What's that sound? Hark! I hear the buzz of holiday receptions, the undaunted jingle of that Salvation Army bell ringer, the groans every time "Last Christmas" plays, and the dulcet tones of carolers everywhere, throwing their masks to the wind and dusting off those cords after a long winter's (and then some) nap.
Music to my deprived ears. Last Christmas was one that many may want to forget, almost as much as we'd all like to forget the song. We probably won't get either wish. Which means this Christmas needs to be doubly memorable. Double the laughter, double the merriment, double the feasting, double the cheer.
You're rusty with your gift giving. Who could blame you? Some of us were forced to spread Christmas cheer via Amazon Prime in 2020, unable to travel far and wide to see the grandmas of the world. (Or, if you're like me, you forgot to send much of anything.) Well, there's a better chance you're seeing grandma, or mom, or your aunties and uncles and cousins this year. And you need to deliver. So let us help.
As is tradition, your favorite staffers are here to provide sage wisdom on what may bring smiles, or laughs, or confusion to your friends and family for the perfect holiday exchange.
A few Reasoners have some personal suggestions this year: John Stossel, head of Stossel TV and a contributor to this site, recommends sending the ever-relevant reminder that capitalism indeed trumps socialism in the form of this lovely T-shirt. Senior Editor Robby Soave has a new book out: Tech Panic: Why We Shouldn't Fear Facebook and the Future. Reason offers a wide variety of swag—Shirts! Phone cases! Baby onesies! Mugs! Bibs! Hats! Dog bandanas!—for those who want to look libertarian and chic. (That's a tall order.) And, as is always the case, we sell print and digital gift subscriptions for the low, low price of $14.97 a year. (For an extra $5, you can have both.)
But we know your loved ones may want to branch out of the political and into, well, anywhere else. We're on it! —Billy Binion, Associate Editor
For the impatient gamer with a vindictive streak:
Quarto is just about the simplest board game you can possibly imagine. And it will drive you crazy for hours.
The goal is straightforward. Place four matching pieces in a row, column, or diagonal before your opponent does. The complete set can be tall or short, black or white, round or square, solid or hollow. Each of the 16 game pieces has a unique combination of those four traits. Think of it as four-dimensional tic-tac-toe compressed into a two-dimensional space. And here's the rub: Your opponent chooses which piece you will play next, and then you choose theirs.
The game is literally that simple—and endlessly complex. It's faster than chess and more interesting than checkers. Add a couple tumblers of whiskey to the mix, and you have the perfect way to pass a cold winter night. —Eric Boehm, Reporter
For the techie sick of Big Tech:
This Christmas, the gift of computational freedom is more accessible than ever.
You probably don't need to give your bitcoin-loving friend an entry-level hardware wallet, but for those looking to dip their toes in Liquid network functionality, Blockstream's open-source Jade wallet is affordable and purpose-built to protect this growing class of digital assets.
For those looking to run a bitcoin node without the fuss of setting it up on their own, Umbrel's Bitcoin Machine is a solid option for the busy sovereign individual with a soft spot for vintage Apple aesthetics.
Not everything has to be purely productive. Coinkite's BLOCKCLOCK mini is a bitcoin data display that doubles as a gorgeous piece of art in its own right. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey caused a bit of a stir when he displayed his BLOCKCLOCK behind him during a congressional hearing this year. Your loved one will love it too.
Maybe your techie is more into atoms than bits. The Creality Ender-3 3D printer is a well-made option for those ready to start exploring the Thingiverse. It's open-source, too. Don't forget to throw in some extra filament.
