I fully admit to being a sucker for Christmas. The music, the food, the spirit, even the snow (in small doses) get me excited every December. I'm also partial to traditions, which are part of the essential nature of Christmas. For example, the traditions that I experience each Christmas include spending time with extended families, watching Scrooged, driving around looking at lights on Christmas Eve, and putting on five pounds from the stress that comes from the first item in the above list.
Oh, and gifts. You know, I honestly do think it's too bad that Christmas has been commercialized to the point where presents are such a focal point of the holiday. Rampant commercialism has made it difficult to remember the true meaning of Christmas (which, I believe, is the consumption of eggnog. But I'm a little cloudy on that.) But that's an article for another day; today we're going to be the best American we can be by focusing solely on the presents.
I'm guessing we have all experienced the gift equivalent of a "Jelly of the Month" Club Membership. It's inevitable. And it's funny how your idea of a good gift changes as you get older; for example, I'm pretty excited about the navy blue dress socks I received from Sara this year. (Albeit, not as excited as the "Arrested Development: Season Two" box set I also got from her.) To help give you some insight into a) my head, and 2) what to buy for me in the future, below you'll find a selection of the best presents I've ever gotten (Christmas and non-Christmas.) Please note that for the purposes of simpleprop "best" means "most useful or pragmatic"-- I've received many sentimental gifts that all three of you that hang out around this site don't need to read about. :)
Fender Stratocaster, 08/08/1995 (my birthday), from Grandma Mars
Oooh, the guitar. I never named my guitar-- it seemed a little strange. But it was a fantastic gift, replacing the crappy Squier that I had previously-- it had some sort of bow in the neck that caused the G-string to lose its tune after about three minutes. I spent a lot of time with the Strat back in college example) and even though it doesn't make many appearances now, it still was a great present.
Black and Decker Firestorm Cordless Drill, 12/25/2001, from Dad
ARR! In case you don't know me, I'm not really the "handy" type of person-- despite all of the times I watched "This Old House" growing up. The Firestorm levels the playing field a bit, though, and makes me much less incompetent when it comes to things like, well, screwing. Don't look for me on any macho-man wall calendars anytime soon, ladies-- the last two items I needed the drill for are here and here.
Canon EOS Rebel, 08/08/2002, from Sara
My camera. It allows me to be creative using photography, something I never had really done before in my life. It takes great pictures, like this or this or this. Unfortunately it now usually gets eschewed for its digital little brother, but it still gets used when I'm feeling particularly, well, artsy.
iPod, 4/21/2005, from, um, me
Yes, I bought it for myself. The occasion? We had moved from Richfield to Apple Valley that week, and I was looking at double the commute time to downtown and back. In my mind, I deserved the iPod. It's the least I could do for me. Although not as rabid of user as some people I know, I listen to it most days on the bus. According to iTunes I could listen to the iPod for 10.6 straight days and not hear a single repeat. Woo.
Fancy corkscrew, 08/08/2005, from Sara's parents
This thing is fan-frickin-tastic if you've got issues with standard-issue corkscrews. It feels like something that was in an exhibit at the World's Fair in 1893 to demonstrate the power of the mechanical revolution. Plus it shows the power of physics, which is reassuring given that I've recently heard that the jury is still out on science. Granted, having this implement didn't stop me from forcing a cork into a bottle of Merlot a couple of months back. But the mess was much to the delight of all gathered around me (outside of the splash zone, natch) so it was still a win.
Loaded toolbox, 08/08/1998, from Dad
The perfect gift for a 22-year-old whose most complex do-it-yourself project previously had been hanging posters of R.E.M. in his dorm rooms. (And, to be honest, that didn't even go so well.) Hammers... screwdrivers... even a socket set. I've probably used this gift the most out of any on this list. Except for...
Recipe Book, 12/25/1998, from Mom
For Christmas in '98, Cheryl hand-copies about 30 of her recipes for me and puts them in a handy recipe book. All of my childhood favorites are in there, including the famed SPAM hot dish (upper right recipe in the image above.) This has come in handy on almost a weekly basis since I've started cooking. Well, not the SPAM part. That's not necessarily so popular in my house.
Blackhawks jersey, 08/08/1991, from Mom & Dad
Saving the best-- or perhaps most-used-- for last. In high school and college I wore it publicly, probably about once a week. Once I entered the world of cubes and fluorescent lighting, though, I needed something to change into after ditching my business casual threads for the day. Click here for an example, circa 1999. (And, yes, that's SPAM on the cutting board.) This jersey has become the default view for post-work Wade, making an almost daily appearance during the cooler months. This thing should be in shreds given how often I wear it, and yet it's still in remarkably good shape. (I think that's mostly due to my refusal to wash it.) And, in case you're scoring at home, I'm wearing it right now.
I'm sure you've gotten gifts that rival the practicality of these. Please share them on the Forum.