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Are you enjoying a breather now that the Christmas shopping frenzy has come and gone?

No?

Perhaps you are caught up in the post-holiday bargain shopping splurge that began on Dec. 26. It’s not my cup of tea or cup of anything else. That said, I do know of one brave gal who does all her Christmas shopping for the upcoming year in late December. Ugh!

Maybe you are returning or exchanging gifts that didn’t quite cut it for you. Folks, too many bottles of “Vanilla Musk” can make one smell a tad “musky.” In either case, your back may be talking to you because you have stood on a long line in the post office, cradling your brown Amazon box or at the return desk at a big box store.

Ah, me. To gift or not to gift that is the question.

The roots of gift-giving at Christmas go back to the Nativity story. The Three Wise Men traveled far and wide to gift the Baby Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh. And because we don’t usually have these treasurers on hand, we shop till we drop or max out our credit cards. (Easily done with Amazon purchases.)

Webster defines the word “gift” as “something freely and willingly given to someone without payment or anything given in return.”

Hm. Really?

Can you imagine arriving at Cousin Betty’s home on Christmas day empty handed? Probably not! But, would she really miss the “same-scarf-different-color-different-year” gift? And would you miss Cousin Betty’s bottle of (you guessed it) Vanilla Musk?

Lest you think I’m a Scrooge, Christmas gift giving is a lovely tradition when done with love and in moderation. I enjoy giving and receiving simple gifts — especially when I know they were well-thought out and given from the heart.

But sometimes, they are no longer tokens of love but angst-ridden purchases. It’s the “scratch off another name” mentality — and most of us do it. Christmas has turned into a consumer holiday for us and a profit (or loss) statement for the retailer.

What if we bypassed the gift giving and let Christmas stand alone?

Whoa! I can almost hear your intake of breath. But seriously, we would not be exhausting ourselves and miserably hemorrhaging money for pointless scarves for Cousin Betty.

Folks, can we give to others without wrapping something in a box? You betcha! Here are priceless suggestions that cost nada:

Forgiveness: I know, I know, we think they don’t deserve our forgiveness. Buddha says holding on to anger is like holding a burning piece of coal.

Most folks find forgiveness is one of the hardest qualities to summon. A sense of betrayal can strike deep within our souls. Yet, there is no point in continually asking for explanations from people who have wounded us. True forgiveness is absolute and unconditional. It has a short memory.

Honesty: Being truthful is a costly gift. Warren Buffett says, “don’t expect honesty from cheap people.” Honesty is the gold standard in forming healthy relationships. Yet lying seems to be in vogue. (Turn on the news.)

There are black lies, which are downright falsehoods motivated by self-interest. The gray lie which is similar but doesn’t hurt anyone. The “little” white lie is harmless. But wait…heed the words of William Shakespeare — “no legacy is so rich as honesty.”

Unconditional love: Love alerts us to the moment because even one moment with a loved one can be intensely beautiful and rewarding. A smile, a touch, a reassuring phone call can be a sublime gift.

When we love unconditionally, it helps in keeping our hearts pure. We can then spread love and compassion more generously, without compromise or complication.

Humor: The gift of laughter is the sunshine of life. Notice how babies laugh when they discover their toes. As adults, we sometimes lose the ability to laugh at our toes, ourselves and the ironies of life. Laughter is a universal connection and it’s contagious. Jimmy Buffett sings, “if I couldn’t laugh I would just go insane.” This lyric from the song “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” has become my go-to mantra.

Grace: Give the gift of grace — in all situations. Be with someone who is grieving. No words are necessary — trust me, I know. Just be with them.

Be kind, gentle, and accepting to those who may criticize you. There is a difference between in defending oneself and becoming defensive. Grace allows us to get our bloated nothingness out of the way and reach beyond ourselves.

Folks, so often during the holiday season, we purchase gifts on autopilot. If Cousin Betty really, really needs that scarf, so be it. However, I can do without the Vanilla Musk cologne.

Try placing the aforementioned gifts under your tree next year. I guarantee you will be happier, richer, saner and healthier. These intangible gifts are free and easily returned.

Hold on. Why wait until next year? Do it now, no gift receipt necessary.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.