If your techie has been extra good this year, a Framework laptop is the must-have notebook for the FOSS enthusiast in your life. Totally customizable and repairable, these non–Big Tech laptops offer both prebuilt and DIY options tailored to the level of assembly desired. They boast great specs and look great, too. At least Linux is zero price! —Andrea O'Sullivan, Contributing Editor
For the cannabis consumer whose edibles need work:
Long gone are the days of picking cannabis stems out of butter. LEVO elevates herbal infusion for oil, butter, honey, and more with its easy-to-use machine. A few taps of a button and your herbs dry, activate, and infuse with minimal mess. Whether you've got a 420-friendly family member, or just someone who likes to cook, the LEVO II is a gift that keeps on giving. —Bess Byers, Digital Media Specialist
For the eco-friendly government skeptic:
After a year in which Texans lost power to a freak storm and Californians' electricity was cut so that the state wouldn't catch fire, the 21st century looks a little more rickety than we originally anticipated. Home generators seem a good backup bet to maintain our self-reliance as well as our ability to lend a hand to neighbors, but policy makers' valiant efforts to monkey-wrench the economy are sending prices soaring for the fuel required to keep a generator fed.
Fortunately, the government has yet to figure out a way to screw up the sun (give them time!). That makes solar generators—solar panels packaged with battery-pack power stations—a good bet as uninterruptible lifelines to modern technology. Assuming you have unobstructed views of the blazing ball of sky fire, you can capture and store power to keep the lights on and appliances running. Solar generators come in a variety of capabilities and price points. Jackery, for instance, offers a rough guide as to how long you can power a range of devices including laptops and air conditioners from each of its fully-charged power stations. I've found that the Explorer 1500 keeps a 15.7 cubic foot refrigerator humming for a solid day with power to spare. With the solar panels connected, devices might run indefinitely, though Jackery cautions that such pass-through charging eventually erodes battery life.
Jackery is by no means the only company in this space. EcoFlow offers units with expandable battery capacity, while Goal Zero sells a kit for integrating a power station into home circuitry to keep a few appliances humming without running a tangle of extension cords. Whatever option you choose, a solar generator will maintain a connection to modern civilization so you can tweet about the latest catastrophe while keeping your attitude as chill as your beer. —J.D. Tuccille, Contributing Editor
For the baby Elon (or Elona) Musk:
If you're looking for a gift for the tiny future astronaut in your life, consider this snazzy SpaceX onesie. The wearer of this little jumpsuit (sizing goes from 0–3 months to 5T) can practice for when they'll get to live out Elon Musk's dream to "be born on Earth and die on Mars, hopefully not at the point of impact." The branding is subtle—no need to make your baby into a billboard—but the style is top-notch. NASA could never. —Katherine Mangu-Ward, Editor in Chief
For the virtual reality escapee:
Reason's own Peter Bagge originally wrote and drew Other Lives, a graphic novel set partially in a computer-generated virtual "Second World" back in 2010. Republished in 2020 in a new edition from Fantagraphics, its depiction of the alternately tawdry, boring, criminal, and obsessive ways people will make use of such virtual worlds—how they will facilitate both our desire to be someone bolder and badder than we dare to be in real life, and both private and government efforts to more efficiently track our every action and thought—is more relevant than ever as Facebook tries to shift its vast number of social network users into a virtual "metaverse." There, we will doubtless learn how correct Bagge's take was all along, as we use technology to digitally be ourselves and be bedeviled even as we are in meatspace. In some ways, as his story of guilt-ridden journalists and deluded terror hunters shows, virtual reality will give us all a chance to be even worse than we are, while at the same giving some humans a chance to have experiences the exigencies of our flesh (or our personalities) might otherwise keep from us. —Brian Doherty, Senior Editor
For your loved one who brags about only sleeping four hours a night:
Sleep-deprived friends and family in your midst? Tell them to GET IT TOGETHER, sugarplum! Better yet, say it with a gift: the plum bra-like eye mask from Bucky!
If you know someone who is sloppy and irresponsible about sleep, this is for them. It's fit for your family, your zombielike friend, and even your cranky co-worker, because good sleep is the gift that keeps giving.
