Did the last trip to a shopping mall leave you suffering from holiday commercialitis? Well, take heart. Some gifts do reflect the religious spirit of the Christmas holiday, and there are specialty shops in the Washington area that sell such items.
One such popular gift this year is the Biblical Trivia quiz game, which asks players biblical questions: What was the name of the capital of north Israel before Samaria was the capital? Which psalm written by David deals with confession and forgiveness? (The answers: Tirzah, and Psalm 32.)
The game has been selling out at many area department stores, as well as religious specialty shops. "We've already sold three dozen Bible trivia games," said Lois Butler, manager of Potomac Adventist Book and Health Food Center, a Seventh-day Adventist store in Takoma Park.
"People are more interested now in religious articles," observed Alice McAuliffe, manager of the gift shop of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, near Catholic University. "For a while their interest was down, but people across the country are showing more interest in religion now and they're buying more religious articles because of that."
Clerks at the shrine and Washington Cathedral shops say about 65 percent of their business comes from tourists and the busiest time of the year for those shops is around Easter, followed by Christmas.
"Our Christmas season starts in September . . . . We have anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 tourists a day who come through the shop," said Milton DeVaughn, Washington Cathedral shop coordinator and personnel manager.
DeVaughn says more local residents visit the shop around Christmastime, looking for religious books, nativity scenes and even stone gargoyles, which the store sells.
Newman Book Store at 3329 Eighth St. NE, one of the area's largest Catholic bookstores, has also seen an increase in business during the holidays. Clerk Paula Gomez says the top selling books are "The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton" by Mochael Mott; "Hope and Suffering" by 1984 Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu; "Sadhana, a Way to God" by Anthony de Mello; "In Memory of Her" by Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, and "Please Understand Me" by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.
"We've been selling dreidels spinning tops by the tons," laughed Debbie Cohen, manager of a gift shop at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville. Each year the center sponsors a holiday mart during the five weeks preceding Hanukah, which begins Dec. 18.
"We sell many, many menorahs during this season, I'd say between 200 and 300 so far this year, and all kinds of Hanukah party items," said Cohen. Like many area religious specialty shops, it offers some hard-to-find items such as handmade challah covers for Shabbath bread.
At the Mormon bookstore This Is The Place, in Kensington, manager Rene Mason said, "The scriptures are selling very good this year." The store has a large selection of Mormon books and gifts, as well as other Christian books and some nonreligious items.
One of the area's largest selections of saints' medals, crucifixes and rosaries can be found at the shrine's gift shop. "Hummel figurines are popular because the original Hummel figures were done by Sister Berta Hummel in Germany," explained McAuliffe. CAPTION: Picture, The Biblical Trivia quiz game, a popular gift item this holiday season, sells for $18.50 in area stores. BY DUDLEY M. BROOKS -- The Washington Post