The 12 Relatives of Christmas (and what to give them)

22 Dec

Robert Downey Jr. described families best in one of my favorite movies, Home For The Holidays:

“You’re a pain in my ass. You have bad hair. But I like you a lot.”

Our relatives are “eccentric”, but we love them and we’d like to make them happy this holiday season. Here’s a list of quick and cheap (and last minute!)  gift ideas for that bat s@%! crazy group of people we call family:

1.  Your Do-I-Have-to-Do-Everything Sister: Pillowcase Apron

She’s picked Mom up for her doctor’s appointment, loaned your brother money, baked the cookies for her son’s class party, organized this summer’s family reunion, put her dinner on the table and had jeeeessst enough time left in her hectic day to call you and tell you about it. Show her that you recognize all the hard work she refuses to let anyone else take over for her by making her a beautiful pillowcase apron. It says “I recognize that you do a lot for everyone. Here’s something to make you feel a little more special while you’re doin’ it. Now get back in that kitchen and bake me some cookies.”

2. Your Camus Quoting First Year Student Cousin: Sweater Laptop Bag

Last winter, you religiously watched CSI together. This winter, he only watches it ironically. Little cousin has come back from his dorm room for the holidays with new favorite books, films, and political causes and you haven’t heard of any of them. Best not to push your luck getting him that book of fart jokes you were planning on. Why not make him a handy dandy sweater laptop bag from an old sweater? He’ll love that it’s “upcycled” and that the sweater is “so 1995”.

3. Your Hippy Dippy Sister-in-Law: A Plant

This is the relative that always gets reeeally close to your face before she asks, How are you? She’s unschooling the kids, making yogurt, and recycling her own feces. Everything you can think of to get her has ingredients she considers harmful to the mind, body, or soul. So here’s an old school present you can get her that will delight her senses as well as Mother Earth: a plant. People forget sometimes how much a plant can brighten up a room, especially in Gloomuary and Februsad. And there’s so many varieties, you’re sure to get one that fits your giftee’s personality. Whether it’s succulent plants or an amaryllis, your in-law will be able to enjoy bringing nature into her home. Plus it will give her a place to experiment with that “fertilizer” she’s been making.

4. Your Bratty Godchild: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

Sage advice from Sh*t My Dad Says: “Everybody’s broke so here’s the rule for Christmas this year: if you still sh*t your pants, you get a present. If not, tough sh*t.” A good rule to go by, except this means that you have to buy something for your friend’s awful bratty child, who always points out your pimples and has a screaming tantrum every time she’s in public. So give her some sage advice of her own, with a new or gently used copy of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is a darling older woman who cures children of impoliteness, messiness, noisiness, and anything else you can think of and she does it in the most creative and charming of ways. I seriously believe it was the inspiration for SuperNanny. They’re based on bedtime stories that the author, Betty MacDonald, would tell her children. The stories make for great lessons but can also be read just for fun as a family. Start a tradition of getting her one book every year for Christmas until the series is complete or she stops hiding your shoes when you come to visit. Whichever comes first.

5. Your Forever Sick Great Uncle: Knit Collar

If there’s one guy you want to avoid at the holiday dinner table, it’s the relative who talks about all their recent surgeries, weird moles and bowel movement activity. Even if all he has to complain about is the common cold, it’s somehow the worst most sufferable strain of cold ever to reach mankind. If you know someone like this, give him something to keep that disease ridden winter air away by knitting him a Knit Collar on the Knifty Knitter. Though you might not think to make these neck snuggies for a man, with the right yarn and color, they can look very masculine, even dashing. Just add some Kleenex to the gift so his nose doesn’t run all over your cozy creation.


6. Your Man’s Man Grandpa: Car Kit

It’s hard to buy a gift for the man who can make/lift/fix everything if you “just move your damn hands so I can see it!” Can’t get him cologne because he thinks the smell of his sweat is an indicator of how hard he works. Can’t get him a movie because he’s never sat through an entire one. So instead, get Grandpa something he’ll find useful like this manly car kit Martha Stewart suggests. A compass, a knife, and a map and this man’s man will be able to find his way out of any jam except the traffic kind.

