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The Joys of Christmas Gifting
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There is a new element to Christmas shopping and unfortunately it is called progress.

There are many who no longer brave the weather or crowds and shop on the Internet or by phone. While this may very well be more efficient and convenient it is also sterile and joyless.

Putting your feet up and enjoying a hot toddy after spending a day Christmas shopping is one of the joys of the season. Putting your feet up and enjoying a hot toddy WHILE you are Christmas shopping should be a felony violation.

And shopping in this manner has its own problems. Some things on the computer screen do not look as good in person as they do electronically. Plus, if you type in the wrong number on your order, instead of getting the velvet painting of Elvis you could end up with something really bad.

There is also the famous shipping and handling fee. This is usually something like $4.99 but if you have waited till the last minute the fee runs around $247.89.

Even though it can be exhausting and frustrating there is something warm and exhilarating about pushing through throngs of people looking for that special item for someone. And there is no substitute for picking something up, holding it in your hand and saying, "This is the one!"

The downside to shopping in the real world instead of cyberspace is, of course, checking out. No matter the size of the store there will always be 16 checkout registers but only two will be open and no matter what you do you will ultimately find yourself in the slowest line.

You should take this time to relax and enjoy the moment and know a hot toddy is soon to be in your future.

There is also comfort in knowing when that special gift turns out to be not so special the recipient can take it back without difficulty, unless you buy something out of the trunk of a Buick. (For the record, Rolex doesn't make crock pots.)

You can find a gift which may be totally inappropriate--and how was I to know a naked lady lamp with a clock in the stomach is not something everyone would want in their den--but the idea you made an effort to find such a thing will not be lost.

Despite the sometimes crass and commercial nature of Christmas, there is no denying the warm feeling that bubbles up when you give someone a gift they know you went out of your way to find.

Christmas shopping is more than gift buying. It is finding a gift that means as much to you giving it as it does to the person receiving. That is the real pleasure of Christmas gift giving and the hustle and bustle of looking for that gift is part of the joy of the season.

Inefficient? Yes. Inconvenient? Certainly. But the insane joy of Christmas shopping lies in finding a gift that will produce memories for the giver and the receiver that will not dull with time. Such is the spirit of Christmas.

And one more point for the record, if you buy someone a naked lady lamp with a clock in the stomach, hang onto the receipt.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at