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See Inside December 2005

Getting Gifting

We may resent the mad dash to buy holiday presents, but they are a yardstick for relationships, and we want to measure up

BY MID-NOVEMBER store windows are bedecked with seasonal decorations of all kinds. The message is clear: the annual gift hunt has begun. In the ensuing weeks, increasing numbers of shoppers will seek the perfect items for loved ones, not to mention a little something for friends, colleagues and distant cousins.

For many people, giving is the high point of celebrations such as Christmas and Hanukkah, even though most of us hate the purchasing and wrapping hassle. So why do we persist? Social scientists say we depend on such tokens to cement new relationships and to maintain existing ones. A gift, in essence, demonstrates how much a relationship is worth and how much we are prepared to “sacrifice” for it.

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