The Federalist staff and contributors have teamed up to share with you our best gift ideas and most dearly wished-for items that will translate well across the country and even globe. Of course, we can’t resist putting in a plug at the top for Federalist gear to adorn your favorite lovers of the fray. FDRLST-gear purchasers get a special add-on gift this month.
This is a giant list, so here’s a set of hotlinks to the various sections:
Before we get into the goodies, a few Christmas shopping tips, from us to you.
Download the Evernote app NOW so you can keep track of gift ideas throughout the year, with just a couple of touches on your phone. Maintaining this list has kept me way saner than I was in previous years when I had to scramble to get my list in order after Thanksgiving.
General gift giving advice when buying for close friends or family: Try to find something high-quality and timeless (or at least not trendy) that recipients may not have bought for themselves because of the price, but will very much appreciate someone else buying for them.
Beer and Bourbon: I truly believe that consumable goods are the best bet for those who are hard to please. How about a craft beer BBQ set? Or a cheap bourbon gift set, which is kinda fun.
A constitution of the United States bourbon glass.
Bespoke Post: While you could spend your time and energy trying to figure out what to get the men in your life who probably already bought what they want and only dream of items that cost more than an island country’s GDP (assuming they don’t want the island itself), you could also just trust the experts. One such group are the fine folks over at Bespoke Post. They’ve put together a list of gift boxes that range from grilling to grooming, with tech, toys, and bar accessories in between.
Don’t see a set that works for the man you’re shopping for? Don’t worry, the site offers a variety of other options. Maybe some artwork or maybe a hatchet or even a new set of headphones or wallet is something you know he wants and needs, but you don’t want to be responsible for choosing. Trust us, you can purchase with the confidence that he’ll love it if you go for any of the available options.
Bow Ties: Two Guys Bow Ties. Wooden bow ties, guys. Check it out.
Classic Childhood Games: For the (nerdy) man in your life: Legos. I bought four sets this year. Also: vintage Nintendo. Just go with it.
Corkscrews: These are the fanciest corkscrews you may ever have encountered.
Patrick O’Brian Books: In my experience with my husband, brother, father, and brother-in-law, the Patrick O’Brian books about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (“Master and Commander“ being the most famous of because of the movie) are a HUGE hit.
Razors: Will I be shunned if I say that my prize possession is the natural horn razor my wife got me at Art of Shaving, which is pretty much a store that no one admits going to?
Beauty Products: For stocking stuffers, I love the Nugg face masks. They are such a treat.
Chocolate: Askinosie chocolate. DeBrand chocolate.
“Gilmore Girls” fans: any of these gifts, “What Alice Forgot“ by Liane Moriarty, or a Netflix gift card.
Jewelry: These necklaces, or (on the more expensive side) this ring.
Rustic Cuff and Kendra Scott jewelry are both real big in my city, so depending on the person I get that. This year I got a few cuffs for out-of-towners who may have heard of the company but wouldn’t have access to a store, and for in-town relatives I actually got some great knockoffs in that style at a craft market, knowing they can go on their own and get the real thing if they have a strong preference for a certain piece.
Personalized Bracelets: Etsy personalized bracelets for the grandmas or moms (with the grandkids’ or kids’ initials, obviously).
Tea: Tea from around the world, omg.
Yoga Gear: A pair of yoga pants from Lululemon or Alo Yoga (both on the pricier side, but the quality is worth it—they last for years);
Bar Set: Just brought my brother this bar set, from Crate and Barrel, with free shipping and a random code I found online. For the hip millennials in your lives.
Vinyl: I’m getting a LOT of vinyl for the music lovers in my life. Amazon has a surprisingly great selection so you don’t have to take a chance with authentically old records.
Take Your Pick: Wireless headphones, “Modern Romance“ by Aziz Ansari, or this “adulting“ sweatshirt.
Crafts: My default for kids are things like kinetic sand and Hot Wheels cars. Not huge space-killers and pretty universally liked. I also love crafty things for my daughter. This year, I’m getting her this messenger bag to color. Lots of stuff from Melissa and Doug and Alex Toys are great for little crafts like that.
Experiences: I like for family with kids to get museum memberships, money for dance, art, or other classes, or money in a 529 account.
Games: “Civilization VI“ came out this year, for the computer game lover. Board games are great too, depending on the person. Board Game Geek as well as 538’s Board Game Guide for kids are great resources. I’ve given Settlers of Catan plus expansions, Carcasonne, and Ticket to Ride. This year our children are getting Dixit from Santa. Sequence, Jr was a hit when they were younger. They do love Candy Land, Twister, Hungry Hungry Hippo, and Hi Ho Cherrio but I can’t stand those games so I regret suggesting them to relatives.
