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Show me the money!

Exchanging gifts at Christmas

It's not that Christmas wasn't already a consumerist, capitalist, gaudy retail fantasy, obscuring the true meaning of getting together with loved ones, but it is nice to pretend it's not.

Christmas gift registries have sprung up in Australia. Department store Myer introduced them after seeing the growing acceptance in other registries, such as those for 21st birthdays, weddings and bat mitzvahs.

On one hand, I see the sense of giving and receiving a gift that will be desired and appreciated, rather than the myriad of $2 shop, Warehouse and shopping-mall desperations that appear under the tree every year. It would save money and time to know exactly what to buy and where to get it.

On the other hand, it just seems so grossly tacky, controlling and emotionless. There's no element of surprise, no wondering what the odd shapes under the tree are, no unwanted items to put away for re-gifting, and not much personal choice or thought.

It's like wedding registries. It seems so presumptuous to offer someone a registry list. They can hardly not give you a gift after that, can they? "Hey everyone, I know I'm just so wonderfully fabulous that you fully intend to buy me a Christmas present, but can you make it something I actually want? Here's a list."

And is there registry etiquette? What if you have an idea for a gift that's not on the list? Will they like it as much as something they picked out for themselves?

Not only can you have a registry list for yourself, but you can waddle round the store scanning items you want to buy for other people. You get all your shopping done without having to take anything home, because, for that personal touch, the store will wrap and deliver those gifts to your loved ones for you before Christmas Day. How sweet. It's the thought that counts.

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