Ours is a diverse nation whose people have countless choices to make.

Life under authoritarian regimes, in contrast, is hard to endure but at least people who live there are not up nights worrying if they will be able to hit every store they want to the next day. You go to one place — different languages have created different names but they all translate to “Store” — to buy things, if they’re there.

You walk into a place to eat in some countries and the menu has two items, except on Wednesdays when there’s only one.

The East Valley is as good an example as any of how we’re blessed with options. Near Stapley Drive and Baseline Road in Mesa, for example, is a cluster of every possible fast-food option. The overabundance of gastronomic choices at holiday parties and family gatherings can have anyone trying to diet heading dangerously near another December precipice known as the “physical cliff.”

More choices mean more opportunities to make good ones, bad ones, strange ones. Add them all up, as Yahoo! just did and you get, well, politics, consumer electronics and women whose first names begin with the letter K.

Yahoo! came out with its top searches for 2012 (a year with only 11 months, apparently, since the list came out last week) and, in order, the top five were this year’s elections, the iPhone5, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton and Kate Middleton. This means the server-busting all-time hits total could be reached by posting a picture of Kardashian looking at a photo of Middleton on her iPhone5 as she waits in line to cast her ballot, carrying a magazine whose cover features Upton in a bikini. But that would never happen. I mean, what are the odds that Kardashian is registered to vote?

In dozens of countries, there’s one major spectator sport: soccer. And incentives to get you to attend are unnecessary because there’s nothing else. Here, we have Money-Back Guarantee Night, in which the struggling Phoenix Suns offered anyone who was present for their home game against the Dallas Mavericks his or her money back if he or she failed to have a good time.

Concession stand items were not included. Maybe it had something to do with the game being played on a Wednesday. Or, perhaps, it’s that while Phoenix dropped its fifth straight game, Arizona State’s men’s basketball team is 7-1 and tickets for their games are cheaper.

The Suns got a big crowd as the backdrop for that nationally televised game, which may well have been its management’s motive all along. It’s a far cry from another time when the team was struggling so much, the 1980s, when you could get a 2-for-1 coupon at local convenience markets good for a free Suns ticket if you bought one at regular price.

Of course, giving things away free does things to people. Krispy Kreme, whose previous incarnation had departed from the Valley, reopened in Mesa last week with a long line of people waiting in the dark for its first day of business — and the chance to win a supply of free doughnuts.

We all mark the holidays differently. I have friends who annually put on a well-planned and well-appointed party celebrating Festivus, the feast day “for the rest of us” that was the original creation of an old “Seinfeld” episode. One of these days, I’ll make it over there for the airing of grievances and feats of strength, although it seems I engage in those pursuits most every day throughout the year, having a lot less fun than they do at the party.

For me, a Christmas essential is attending a performance of George Frederick Handel’s orchestral and choral masterpiece, the oratorio “Messiah.” The chorus sings words taken from the Bible, a bit of spiritual grounding for me during a time of buying and revelry.

While shopping, I try to hum some of the oratorio’s better-known pieces whenever what’s blaring from the store ceiling speakers gets too annoying, which is often. It becomes a combination of tunes in my head, the “Hallelujah Chorus” and “Sleigh Ride.” Don’t laugh until you’ve heard them both together.

Reach East Valley Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp at mscarp1@cox.net.

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