What I like about the early part of the Christmas season, from just after Thanksgiving to Santa Lucia Day, is that it feels like it's being open to serendipity on other people's behalves. In the rest of the year, I am constantly shopping for others when I'm out and about. But mostly I don't buy any of it. I can walk past a rack of men's coats and know, without having to stop and think, which one I would buy for greykev -- but in over a decade of friendship I have never bought Kev a coat. I know, for example, where to go and what to get if some lunatic said, "You can either have $375 to buy a decorative platter for careswen, or else you can have nothing!" I know exactly which decorative platter that would be. But careswen and I don't routinely spend $375 on each other, and if we did, I doubt that it would be a platter-related expense. There was a wooden box that screamed, "fiddle_dragon!" to me, if she was to need a wooden box for something, but it also screamed, "$250!" on the pricetag on the bottom, so I hope she doesn't need it. And like that. Sometimes it's more manageable -- a book that someone should read, a CD she should listen to -- but even then you can't just keep a constant stream of purchases going or your friends will all be embarrassed and there will be no money for the electric bill.
Around Christmas, though, some of that serendipity is allowed to escape. I stop in a little roadside store and come out with stocking stuffers for markgritter, mormor1, and Grandpa -- all things they'd like any day of the year, but I wouldn't necessarily have taken the time to find out and bring the stuff home otherwise. For a little part of the year, I'm allowed to follow, "seagrit should have that book!" with, "And so she shall!"
After Lucia Day things get more focused. I need to find things for the people on my list soon; I can't necessarily wait for something to leap out and carol my father-in-law's name in four-part harmony. But for a few brief weeks I can just let interesting gifts happen; I can let the part of my head that's always thinking about giving things to people run a little wilder than usual. And I enjoy that a great deal.