7. Your Night-Shift Zombie Dad: Cinnamon Coffee

If you’ve got a relative that is going through a busy season at work, like someone who works retail, chances are they’re walking zombies by the time the actual holiday rolls around. The routine is so monotonous, the only thing that’s different for them from day to day is their socks, which are mismatched because they have no time to do laundry. You’ll know this relative by the bloodshot eyes, the crumpled brow, and the fact that all your Christmas presents from them came from the gas station closest to their house. You can’t afford to get them a vacation, but you can give them a gift that will break up their daily zombie walk: cinnamon coffee (AKA, mix some tablespoons of cinnamon into a can of cheap ground coffee and transfer it to your own bag so it looks homemade). It’s simple for you because you just jazz up regular old coffee with some cinnamon or nutmeg and great for your giftee because that whiff of winter spices might be just enough to rouse them from their waking slumber for a moment and remember that it tis the season to be jolly.

8. Your I-Just-Decided-to-Start-Sleeping-til-Noon Niece: Eye Mask

Speaking of zombies, how about the teenager in your life who’s always yawning? You forgot what color her eyes are, it’s been so long since you’ve seen them open. Every teen goes through this stage so no use trying to get in the Sandman’s way. Make her sleep even better by giving her a homemade eyemask like this one from Jazz it up further by stitching something like “OMG I’m so tired” or “Bieber Dreamin'” onto the mask. She’ll probably roll her eyes when she opens it, but rest assured she’ll…uh…rest assured.

9. Your June Cleaver Gone Wild Mom: Mulling Spices

She’s hung the stockings, made all the hot dips, bought the gifts and called you about a gazillion times to ask you where you want your stocking hung, what kind of hot dips you want to eat, and what you want for Christmas. Moms does it up this time of year and even if she got you fired from your job for accepting too many personal calls, she still deserves a nice gifty poo from You-ta Claus. How about relaxing those holiday nerves of hers with some mulled wine fixins.

Here’s the how: grab about a tablespoon each of ground cardamom, ground cloves, and allspice. Combine them in a bowl, then scrape some orange peel in there. After that, spoon the mix into 4 different squares of cheesecloth or muslin, throw two or three cinnamon sticks in, and tie it off with string. Wrap it up for mom with some mulling instructions and wine or cider. Mom will be so busy enjoying herself, she may even forget to call and ask if you’ve worn the new pants she crocheted you yet.

10. Your Elf That Never Grew Up Little Sister: Ornaments

There’s always one sib (in my family, it’s probably me) who still wants everyone to sleep in the same bed Christmas Eve waiting for Santa even though the whole crew is over 30. Let little sister know you appreciate her holiday spirit without moving back in with Mom and Dad. Make or buy her special holiday ornaments. They say, “Celebrate Christmas every day! At your own house.”

I like to find old ornaments at thrift shops and personalize them by writing loved ones’ names  on wooden ornaments or Mod-Podging a design onto glass bulbs. You can also buy a variety of generic Christmas ornaments at various stores. And the glory of the last minute shopper? They’ll be on sale!

11. Your Know-It-All Older Brother: Magazine Subscription

When you were younger, he hurt your head with noogies. Now he hurts it with painfully numerous facts and did-you-knows. It’s too late to tell him you don’t care about the basketball trivia or how many times a hummingbird flaps its wings per minute (but did you know that bears don’t even poop when they’re hibernating?). Just give in to the know-it-all, and maybe help him find some more interesting facts to share with the following magazine subscriptions:

12. Your Drunk Uncle: Wine, duh.

Christmas is no time for interventions. Grab some 2 Buck Chuck and resolve to stop by after the new year to make sure he didn’t pass out in his own vomit.


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