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By Stewart Emmens on

Oh… How Lovely… That's Just What I Wanted!

Christmas is upon us and once again we will express our affection for friends and family through the giving and receiving of gifts. What could be more pleasurable? 

Happy Christmas!
For me?... (© Photographic Advertising/NMeM / Science & Society)

Unfortunately, for every perfect gift there will also be something boring or ill-fitting… or both. And for every sure-fire liquid gift for fun-loving Uncle Joseph, there’s the annual agony of finding something for your Gran. Really, what does she need at her age?

But even the most desperately clichéd of standby Christmas gifts can sometimes be given an intriguing twist. Let’s take a stroll around our galleries and object stores and see what variations can be found.

All young children love jigsaws, don’t they? The teetering piles of puzzle boxes in many a loft may suggest otherwise, but while the novelty lasts, you could combine fun with more pragmatic outcomes – such as future job suitability. 

Form board
Just six pieces to go!... (© Science Museum / Science & Society

For more than 30 years, this colourful puzzle was used to help recruit staff at a confectionary works. So when little Alexandra joyfully completes it in record time, she’ll have the added reassurance that a career in chocolate packing is there for the taking.

Cufflinks! Gifts that are surely unwrapped, stared at incoherently, then quietly tucked away in a drawer… forever!  But surely even the most reluctant shirt wearer couldn’t resist these?

Cuff links
The fasteners of doom!... (© Science Museum / Science & Society)

For what doesn’t say “I love you” more than gold cufflinks, by Fabergé, bearing images of two strains of plague-causing bacteria?

Among more informal clothing gift standbys are, of course, the knitted woolly jumper with inappropriately bold design. 

Shorn was the sheep...(© Science Museum / Science & Society)

But when that jumper is knitted from the first fleece of Dolly the sheep (aka the first mammal cloned from an adult cell), all lapses in taste can be forgiven.

Finally, cosmetics, ‘well-being’ products and general ‘smelly stuff’ must constitute a significant proportion of gifts that ultimately remain unused and destined only to clog up bathroom cabinets for years to come. What people really want are the basics.

Two high-fat treats...(© Science Museum / Science & Society)

Who wouldn’t be happy to unwrap a colourful jar of badger fat on Christmas morning? A year long supply of (alleged) medicinal curing and great for the skin too! Here shown with a handy container of similarly efficacious horse fat – two pots you really will want to take into the shower.

Merry Christmas!

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