In a world filled with many too many objects, nothing makes people want to use one of appropriate shape and size to gouge out their own eyes more than holiday shopping.
A life-sized plush panda (seated, man-made fur) costs $1,499.99 from FAO Schwarz. Is that an appropriate gift for your child's music teacher? Pantone's 2015 Color of the Year is "Marsala," but what if you buy Marsala for your nephew and he becomes addicted to this color? Dog heart pills cost $42.49 from 1800petmeds.com—but does your mom even have a dog's heart?
Used to be, shoppers only had a trio of Christmas gifts to choose from, and if you were a very lucky baby you'd get all three.
This is a gift guide for the most discerning of shoppers. For the Christmas purist. For the person who wants to strip Christmas down to its bleached bare bones. For the shopper who wants to give gifts that are clean and rad and powerful.
You may be thinking that something you can get a pound of for under $12 is not a nice gift to give to anyone, let alone the King of the Jews. This is true—people in Biblical times did not have as good of manners as we do. But another thing to consider is that, 2,000 years ago, frankincense was some of the most expensive stuff you could buy. (For more on the long histories of all three of the Magi's offerings, check out this Slate article.) When Caspar made his gift of frankincense to the Christ child, it was roughly equivalent, in terms of cachet and age-appropriateness, to giving a baby a midnight blue Aston Martin.
Scholars continue to debate precisely what, if any, symbolism was intended to be conveyed by Magi's gifts. In ancient Judea, Frankincense was used as both an incense burned for religious purposes (maybe the Wise Men wanted to convey Jesus' holiness) and a perfume (maybe they wanted him to be a nice-smelling baby). Today, many commercial fragrances are still made with frankincense, including Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather, which I recently smelled on my coworker Rich Juzwiak. It was divine. (He smelled like Christ.) As its name implies, Frankincense also continues to be burned as frank incense, in its resin form.
Actual frankincense: Amazon reviewers laud Madina-frankincese-1 lb ($11.25) as "appears to be the best frankincense available on Amazon," "decent for the price paid," and "OK." One reviewer asks if they can put it in water and drink it. Nope, but impressive survivalist instincts! Another gives the product five stars, but cautions that he was raised a Methodist.
Acceptable alternatives: Rees's [sic] Holiday Giant Peanut Butter Cups, 1-Pound ($11.99), which is, pound for pound, a more luxurious gift than frankincense in modern-day America; Life-Size Plush Sitting Panda (man-made fur, giftwrap not available) ($1499.99) which is expensive.
In Jesus' time, myrrh was commonly used as an embalming fluid, which makes it a morbid little gift to give to a baby. Like frankincense, myrrh's woody scent is still frequently incorporated into perfumes today. It is also sometimes used as an antiseptic in hippie-dippy homemade mouthwash.
Actual Myrrh: If you're in the myrrhket to buy some myrrh, people lo-o-o-ve NOW Foods Myrrh 100% pure, 20 % Oil blend, 1 ounce ($9.19). Although it is sold by a company called "NOW Foods," Amazon reviews are quick to note this essential oil is not now, and will never be, foods. "NOT a FOOD!" writes one of the many five-star reviewers. "DO NOT EAT THIS!!" Why are people always trying to eat every single thing they buy? I'm tired of it. Although it is not recommended to eat NOW Foods inedible myrrh oil blend, one thing gift recipients might consider is smearing it on their gums, slick with ruby red blood. "Heals dog's gums," boasts one reviewer. "I started using this product on my dog's bleeding gums." Another reviewer notes that it soothes human gums as well.
Modern equivalent: AF28 Arterial embalming fluid ($23), to keep your loved ones looking fresh to death in death. [Note: "Only personnel working for deathcare businesses, organizations and universities are permitted to purchase embalming fluids from MortuaryMall.com."]
Acceptable alternatives: Cool Mint Listerine Pocketpacks 288 Breath Strips ($16.99), which are the cool mint alternative to homemade myrrh mouthwash; Plush Giraffe - Extra Large (69" L x 19.75" W x 94.5" H) ($899.99), which is very expensive.
Jesus loved goooooooold. Or did he? Not really in line with his doctrine of humility, but I suppose we'll never really know what his personal tastes were. To modern observers of Christmas, gold is the only gift given to Jesus that really makes sense, or can be easily spelled. Gold is a great gift for babies, who can use it to pay for college textbooks. It is also the perfect gift to give to a rich person or king, because it is flashy luxury for flashy luxury's sake. Gold is a gift that says "I know you don't need this gold, but also that you have somewhere to put it."
Actual Gold: There is not much actual gold for sale on Amazon, but two buyers have recommended the 2014 American Gold Eagle (1/10 oz) $5 BU U.S. Mint ($161.17), a gold coin called a "nice gold coin" by one reviewer. "Everything was great," writes the other. Shoppers should avoid 1 Troy Ounce 24k Howling Wolf Yosemite National Park Half Dome 100 Mills Gold Clad Ingot Bar Design- World Treasures Mint ($150) ("Lithium Metal batteries required," Amazon helpfully informs buyers), which is "not real gold bullion" and "worthless." (It is, appropriately for the Christ child, "prestigious, the relief on the front of the wolf howling is in amazing detail.")
Modern equivalent: Gold iPhone 6 (128GB, Unlocked) ($1,049.00), the only gift except for a gold bar that combines the luxury, status, and clean lines of a gold bar with the overall color of a gold bar.
Acceptable alternatives: 7.1" 14K Yellow Gold Pandora® bracelet from Jared ($1,4775.00 pre-charms); Plush Mechanical Bactrain Ride-On Camel (featuring movable head) ($3,990.00), which is very expensive.