Escaping the tyranny of Christmas gift-giving

Photo: asenat29 / Wikimedia Commons

Photo: asenat29 / Wikimedia Commons

Emily C. Skaftun
Norwegian American Weekly

The hardest things about Christmas (other than watching helplessly as Christmas swallows other holidays in its quest for domination—goodbye, Thanksgiving; watch out, Halloween) is the gift giving.

For many of us, the holiday is one of few times we see our family throughout the year. We may not know them very well, but we know one thing: we are expected to buy them something. We are expected to come up with presents for family, for friends (but just how far out along the friend tree we must go is a mystery), sometimes for co-workers and neighbors, maybe even for our postal carrier.

What in the heck can we get these people?

While I’d like to humbly suggest that a subscription to the Norwegian American Weekly is a one-size-fits-all solution (gift subscriptions are a steal at only $59—see details below), I recognize that there are some situations in which that just won’t do. Weirdly, some people aren’t even Norwegian. More’s the pity for them, right?

I have tried to escape the Christmas gift-giving tyranny before, with limited success. One year I bought Heifer International chickens in everyone’s names. Watching your loved ones open up their certificates saying that someone in some foreign country has received a chicken, when they were expecting maybe a gift card, is pretty entertaining. But if you want them to like you, I don’t recommend going this route. Charity gifts are wonderful, but they do make you look like a smarmy jerk, especially if everyone else went the conventional gift route.

I would like to propose an alternate solution to ease the pain of gift-giving and ensure that everyone gets just what they want: registries.

Aside from Christmas, one of the biggest compulsory gift-giving occasions is a wedding. Weddings are easier for a few reasons: there are some standard gifts that you know you can always give at a wedding, and since most people only have one (or at least they aren’t very frequent), you can give the same tried-and-true gift at every one you go to; cash is universally loved, even in small amounts; and, most importantly, every couple has a registry (or several!).

While some people find the idea of a registry tacky, they’re undeniably useful. Buy something from the list and you know the couple will love it. After all, they picked it! There’s always a range of prices, and you’re guaranteed success, even if you don’t know the couple very well. Easy-peasy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a registry? If every gift-giving occasion was as simple as those registry-aided weddings and showers? We can make this a reality within our lifetimes.

There are already a number of ways to create your own personal gift registry. has a “wish list” section that users can add items to. Since they sell just about everything ever made, you can use it to make a pretty complete list of things you’d like to have. You can also search for other people’s lists. It’s all public. is another site. I haven’t used it, but at a cursory glance it seems prettier than Amazon, and it has the benefit of not being limited to things Amazon sells. You can add items from local stores, or from any online retailer, or tastefully express a preference for cash.

The main issue with this, as I see it, is that it isn’t currently common practice. Right now it might seem kind of weird, even selfish or narcissistic, to announce that you have a gift registry. They’ll look at you funny. They may even make jokes. Interpret this as the vague nervousness that people have when confronted with a truly novel, world-changing idea. You are simply too avant-garde for them.

I believe that once people start using each other’s registries they’ll see how simple and effective they make gift-giving, and the trend will catch on. Soon it will be normal, as the holiday season approaches, to hear the question, “Where are you registered?”

Someday, perhaps an issue such as this Holiday Gift Guide edition of NAW will be obsolete. But we do not yet live in that utopian future. So, with no further ado, I welcome you to our gift guide. There are a lot of gems on the pages to come, things worthy of adding to your own wish list, or to surprise that special someone on your list with. And, of course, each and every one of our amazing advertisers has oodles more to offer. Check out their online stores or the brick-and-mortar locations near you for so much more than we could fit in these pages.

Enjoy! May your holiday shopping be effortless, and may all your gifts be well received.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 21, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.