The Gift Show

Dec 16, 2016

They come with ribbons, they come with tags, they come in packages, boxes and bags. On today’s show it's a seasonal special that's all about gifts. From the bizarre variety featured in the Neiman Marcus fantasy gift catalogue to our own selection of fantasy presents - and try and figure out just what they say about us.

Plus, Chanukah gifts, Native American potlatch traditions, and the pros and cons of so-called smart gifts.

It’s our little gift to all of you.

Listen to the full show:

The Fantasy Gifts of Neiman Marcus

Christmas mornings from your childhood? The endless possibilities of what could have appeared? As most of us grow up, Christmas morning loses a lot of its sparkle, but you wouldn't know that by looking at the catalogues that start piling up this time of year. Even among the glittering and cozy wares in most magazines, one stands out - the Nieman Marcus Christmas book. It offers the luxurious, the fantastic, and the frankly bizarre, and goes above and beyond to imagine what people would want to see under their tree if they let their imaginations run wild. But how does a fantasy gift guide even get dreamed up?

Ginger Reeder  is VP of Corporate Communication for Nieman Marcus, where she also curates the famous "Fantasy Gifts" collection.

The Pros and Cons of 'Smart' Gifts

Today's show is all about gifts - the good, the bad, the weird, and the smart.  Those called smart, I should say. From robotic puppies, to watches, to beds, to smoke detectors, objects that are connected to the internet and paired with apps on your phone or tablets, they all fall under the smart stuff umbrella and are quickly getting snatched up for holiday giving.  But Rob Fleischman says that not all smart objects really live up to the name. Rob is Principle Architect at Akamai, and our chief explainer of all things tech.

Chanukah Gift Conundrum

Every year the Jewish festival of lights, or Chanukah, is celebrated around the world for eight days. Chanukah starts and ends on a specific day of the Hebrew calendar, and because that doesn't line up with the Gregorian calendar, its place on the calendar appears to change from year to year. This year Chanukah lines up with Christmas and New Years, starting on the evening of December 24th and ending on the evening of January first. The traditionally close proximity to Christmas can present a conundrum for Jewish parents: how to teach children the meaning of the Festival of Lights when many of their friends are opening a pile of presents on Christmas day?

Rabbi Beth Singer is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Senior Rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

Give it All Away

Scholar Isiah Wilner talks with Backstory with the American History Guys about the tradition of Kwakwaka'wakw potlatches - gatherings where you might give not only the shirt off your back, but the roof over your head.

You can listen to this story, and the entire episode, "What Gives: Generosity in America" at PRX.org.

Wrap it Up

Whether you choose the Sunday funnies, an elaborate printed paper festooned with glitter and snowflakes, or a shiny gift bag stuffed with tissue, chances are you will practice a time honored ritual and use some form of paper to conceal the gifts you plan to give out this holiday season.

It's estimated that Americans spend upwards of three billion dollars a year on gift wrap, and most of that gets ripped off and thrown away in mere seconds.

Jude Stewart is a journalist who covers design and visual culture and we've invited her on to talk about the history of gift wrapping.