Small in Dayton?

If your gift list is anything like mine, it’ll take more than a few trips to fulfill it.

When scouting the Oregon District, Miamisburg, and Yellow Springs isn’t enough, drive a little further to the Short North Arts District in Columbus and Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati.

Or, you can even travel to Lexington or Louisville for a weekend.

They’re both only 2.5 hours from Dayton, yet I had never been to either before this year. Celebrating Small Christmas was the perfect excuse for Daniel and I to take a short anniversary trip down south (and enjoy the warmer temperatures as well).


The Future of Small Christmas

Who knew a passing thought could have such a positive impact?

Putting our Small Christmas mission into practice has made the season so much more enjoyable. Shopping for our ever-expanding gift list no longer a chore, but something we’re excited to do together.

Small Christmas good for the community, good for the environment, and good for the soul. I have no doubt that this new tradition is here to stay.


This article is part of the Delicious Dayton series. Read the rest below:

Blind Taste Test: Which Dayton Style Pizza is the Best?

How to DIY Your Own Dayton Brewery Walking Tour

Did you know there’s an Ohio Donut Trail right here in Dayton?


I’ve been traveling full-time for three years, these are the resources that make it happen:

➤ I exclusively use Airbnb for savings and security on long-term stays in furnished apartments.

➤ I use for short-term stays in hostels and hotels on weekend trips.

Skyscanner and the Scott's Cheap Flights newsletter help me find and book cheap flights and mistake fares.

Upwork allowed me to take the leap to travel full-time because they make it so easy to find freelance clients in any field. 

➤ The Superstar Blogging Travel Writing Course launched my travel writing career and helped me become a contributor at sites like Cincinnati Refined and International Living, and even get published in the Boston Globe.

➤ Finally, I love hosting my travel blog on SiteGround because they have helpful and responsive customer service and I love MediaVine and CJ for helping me make a living doing what I love!


  1. I LOVE this idea! Thanks for all the small business recommendations around the greater Dayton area. This approach makes Christmas shopping so much more fun! Merry Christmas to you and your family. ?????

    • It really does! Merry Christmas to you too 🙂

  2. I agree, there is something missing when you shopping online. It is the social interaction that we really do need.

    • Definitely agree. When you need the essentials shopping online is fine, but for gifts it just doesn’t cut it.


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