The holiday season is all about traditions, but these traditions differ from country to country around the world. For example:
? In Denmark, it’s traditional, on Christmas Eve, to fill a bathtub with oatmeal.
? In Russia, rural families observe the holidays by dressing a live sturgeon as a dental hygienist.
? In Bolivia, children place their shoes next to the fireplace at bedtime; when they fall asleep, the parents sneak out of the house and check into a resort hotel for several weeks.
Never miss a local story.
These are just a few of the colorful international traditions that serve to remind us, as Americans, how weird foreign people are. Of course we have holiday traditions, too, but ours are normal:
? Our retail stores let us know that the holidays are here by putting up festive holiday decorations shortly after Labor Day.
? Our radio stations remind us of the true meaning of the season by playing sacred holiday songs, such as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
? Starbucks gets us into the holiday spirit by introducing a specialty seasonal coffee beverage containing a mutant holiday ingredient, such as giblets (the “Turkey-spresso”).
? And in an endless parade of TV commercials, sellers of automobiles, jewelry, liquor, power tools, etc., urge us, in the true spirit of the season, to give money to the poor.
Ha ha! That last one was of course a joke. In fact these companies urge us to purchase their products. Because in the end, the most important holiday tradition of all is the tradition of buying things whether anybody needs them or not.
And when you’re talking about things that nobody needs, you’re talking about our annual Holiday Gift Guide. People constantly say to us: “Your Holiday Gift Guide is amazing! How on Earth do you do it?” We never answer these people, because they are imaginary. But they make a valid point: This is no ordinary gift guide. This guide is the result of literally tens of minutes of effort by our staff, which combs the internet with an actual comb, looking for unique gift items that you will not find in any other gift guide, at least not one with standards.
All of the items in our Holiday Gift Guide are real. We purchased all of them with money from a large unsuspecting corporation and subjected them to our rigorous five-step quality-control procedure:
STEP ONE: We receive the item.
STEP TWO: We remove the item from its packaging.
STEP THREE: We take a picture of the item.
STEP FOUR: We put the item back into its packaging.
STEP FIVE: We wash our hands thoroughly.
It is because of this rigorous procedure that we are able to offer our Holiday Gift Guide Money Back Guarantee: If you purchase one of these gift items, and for any reason you are dissatisfied, simply send the item to us along with $500 cash for processing, and if there is any money left over after we are done processing, you can have it back, although this frankly seems unlikely.
But enough with the “sizzle.” It’s time for the “steak!” Here are the items that “made the cut” for the 2017 Holiday Gift Guide:
$54.90 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by George Perera of Miami.
This is the ideal gift to give when you want to express the joyful holiday message: “You could stand to lose some weight.” This is a plastic food container with a lock and a timer. Let’s say you have some fudge, and you don’t want to eat any more, but you lack the willpower to stop yourself. You simply put the fudge in the safe, set the timer for the interval you want (it can be one minute to 10 days) and press the lock button. Now your fudge is totally secure, because the safe cannot be opened until the time is up, unless you get a blunt instrument and bash the safe open, which you will do within minutes, because, come on, it’s FUDGE.
We understand that the White House goes through 15 of these things a week.
BARRY MANILOW COLORING BOOK
$12.99 (free shipping) from shopmanilow.com/barry-manilow-coloring-book, suggested by Jack Brown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
There are many things wrong with today’s young people. They pay extra for jeans that look like they have been attacked by rabid moths. They stick metal things through their noses. They constantly take pictures of themselves. They call people “salty.” They live with their parents until age 37. The list of their flaws is endless. But without question one of the worst things about young people is their hideous taste in music, what with their “rap” tunes and their “hard metal.”
If you have a musically misguided young person on your holiday list, we have the perfect gift for him or her: The Barry Manilow Coloring Book. We got it from the official website of Barry Manilow, and it is everything you’d hope it would be, assuming you’d hope it would be a book of photographs of Barry Manilow that have been converted to faded line art so you can sort of color them in.
Imagine the look on some lucky young person’s face when he or she unwraps this item, along with a pack of crayons (not included) and you say, quote: “If you think this Barry Manilow coloring book is exciting, just wait until you hear his music!” Then you turn on your stereo system (not included) and the room fills with the scintillating sounds of “Copacabana” or one of the many other Barry Manilow hits from the past two centuries. Pretty soon that young person will develop an appreciation for good music. Either that, or that young person will move out of your house. Either way is good.
