The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

December 16, 2013

How to Keep People from Hating You This Christmas

Christmas gift guide
Drew Larson

When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, there are two kinds of people in the world: people who will give you a list, and people who hate you.

People who will give you a list love you and are your true friends. They know that the Christmas landscape is stocked with a nearly infinite number of invisible pitfalls, and they want to do everything they can to keep you from stumbling into them and breaking your eggnog-carrying leg. They also understand that you probably want to give awesome presents but that you might have a tragic flaw (like being male) which impedes that mission, and thus need all the help you can get.

Trust me, lists are your friends, as are the people who give them to you.

But in case you need help, here are some suggestions.

Gifts to Avoid

  • Toys that make noise. 
  • Clothing of any kind. Really anything that requires a size.
  • Anything associated with a chore unless it is a humongous riding lawnmower.
  • Anything that suggests an area for self-improvement.
  • Whatever hot item is causing people to riot at the mall and thus highlighting the decaying state of Western civilization.
  • Animals (even if it’s so cute and they promised a hundred times that they’ll take care of it this time).

Great Gift Options

1. Something food-related.

  • Kitchenware. Think cups, plates, silverware, etc.
  • Sweets. Especially strong moves include chocolate-covered cherries, anything from the doughnut family, and that giant tub with the three different flavors of popcorn inside.
  • Coffee. The farther it originates from America, the better it will taste to your recipient.   
  • Weird spices. Same as above.

2. Books.

  • DevotionalsNot many wrong moves here.  
  • Jim Gaffigan’s new book, Dad Is Fat. Jim Gaffigan is the total package as a comedian: hilarious, works pretty clean, nominally Catholic, churns out new material every year. Christians love the guy, and the book is great.
  • Sentimental-but-secretly-super-deep children’s booksFor example, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little Prince, Tuck Everlasting (etc.).
  • IVP titles. For the sake of unity, we would never want to put down other publishing companies (such as <name redacted>, <name redacted>, and <name REALLY redacted>), but IVP is going so strong constantly that if Mr. Clean were the mascot, he would be towel-snapping the Brawny guy with his own flannel shirt and getting tested for steroids daily.

3. Board games.

I’ve had some bad luck with board games as Christmas presents, including the time I bought Puerto Rico for my brother who then left it in the original wrapper under his bed for 365 days and re-gifted it to me the following Christmas. Still, they can be awesome gift ideas for the loved ones in your life who are not my brother, of which I suspect there are quite a few.    

4. Subscriptions to stuff.

  • A year’s share of Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). Double-dips the food category as a bonus. Plus it’s creative, fun, and healthy. The one caveat is that CSAs can get pricey, especially if you choose one of the few in America that contain less than 90 percent zucchini and squash each month.
  • Netflix/Hulu Plus/_______ of the Month.
  • Magazines. Hear me out on this. The Internet is great, but it’s exhausting to sift through millions of websites just for good stuff to read. Wouldn’t it be nice if, once a week, someone combed through the news and delivered awesome, useful information or stories to your house—and on paper? Wouldn't that be a relief? Plus: (1) you can just look at a magazine when it shows up and then recycle it, (2) you don’t need to install f.lux to read it at night, and (3) you can’t open up your email halfway through an article. People are also often flattered by the magazine you give them. For example, subscriptions to The Economist and Entertainment Weekly say, “I respect your intellect, but I also know you secretly want the latest on Doctor Who.” I’m telling you, magazines are the sneaky great Christmas gift of 2013. 

5. 2014 calendars.

Almost fool-proof, and everybody can use them. If you’re completely unsure, stick to The Far Side or puppies. For more adventure, branch into other comic strips, find Chicken Soup for the [Insert Demographic Here], or purchase a 2013 calendar just to see if they’ll notice.

6. Anything to help people get organized.

This is almost a violation of category 4 under “Gifts to Avoid.” It works because people who are already well-organized love to get even more organized, and the rest of us are so optimistic that it’s almost a mental-health issue. “Checklists and storage bins? I’ll never lose anything or forget that I’m supposed to be someplace ever again! You’re the best!”     

7. Straight-up cash.

Nothing says “You get me” like opening an envelope stuffed with some whatever-you-wants. Go to town! You are your own best Santa.**

**The new Christmas-themed self-help book, available now at your local Walgreens.

8. Something homemade.

The best of both worlds: It costs very little, and if they don’t love it they’re basically a terrible person.

9. Anything to do with their favorite sports team.

You can buy the lamest trinket in the history of the universe for people, but if it has the logo of their favorite sports team on it they will never stop hugging you. Trust me—I own the 1991 Fiesta Bowl on DVD for exactly this reason.

10. Save-the-world stuff.

Another option is to opt out of the gift-giving thing altogether and instead partner up with your intended gift-recipient for some good old fashioned world-saving. You could participate in Advent Conspiracy, for example, or sponsor a child through Compassion or World Vision. Support whatever organization is trying to bring about the world change you or your gift-recipient are passionate about. 

Who knows? If you choose this route, you might end up with a genuinely soul-nourishing Advent. One quick word of caution, though: major props if you go this route, but keep an eye on how hard you pat yourself on the back about it. When you arm-wrestle Consumerism with Self-Righteousness, everyone loses.

What's the ONE killer Christmas present we missed on this list? Help us out in the comments below. And Merry Christmas!

Drew Larson

Drew Larson works as a writer on InterVarsity’s Communications Team in Madison, WI. He tweets and used to blog at


We've been trying to do more with alternative giving in the last few years. It can still be personal! "Dad, I know how much you love having company over for holidays, so for $25 we were able to provide a Christmas meal to 10 people who have been displaced." Or scholarshiping a soccer camp for someone living in poverty in honor of my 10 year old, soccer-playing nephew. But we haven't let that replace giving something tangible that connects in some way with a quality we appreciate in the loved one we're buying for. A well-chosen gift is truly a blessing, to give or receive. In the midst of this greedy, consumeristic season i long to find a balance between bucking the system and also taking every opportunity to express love to those closest to me. It's just not easy.
What about trying a money gift to Advent Conspiracy? Give a gift of clean water to someone you don't know and give the person on your "giving list" a lovely card telling them how much you enjoy their company and the kindness you did in their name.
On your Great Gifts list, you forgot to mention Gift Cards! They're like giving money, but with class instead of crass.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Email addresses will be obfuscated in the page source to reduce the chances of being harvested by spammers.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.