Long-lasting toys: If you must give toys, consider Lego or another type of toy that will last for years and multiple ages and stages rather than something that loses usefulness quickly.
On the Way: For the Pregnant/Growing Family in Your Life:
1) Volunteer to babysit for any big-sibs-to-be for a day, so mom can sleep in and relax.
2) Gift certificate for a prenatal massage.
3) If you’re visiting the new mom in the hospital, ask what food she’s had to avoid and missed, so you can bring it with you.
4) Volunteer to set up a meal train (I believe that’s actually the name of a meal organizing app), so community members can bring a few weeks’ worth of meals to the family right after the baby comes. It’s one less thing for the family to worry about.
5) Big brother/big sister T-shirts for any big-sibs-to-be. (Lots to choose from on Etsy.)
Sponsor a Needy Child: You can sponsor a child through Compassion International and try to pick one the same age or the same birthday. If we can match birthdates, we hope to buy birthday presents at the very least for the child on my children’s own birthdays. Any of those sponsorship sites are great for Christmas, of course (assuming they are legit/have low overhead/etc.).
Baby Books: BabyLit books (“Emma” and “Little Women” are my daughter’s favorites), and “M Is For Monocle” (or any of Greg Paprocki’s alphabet books).
- “Once Upon An Alphabet,” or “The Little Prince” popup book.
- The Maps book is awesome.
- Also, I was perusing these “Can You Find It?” books at the Met this weekend, and they’re fun.
- And I love the Miroslav Sasek books.
- Illustrated versions of classics they love. Ex:“Harry Potter.” Or “The Little Prince” (I mean, it’s illustrated anyway, but a pretty hardcover version), Narnia, “Lord of the Rings,” etc. There are tons of them. We have a beautiful Narnia set for the kids and I’m planning on adding the abovementioned ones for them over the years.
- “Heritage,” by Sean Brock.
- “Hamilton,”by Ron Chernow. For the in-laws who won’t check out the musical because they are wary of rap, I burned a CD with non-rap songs (King George’s songs, “Wait for It,” “Dear Theodosia,” “Hurricane,” etc). Then I’ll lure them in and get them to love the whole thing.
- “Andrew Jackson,” by H.W. Brands.
- “The Fractured Republic,” by Yuval Levin.
- “The Last Samurai,” by Helen Dewitt
Cast Iron: Everyone wants cast iron cookware, but not everyone knows they want it. I like to give people cast-iron muffin tins, because they—truly—make corn muffins great again.
Dressing and Dipping: A nice set of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, fleur de sel, and truffle oil.
“Healthy” Chocolate Chip Cookies: I have a whole wheat/low sugar (but DELISH) chocolate chip cookie mix I keep in my freezer year-round for, um, frequent batches of just one or two cookies at night as/when necessary (no judgment, please!). I’m making little tins of this particular cookie for many casual friends and colleagues because the sugar onslaught can be stressful at the holidays. Having a slightly healthier option on hand is so helpful.
Coffee: You cannot go wrong with high-end bagged coffee for picky people (i.e., me. It’s unscrewupable). I really like Counter Culture. They have gift subscriptions here, but you can also pick out a bag or two to send individually.
My father in law is getting a Buena Vista Irish Coffee set (San Fran-based cafe, first to introduce Irish coffee to America). It’s not a set for sale; I’m just compiling all the ingredients in the recipe (Tullamore Dew Whiskey, C&H sugar cubes, Peerless Coffee grounds). For anyone with a favorite or nostalgic drink, making your own set for them plus recipe is a great gift.
Coffee Accessories: For the millennial barista or coffee snob in your life, try a homemade mug from The White Hearth, Chemex pourover, or Hario kettle.
Delicious Edibles: If I had my druthers, extended family would never send my anything I can’t eat. They’re always sending clothes that don’t fit and knick-knacks that aren’t my taste, when I would be extremely happy if they would just send me things like this every year: 25-Year Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar, from Williams Sonoma.
Measuring Cups: I sprang for stainless steel magnetic measuring cups and spoons for my mom.
Pressure Cooker: I am obsessed with my pressure cooker, and this is the cookbook I use with it. This is a great explainer on why they’re so great, and why they should replace your slow cooker (and every other appliance).
