Item #1 in Our Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: The Vagisoft Blanket

Okay we do not have a gift guide for Valentine’s Day but if we did, this curiously-named fleece blanket would be at the top.


Jelly Beans For Men Who Like Complex Flavors

Thank you Businessweek for the hot tip that Jelly Belly is now making jelly beans for the patriarchy. The new flavors are BEER and chocolate-covered Tabasco. How masculine.


In Defense of the Gift Certificate

For the longest time, I felt bad about offering gift certificates to friends and family when the holiday season rolled around. They had a reputation as the lazy person’s gift of choice: They were impersonal, they were anything but unique, and there was something crass—given our long tradition of removing price tags from gifts and pretending that their exact value is unknown to the recipient – about their dollar amount being displayed so flagrantly.


The Best Gift I Ever Gave Cost $2

The best gift I ever gave was a ladle that cost $2 and came from the hardware store.


Is Cash The Best Christmas Present? Economists Weigh In

An economic research forum in Chicago asked their panel of expert economists to weigh in on the following theory:

“Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash.”

Ha! Most of them disagreed (55%, 22% “uncertain”), but I do love some of their responses:


Gift for Teacher

“Because you don’t know what everyone else is giving,” says Kim Egan, a mother of two in Santa Monica, Calif. “You don’t want to under-give. You don’t want to over-give.”


When Bill Gates Is Your Secret Santa

Reddit has a Secret Santa program where anonymous users can buy and exchange gifts with other anonymous users, and as it turns out a Redditor named Rachel had Bill Gates as her Secret Santa.


A Sociologist Looks at Gift-giving

The individual message [of a gift] says, “I value you according to the degree of our relationship” and anticipates the response, “I value you in the same way.” But the compound message that emerges from the unwrapping of gifts in the presence of the whole gathering allows more subtle meanings to be conveyed. It permits the husband to say to the wife, “I value you more than my parents” or the mother to say to the daughter-in-law, “I value you as much as my son so long as you are married to him” or the brother to say to the brother, “I value you more than our absent brothers, but less than our parents and much less than my children.” These statements, taken together, would define and sustain a social structure, if only because, by their gift messages, both parties to each dyadic relationship confirm that they have the same understanding of the relationship and the bystanders, who are interested parties, endorse that understanding by tacit approval.”

The New Republic looked back on a 1979 study by a University of Virginia sociologist named Theodore Caplow who interviewed 110 adults in Muncie, Indiana (AKA “Middletown, USA”) about their Christmas gift-giving experiences the previous year, and explained what he learned. Apparently it’s not just the thought that counts, but it’s also what the gift is and how it’s wrapped. “Money is an appropriate gift from senior to junior kin, but an inappropriate gift from junior to senior kin, regardless of the relative affluence of the parties,” Caplow wrote. That’s actually not how it works in my family, but then again, there’s no indication that Caplow spoke to any Asian American families where cash gifts are so common from junior to senior kin.

Photo: Queen Bee


Kitchen-related Gifts

I’m usually not much of a gift guide person, but I liked Megan McArdle’s gift guide for kitchen things because of how sensible it is (a $13 microplane grater is affordable and is something I’d actually would be happy to get). I also have a close friend who seemingly has everything, so my gifts to her are usually to take her out to dinner, but I once bought her a fish spatula for her birthday after remembering the one night we made dinner together where we ruined the fish using a regular spatula and it was kind of perfect. Plus, you could always get a nice oven mitt for the person who doesn’t like to cook, but likes frozen pizza.


Buying Gifts While Sharing an Account

In the Wall Street Journal, Katy McLaughlin talks about gift-giving in a relationship where both partners pool and share their money (basically, surprises are hard to pull off) She just opened up her own credit card account so she can surprise him this year, though writing a column about it and publishing it on the internet may let some of the cat out of the bag.


Should You Buy a Holiday Gift for Your Boss?

Do a Google search for “presents for bosses” or “etiquette for bosses present,” and there is no shortage of articles ready to dispense advice. On one hand, accepted etiquette through the years has been that presents in professional settings should flow down the command chain, not up.


An American Girl Doll That Doesn’t Exist Yet, and Other Christmas List Wishes From a Child

At Deadspin, Drew Magary talks about the items on his daughter’s Christmas wish list and it’s very, very funny, mostly because his daughters asks for things like, an American Girl Doll that won’t be on the market until next year