The season of giving stuff to other people is upon us. Sure, it’s been upon us since Halloween was over, but if you’re like me, you haven’t done your gift shopping yet. In fact, according to statistics that I made up, 75 percent of people and 100 percent of humor columnists do their shopping on Christmas Eve. Now, every year my friends ask me for tips on what they should get for various people in their lives. And I always tell them to same thing: the most thoughtful gift for Christmas, and any other occasion, is cash. Give the gift of options, cash.
 
 Apparently, this doesn’t work, because of two reasons: First, cash is expensive, costing money. People think if you’re going to give cash, it needs to be a significant amount (except grandparents, who are exempt from this rule). People tend to look more favorably on a gift worth $5, rather than a $5 bill, namely because we traditionally obscure the price tags of gifts (thank God, or my wife would be very upset at the “Guccie” bag I gave her). Second, the stress and opportunity costs associated with purchasing gifts are included as part of the gift: “I care about you so much that I wasted a bunch of my time and stressed myself out at the mall buying this pomegranate-persimmon-scented candle for you.”
 
 The point is, we can’t avoid giving gifts. So to make it easier on you, I’ve compiled a list of what to give those special people in your life, based on my observations. While stress and waste of time is an intrinsic part of gift-giving, like the price, the recipients need not know how much you spent in procuring their gifts.
Co-workers: These are people you spend more time with than even your own family, so you should know them very well. Give them nothing. They’re not giving you anything either.

Boss: If you give your boss something too expensive, you’ll seem like a suck-up. If it’s something cheap, it’ll be disrespectful. If you give anything at all, and no one else does, that’s just as bad as if you didn’t, and everyone else did. The solution is to bake some cookies with macadamia nuts.

Boyfriend/brothers/uncles/guys in general: Anything from one of the four categories is good: electronic gadgets, pocket tools, DVD collection of his favorite show, video games.

Girlfriend: Think of a happy memory from your courtship. Identify a symbol from that memory and figure out a way to crystalize that into an object. “Look, babe, remember when I rollerbladed down Alki, and I tripped and fell and crashed into you and made you spill your Sprite, and that’s how we met? Well, here’s a bottle of Sprite, and a cup of sand from Alki. Merry Christmas.”

Wife/husband: Give the gift of relieve by making a deal to buy each other nothing and do something stress-free as a couple instead. Or, agree to buy a joint gift that could be enjoyed by both, such as a Leatherman Micra pocket tool.

Older Sisters/aunts/grandmothers: Scented candles or lotions that smell like a combination of fruit and spices, like “vanilla-apple” or “pear-tarragon.”

Grandfathers: A thick book on some obscure topic, such as “Salt: A World History.”

Parents: Usually tools are good for Dads. It makes them feel manly, even if they never use it. Moms usually don’t care what you give them. They’ll love it regardless. However, I find that the best gifts for them are expensive stuff such as electronic gadgets or a massage chair — stuff that they would never buy for themselves.

Small children: Holiday-themed socks.

Older kids: Kids have come to associate Christmas with presents. This is no way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Make them focus on the true meaning of Christmas, by getting something from the World Vision catalog, such as a chicken to help a poor family in a third-world country.
In-laws: Plants.

 May you have a wonderful, warm holiday filled with all the things that make life worth living, such as the Leatherman Micra pocket tool.

Visit Huy at his Jagged Noodles blog at www.jaggednoodles.com.

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