You can make everything faster: soups, chicken, pot roast, stews, even mac and cheese and cheesecakes! The food comes out intensely flavorful and in one-third to one-half the time. I started using it when my son was going through what we thought was an illness and turned out to be an undiagnosed food allergy. This was the only way we were able to eat healthy while dealing with that struggle for months. I cannot recommend it more highly.
Scotch: This Scotch Notes book I keep on hand by the dozen and I hand out as host or hostess gifts. It would also make a great stocking stuffer!
Spices: Order from The Spice House if you want to support a business that uses the promo code NOPOLITICS for free shipping. The Spice House (est. 1957) is the original business that Patty Erd inherited from her father, Bill Penzey, Sr. I just ordered their “Some Like it Hot” collection and am thrilled.
The backstory: Erd’s brother Bill Jr. started a different spice business called “Penzey’s.” After the election, Bill Jr. went off on a major screed in his newsletter against Trump voters, calling them all racists and instructing them to do penance by contributing to the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU. Rod Dreher wrote all about it here. Needless to say, I’ve switched to The Spice House after shopping at the other place for years.
AWESOME to know! I stopped shopping at Penzey’s years ago because they asked me to—pushing political views that were insane and saying they didn’t want my business, repeatedly.
Wine Gear: Olivia Pope wine glasses. ”If you can read this bring me wine” socks. These are the perfect stocking stuffer for friends and family! Lots of cheap options and different styles here. Because what’s better than a wine night in socks and comfy yoga pants?
Learning: A class from the Great Courses. There’s a subject to fit just about anyone.
Visits: This year, my gift to my mom is that I’m flying her up to my house to come stay with me for a few days. Her gift to me is to help me organize, with her excellent taskmaster skills. Everyone is happy with this arrangement, and everyone wins
Can’t Go Wrong
Coffee Table Books: I am obsessed with coffee table books. Here are some lighter ones that I have found to be crowd pleasers:
- For travelers, the “36 Hours” series is fun (they have ones for the United States, Europe, Asia, etc.).
- As an aside, the “Best American Travel Writing” series, which compiles magazine essays into a paperback, would be another excellent gift.
- “The Complete Far Side.”
- “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.”
- “Humans of New York.”
- And, of course, “The Face of Texas.”
Consumables: Consumables are my go-to when I’m at a loss: hot chocolate packets plus an edible stirrer, those little bags that can turn into a strawberry cheesecake if you add certain ingredients, etc. I also give cookbooks to certain family members who still use them. I had been giving the Pioneer Woman series to folks over the years (we’re Okies, after all), and I’m also collecting Junior League Cookbooks around the country to give to JL family members.
Going Out: Zoo or children’s museum memberships for kids. Movies or restaurant cards for adults and couples.
Magazine Subscriptions: I’m actually a huge fan of monthly magazine subscriptions. Christopher Kimball has a new one called Milk Street, and we get Garden and Gun and Writer’s Digest. Usually subscriptions are less than $20.
My grandfather gave my family Reader’s Digest every year while I was growing up. Simple, but welcome (and it makes you think of the person every month when it arrives!). Oh yeah, magazine subscriptions are awesome. We’ve given National Geographic to our nieces and nephews.
On subscriptions, think persuasion. One year I gave everyone Transom subscriptions. City Journal is decent for not blatant crossover. Hedgehog Review is probably more stealthily, and newish. This year is an excellent year for an airy “I thought we could all use fresh news sources.” Providence. Geopolitical Futures is back. There’s something for many different interests.
I have to get behind the magazine subscription. Two years ago, my aunt got me a subscription to my hometown’s magazine so I could keep up every month with the things going on. Weirdly fun to check in on my hometown and learn about what the hometown families are up to.
Notepads: This might be a large household thing, paper running off. Kids kept swiping the printer paper for a quick sketch or note to grandma. So a few years ago, hubs had the idea to get everyone personalized notepads. Fun to make for each person and very useful. Throw in pens in a cool color for each kid.
For adults and cool teens, Field Notes notepads.
Photoware: Personalized calendars with pictures of family is another fun, inexpensive gift. It just takes time to get the photos on there.
As a hobbyist photographer, I try to sneak in good shots of the family throughout the year and get relatives a small print if one turns out great. Shutterfly and other websites are great for little things like that. Often you can get free calendars, magnets, etc. for stocking stuffers. I try to have a balance of pictures of my kids (because they do appreciate pics of the kids, but it can get to be a bit much), and pictures of themselves or family group shots.
Subscriptions: magazines and monthly craft boxes for kids, wine or beer or jerky or whatever of the month for adults. It’s nice to get something all year long, and usually this is totally consumable so it’s not fueling mess in the house.