Because of its unique shape, this eye mask allows the best amount of suffocation-free eyelid coverage out of any on the market. And trust me, I've tried 'em all. I've had the enticing silk eye masks, the flimsy-but-available airplane eye masks, the weighted and even SCENTED eye masks (yes they're a thing, and no they're not better than the eye bra). Yet this eye mask takes the cake. It doesn't let any light creep through the bottom, it doesn't cause puffy or mask-marked eyelids, but it DOES relieve those under-eye bags. And if you just get this for yourself and chalk up your better, well-rested personality as the gift to your loved ones, that counts too. Stop being a sleepless weirdo and go get a solid eight, OK? Peace, love, and quality Zs. Happy holidays and sweet dreams, my sugarplums. —Regan Taylor, Video Editor
For the foodie with a "sophisticated" palate:
The federal government doesn't want to let you import haggis straight from the source in Scotland, so buy a can or two on Amazon for the next best thing. It's simple to prepare (just warm it over medium-low heat in a pan for about 10 minutes) and pairs well with mashed potatoes and quality scotch, or throw it on a piece of toast with melted cheese. Don't worry about the ingredients if you're squeamish, just book your flights for Scotland so you can try the real thing. —Jason Russell, Deputy Managing Editor
For the one who's really hard to shop for:
It's so lightweight it's liquid. It's the gift that keeps on giving. When the weather outside is frightful, this little number can still make it rain. If you're looking to show your loved ones some warmth this Christmas season, there's no better way to do it than with cold, hard cash.
Most traditional gifts—be they a pair of socks, a bottle of brandy, or a heartfelt note—require the giver to have an implausible level of insight into the recipients' subjective tastes and preferences. (Guessing wrong is estimated to cost as much as $12 billion a year.)
There's no such risk with a fresh bundle of fiat currency. That stack of bills can be converted to whatever good or service the special someone in your life desires most, and at the most utility-maximizing time of their choosing.
Our current economic morass only ensures the Federal Reserve note as 2021's must-have holiday gift.
Supply chain woes will mean anything you order online will be bound to show up late. Persistent inflation is rapidly eroding the sentimental purchasing power of any greenbacks you don't shower on friends and family.
So, if you're scratching your head over what to buy dad this Christmas, run, don't walk, to the nearest ATM. Let him spend that money on something he'll cherish forever—whatever that might be. —Christian Britschgi, Associate Editor
For the anti-alarmism science nerd:
What if, instead of solving global warming, humans just dealt with it? That's the premise of sci-fi wizard Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Termination Shock, a rip-roaring doorstopper about our perilous climate future and what we might do about it. Stephenson's book takes the fact that climate change is both real and a serious problem for granted, then posits a variety of alternatives to politics as useful fixes, albeit with various consequences of their own. Along the way, he detours into a series of delightfully digressive explainers. So it's a book about geoengineering, yes, but it's also a book about supply chains, fire ants, falconry, Texas oil billionaires, Dutch royals, feral hog hunting, RV culture, rucking, drone surveillance, Sino-Indian rivalry, social media war, and obscure forms of stick fighting. It's zany, ingenious, occasionally terrifying, and terrifically entertaining, all at once, which is to say it's a Neal Stephenson novel much like we've come to expect. —Peter Suderman, Features Editor
For the gun lover who is secure in his (or her!) masculinity:
Loading handgun magazines can be a bitch, so buy your firearm-enjoying uncle one of these Maglula UpLULA Universal Pistol Magazine Speed Loaders and they'll think of you as less of one. Handy for shooters with low grip strength, arthritis, or a desire to actually load their exactly-correct-capacity 33-round glock mags all the way, this stocking stuffer ensures your loved one will turn money into noise more efficiently than ever. Sure, there are those who would say that "real men" don't need the help, and they're free to pay for range time that they'll spend loading instead of shooting. —Ian Keyser, Audio Engineer
For the one who only wants practical gifts:
Start off with this amazing Leatherman multitool, the MUT, which does everything from hammering nails to cutting through very rough surfaces to opening a nice cold beer. But if the handywoman in your life already has all the tools she needs, then I suggest the Aqua Flosser, because who likes to floss the old-fashioned way? Approximately no one. I'll admit this purchase felt like a mistake after I first used it, but after some practice, it's my absolute favorite pandemic depression buy. My advice is to use it in the shower. Clean bodies and clean teeth! —Noor Greene, Assistant Producer
For the self-avowed loser who needs a kick in the pants:
This Christmas, give the losers on your list the only book they'll ever need: How To Make Sh*t Happen, by Sean Whalen. Now, I haven't read this spunky tome myself, and I'm pretty sure I'll be breakfasting on ground glass before I do, but its promotional verbiage is a bracing blast of don't-mess-with-me.
