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Christmas shopping is the third circle of Hell

Christmas shopping is the worst. It’s a slow, drawn out death by degrees. It’s a solid month of trolling through malls and web pages searching for that one certain gift that won’t make someone resent you for a whole more year. Bah humbug.

“But surely you can see that you’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas,” you say. “Refocus on the meaning of the season and you’ll soon realize that gifts don’t matter.” You know what? You’re just the kind of jerk that spews that nonsense and then goes into a catatonic shock when I buy a medium instead of small. Look, the three wise men showed up with gifts. We’ve been calling them wise for two thousand years for a reason. No one ever refers to the dolt who shows up at Secret Santa empty handed as a wise man. Guess who’s birthday is getting conveniently forgotten next year?

The worst part of holiday shopping is people like me. My family harasses me for gift ideas, but there’s very few tips I can provide them with. Clothes? Sure, why not? Books? The more the merrier! DVDs? Who wouldn’t want some? But these are all things I have in abundance. As I write this there’s an untouched copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh staring down at me from my office bookshelf. I will read it eventually, but any new books are simply getting in line behind it. It seems wasteful to banish any new books to the literary equivalent of the DMV.

The polite response might be to request no gifts, but a donation in my name to a charity of choice instead. Altruistic as it may be, it undermines the fundamental motivation of gift gifting–selfishness. I selfishly want things and people selfishly want to give me things. That’s right, you’re being a bit selfish in giving gifts. We give to others in order to make them happy, because in turn that makes us happy. That’s why people love watching others open gifts from them.

So, this year when you’re second guessing all the extravagance of holiday spending, just remember it isn’t about you–except when it’s about the other person.