PORTOVINO WINE PURSE
$74.95 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Jon Harris of Christiansburg, Virginia.
Here’s the perfect gift for the fashionable lady on your holiday list who, for whatever totally innocent and legal reason, needs to carry a large hidden supply of wine. This is a stylish purse with a secret reservoir inside that can hold two bottles of wine, connected to a discreet spout on the outside for easy pouring.
This purse is a “must-have” fashion accessory for business meetings, parent-teacher conferences, funerals, Little League games, congressional testimony — anywhere you might feel a sudden need to drink two bottles of wine. We are not saying that Queen Elizabeth II carries a purse like this at all times. But we are not saying that she doesn’t.
‘MAN BUN’ KEN DOLL
$17.84 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (prices may vary).
Here’s a fun toy for the youngster on your holiday gift list who enjoys playing with dolls that are “hep” with the latest fashions. This is a Ken doll, but instead of the usual “square” Ken hairstyle, this Ken is sporting a “man bun” of the type that is highly popular among fashion-conscious men still living in the year 2015. To complete his look, ‘Man Bun’ Ken is wearing “distressed” jean shorts and a facial expression that says, “Can you believe how trendy I am?” Meanwhile Barbie is making out with Skeletor.
TOILET TROUBLE GAME
$15.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Cindy K. of Shelby, North Carolina.
Nothing says “family fun” like a malfunctioning commode. That’s the theory behind this hilarious game. Players take turns spinning the toilet paper roll, which tells them how many times they must flush the toilet. Usually the toilet just makes a flushing sound, but sometimes — this is the hilarious part — the toilet sprays water on the player. At least we hope it’s just water. The fun continues until there’s only one dry player, who is the winner. Then it’s time for another round of … Toilet Trouble! Or you could break out the vodka. We are not judging your family.
STAR WARS LIGHTSABER BARBECUE TONGS
$27.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (price may vary).
Have you ever wondered what Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and other inhabitants of the Star Wars universe do when they want to relax? The answer is, they have backyard barbecues, just like you! The only difference is, they use these special light-saber tongs, which work just like regular barbecue tongs, except that, in addition to being able to manipulate hamburgers and hot dogs, they can kill whomever they touch. So we recommend that you read the directions carefully.
MEN’S 3-D EAGLE BOXER BRIEFS
$3.95 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com.
It is an unfortunate fact that many males today are wearing boring “ho-hum” underwear that does not make a bold statement. If you know such a male, then this is the ideal gift for him. These briefs have an image of the head of a fierce-looking eagle on the front, with a “3-D effect” beak sticking out pretty much where you would expect. There is no mistaking the message sent by the man wearing these briefs, namely: “There is an eagle on my crotch.”
You can also get these briefs with a wolf’s head, but frankly that would look ridiculous.
FINGER HAND PUPPETS
$6.97 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (price may vary).
Here’s a great gift for a person who would like to add some “pizazz” to his or her hand gestures. This is a set of five tiny rubber hands that you slip on over your regular fingers. So now, when you hold up your hand, you are actually holding up five little hands! Think of the many practical uses of this gift. Seriously, think of them, and let us know what they are.
SHAKESPEAREAN INSULT BANDAGES
$7.06 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (price may vary).
Every now and then, here at the Holiday Gift Guide, we come across an item so unusual that we ask ourselves, “How did they come up with this idea, and did it involve narcotics?”
That was our reaction to these Shakespearean insult bandages. These are normal adhesive bandages, except that they are imprinted with insults written by the late William Shakespeare. So let’s imagine a scenario wherein you have (1) a minor flesh wound and (2) an annoying co-worker named Bob. You simply put your Shakespearean insult bandage over your wound, go to work, and, when Bob does something annoying, you display your bandage to him, and he reads a classic Shakespearean “zinger,” such as: “Thy wit’s as thick as Tewkesbury mustard.” Ha ha! That would certainly put Bob in his place, assuming he knows anything about Tewkesbury mustard!
Seriously, those must have been strong narcotics.
