The Swanson Guide to Holiday Shopping

Ron Swanson here. Christmas is happening soon, and as you might imagine, December is hardly my favorite time of year. Every radio station is inundated with at least six versions of the same awful holiday tunes, those Salvation Army people give me a headache, and the city wastes more residential tax dollars on flamboyant electricity than could ever be deemed fiscally responsible.

Not pictured: responsibility.

It would be easy, of course, for me to play the Grinch card ad infinitum (I’m barely capable of holiday tolerance anyway, let alone cheer), but over the years, I’ve learned to channel my hatred for Yuletide sentiments into woodworking projects. This usually starts the day after Thanksgiving. Then, every December 23rd, I donate the scraps (usually a mixture of treated pine, cherry, and mahogany) to local school districts for general shop class use. Big Government and I don’t agree on many things, but holiday tax deductions are one of those things.

Naturally, gift-giving isn’t really a pastime of mine. When it comes to Christmas, birthdays, and other “holidays” saddled with obligatory contributions, I’ve traditionally gone the cash route. If you receive a bank-issued envelope filled with a crisp $20 bill and absolutely nothing else, you’re not asking for a receipt. Last Christmas, however, I started to see things a little differently after getting surprised with one of the best possible gifts I can imagine.


What struck me most about this particular gift was, at its core, the honesty behind its intentions. Leslie knows exactly how much public interaction can infuriate me, and every time those doors swing closed, I’m reminded of her acceptance of me as an occasionally reclusive friend and colleague. This is precisely as exasperating as it is refreshing.

This year, in the spirit of Leslie’s past genuine…ness, I’ve decided to actually put some thought into the gifts my friends, family, and coworkers will receive for Christmas. Not too much thought, mind you. Just enough thought for them to appreciate there’s not an envelope in their hand instead. Here’s a handy guide for everyone on your shopping list.

For the parents:

Rustic weekend getaway (or a phone call)

This gift depends almost entirely on how well your folks reared you during those first 18 years of existence. If you’re over the age of 25, do a quick spot check: Are you gainfully employed? Living independently on your own income?  Do you have health benefits? A 401K? A bear rug? If you can respond to all of these queries in the affirmative, then congratulations, your parents did OK. Reward them with a relaxing weekend getaway at your cabin in the Catskills. Stock the fridge with meat, Rolling Rock, and white zinfandel, and slide the keys to the front door across the table during your Christmas morning grits. Dad will know what they’re for.

If you answered in the negative to any of those questions, a ten-minute phone call to your parents on Christmas morning should suffice. To tell them how your job hunt is going, dummy.

For the sibling/s you like:



People complain about gifts made of gold about as much as they do gifts made of cash, but the former is a bit classier than the latter. I’m also an experienced smelter, and nothing says “Merry Christmas” like an American eagle statue made out of solid gold from your own (alleged) vault.

For the sibling/s you don’t:


Also gold

More golden statues, but smaller. They’ll figure out why eventually, and you won’t even have to open your mouth. Win-win.

For the alcoholic:


Macallan 12 Year

Few are gifted with the alcohol tolerance of a Swanson, and every family’s got at least one member who takes things a bit too far when they hit the bottle. Call me an enabler if you like, but most alcoholics can’t afford the good stuff, and if I have to be around one for an extended period, I may as well gift them something I don’t mind drinking myself. So in a way, this is a gift for me too, and it comes it its own box already. Another win-win.

[Note: this is a dangerous idea if you yourself are the alcoholic of the family.]

For the old:


Handcrafted walking stick

It’s a fact of life: if you are old (or in the process of becoming old), you will eventually need a walking stick. Luckily, this is the easiest woodworking project in existence. You just start with the limb of strong tree and work backwards. Hell, I crafted all the walking sticks you see above in just under two hours.

[Bonus: these things are great for clobbering the alcoholic when that Macallan inevitably gets out of hand.]

Have a tolerable holiday season, everyone.


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