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Nothing New - 'Tis the Season

It’s December and many people are feeling the pressure to buy gifts for family and friends. Did you every watch the episode of “Big Bang Theory” in which Penny and Sheldon have the following conversation?

· Sheldon: You bought me a present?

· Penny: Yes.

· Sheldon: Why would you do such a thing?

· Penny: I don’t know, because it’s Christmas.

· Sheldon: No Penny, I know you’re thinking you’re being generous but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation.

· Penny: Honey, it’s okay, you don’t have to give me anything in return.

· Sheldon: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as the gift you’ve given me.

While this is a funny exchange, it also points to the idea that we feel obligated to give a gift to people who have given one to us. That can cause plenty of stress…emotionally and financially! Just why do we give gifts?

We give gifts for many reasons this time of year, most of which are tied to various religious traditions. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus with gifts meant to symbolize the ones the Three Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus. Jewish families show togetherness and bonding with small, thoughtful gifts during the eight days of Hanukkah. Many Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day in early December with small gifts or acts of kindness to others. Muslims celebrate a few holidays in December. Ei al-Fitr is a joyous one that includes gifts, feasts, and prayers. Kwanza's weeklong festivities include gift-giving, especially gifts tied to African heritage and are often handmade.

So how do you select the right gift for the people in your life? I always try to KISS – Keep It Sweet & Simple. Just like the tradition of gift-giving is nothing new, neither are the tricks to giving the right one.

· Make it personal: Do you paint, knit, or cook/bake? A picture, scarf, or soup mix made by you is super thoughtful and will be appreciated by the recipient.

· Make it useful: Think about items the person uses regularly. Purchase some fun or unique varieties of those things.

· Make it sentimental: Think back on the past year for the person. Could you make a simple scrapbook of a milestone event? How about a framed picture of a pet that died? Or a fill-in-the blank book, like "My Favorite Things About You." These gifts will be cherished for a long time.

· Make it cost effective: Simple and thoughtful is the way to go. If you are overly generous, the recipient may be overwhelmed or uncomfortable.

What will you do to KISS your gift-giving this holiday season?

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