BANANA SURPRISE YUMSTATION
$6 plus shipping and handling from eBay.com (also available at Amazon.com), suggested by Bob and Judy Pert of Shediac, New Brunswick, Canada, and Janice Gelb of Melbourne, Australia.
Do you have somebody on your holiday list who would enjoy nothing more than turning an ordinary banana into a banana with syrup inside it via a laborious process? If so, this is the gift for that person.
The Banana Surprise Yumstation is a kit containing various tools for preparing the banana, and a set of instructions totaling 10 steps. These include placing the banana in the Yumstation, inserting a “coring tube” into the banana to remove its core, removing the core from the coring tube with another tool, and using a squeeze bottle to fill the interior of the hollowed-out banana with a flavoring, such as chocolate syrup.
Perhaps you are thinking: Why go to all that trouble? Why not just put some syrup on the banana?
It’s people like you who make us wonder why we even bother to create this Gift Guide.
SONGS TO MAKE DOGS HAPPY
$19.95 plus shipping and handling from Laurel Canyon Animal Company; laurelcanyonanimalcompany.com.
Here’s the perfect gift for the “four-legged friend” on your list. This is a collection of 12 songs written and performed by humans specifically for dogs. The songs, most of which are in a musical genre we would describe as “peppy,” include such titles as “Squeaky Deaky,” “You’re a Good Dog,” “Outside,” “Scratch My Back,” “I Love Food,” “I’ll Be Back” and “Cookies.”
Do these songs actually make dogs happy? To answer that question, we conducted a scientific experiment: We played this album for Lucy, who is the Official Dog of the Holiday Gift Guide, and observed her reactions. Her main reaction was to cock her head toward the speaker during the part of “Squeaky Deaky,” when you can hear a squeaky toy squeaking. Other than that one part of that one song, Lucy did not appear to be paying attention to the album, but there was no way to know for certain. It might have been making her happy. You can never really tell, with Lucy.
By way of a scientific “control” for our experiment, we also had Lucy listen to “Game of Love,” the 1965 hit by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Lucy did not appear to pay attention to that song, either. For the record — and we view this as an oversight on the part of Wayne Fontana, as well as the Mindbenders — “Game of Love” does not feature a squeaky toy.
In conclusion, if somebody on your holiday gift list would like an album of peppy songs that may or may not make dogs happy, this may or may not be the ideal gift for that person. And we stand behind that statement.
$49 plus shipping and handling from Beloved Shirts; www.belovedshirts.com, suggested by Ralph Kirshner of New Hampton, New Hampshire.
This is the perfect gift for the lady on your holiday list who would like to “make a splash” at the beach or pool. This is a woman’s one-piece bathing suit with a high-definition graphic print on the front that looks like the bare chest and belly of a hairy male. The effect is to create a unique fashion “look” that is bound to make the woman wearing this suit the center of attention. Quite possibly from the police.
GUN AND TARGET RECORDABLE ALARM CLOCK
$20.38 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, (price may vary).
We’ve all done it. We are awakened by the annoying sound of an alarm, we lose our temper, we grab a pistol or assault rifle and we fire up to 17 shots into the clock radio to make it stop. Yes, it’s satisfying. But it wastes ammunition, and it could cause serious, even fatal, harm to a perfectly good home appliance.
Well, now there is a better way to wake up, and that way is this gun and target recordable alarm clock. It’s “recordable” because you can record your own wake-up song (we recommend “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders). At the preset alarm time, your song will start playing, and a target will pop up on the clock. You can then use the included gun to shoot at the target; if you hit it, the alarm goes into “snooze” mode. Ha ha! What a fun morning you are having!
You can also use the included gun to protect yourself from home invaders, assuming they have a “snooze” mode.
Special thanks to our participants
Ruben D. Betancourt, Joey Flechas, Madeline Griffin, Miles Juste, “Chiqui” La Rocca, Wendy Mendoza, Aline Monestime, Yolanda Navas, Leslie Ovalle, David Ovalle, Jeancarlo Palladino, Rocco Palladino, Timothy Charles Probasco, Michael Purshing, Diego Quiros, Jenny Romney, Lourdes Van Aiken, Kaia Zaney, Liz Zaney, Anna Zilberberg, Heathermarie Griffin (owner of Skipping Stone Pre-School),Miami Design District, Nirvana Condominium, Omega Boutique, Titanic Brewery