Whalen, with his white sidewalls and inscrutable tattoos, is an imposing character just to look at. He was once a loser himself: divorced, for one ("a bad relationship will cause you to get fat"), as well as depressed and "scared to speak up." Now he describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur" and "founder of many companies," one of them a clothing line that offers red-white-and-blue adult onesies emblazoned with the motto "Lions Not Sheep." He wants to toughen you up, to save you from becoming one of those pantywaist nimrods who are "scared to talk politics at Thanksgiving dinner." Robert Bly, the Iron John author who died last month, could have used a couple of smacks from this guy.
Whalen says he's sold some 425,000 copies of the book on Amazon ($2.99 per Kindle download). Its message may seem far removed from the spirit of the sweet baby Jesus, but who cares about all that sh*t anyway? —Kurt Loder, Film Critic
For the health-conscious stoner or the lady friend who likes to take her politics to the bedroom (or both!):
Say you happen to be a dirty stoner who's recently embarked on a health kick. Say you've quit smoking cigarettes, moved away from rat-infested New York City, started drinking Soylent (because it just looks like something a healthy person would drink), and are wondering how to preserve your favorite pastime while treating your little lungs better. Enter Moose Labs' MouthPeaces, activated carbon filters that can be fitted over a joint or a bong to remove some of the resins and tar, letting you smoke even more weed than before without it taking such a toll on your lungs. Eschewing gaudy Rastafarian color options, go for the sleek, monochromatic fittings to show your smoking buddies that style's not negotiable.
Now, that's a fairly practical gift, so pick up a second option for your treasured goomah: Red Scare podcast's "Irina" thong merch, named after Tony Soprano's histrionic Russian lover, purveyor of luscious locks and constant tears. Red Scare, often referred to as "dirtbag leftist" fare, wouldn't seem like a natural fit for libertarians, but the hosts are aggressive social critics, combining Paglian worship with Laschian insights with semi-ironic appreciation for the hardened masculinity of Italian mobsters.
Though they claim otherwise, you'd have to squint to find any legitimate socialism within their hourlong episodes. Preferring instead to critique identity politicking and media-class malfeasance, hosts Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova have a lot to offer, if you can tolerate the Slavoj Zizek references and time they went on vacation with Alex Jones. In other words, both the podcast and its hosts defy expectations, and this Irina thong surely will too. Please, for the love of God, though, give this risqué item to a lady you are consensually wooing, not some random person for whom you're buying Yuletide thongs. —Liz Wolfe, Associate Editor
For the stylish gun-toter (pun intended):
Back to me. I was feeling inspired this season, which originally led me down a rabbit hole in search of the perfect gun-shaped handbag—something I am now convinced doesn't exist. But I'll do you one better: For the firearm lover in your family, I recommend checking out the wide collection of Montana West concealed carry handbags so you can protect yourself and your loved ones in style. They run quite the gamut: from crossbodies to shoulder bags, from the preppy to the more traditional, in sizes big and small. Gun rights, but make it fashion. Happy holidays, all! —Billy Binion, Associate Editor