Are you scratching your head over what to buy the conservative gentleman in your life? Please avoid the “hideous tie so kindly meant,” the slippers, the pipe or another sweater. Choose gifts that are quality even if they are not costly. Choose consumables or treasures that will add value for Christmas and the rest of his life.
I’ve compiled a gift list for readers. If the gentleman in question is the reader he can forward the list to his significant others. “Look at this interesting list of gifts Father Longenecker has devised!!”
I hope it brings holiday enjoyment and inspiration. By some strange chance (and with a bit of ingenuity) all ten of my suggestions begin with the letter “B”—thus my “B list” of Christmas gift ideas:
So let us begin:
1. Bourbon – In 1963, Congress declared bourbon “a distinctive product of the United States.” This quintessentially American drink captures the American spirit (as it were). For the uninitiated there is a wide range of Bourbons on the market from cheap “firewater” to the smoothest and most select. With colorful names like “Jim Beam,” “Widow Jane,” “Pappy Van Winkle” and “Elijah Craig” a sip of bourbon makes an American evening more mellow. Choose one of the top ten here or shop more widely according to the personality of your gentleman through this informative website.
2. Brideshead Re-Visited – Evelyn Waugh was, perhaps, the perfect fogey. A delightful curmudgeon, he crafted some of the most hilarious stories in modern English literature. He called Brideshead Re-Visited his “GEM—Great English Masterpiece” and so it is. The book needs to be read, but the award-winning 1981 English television series is one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations available. To view the series is to step into a golden England which, even in Waugh’s time, was fading away. Don’t worry too much about the flamboyant “aestheticism” in the opening episodes. It is all resolved in the end with a satisfying “twitch on the thread.”
3. Bookends – A conservative gentleman probably collects useless things of interest, and if he does not he ought to start. He may collect stamps or coins. He might accumulate hats or fishing flies, license plates, hunting trophies, pipes or antique tools. Being bookish, I’ve started a collection of bookends. There are plenty sitting about in junk shops and grandma’s attic. Why not interest your bookish conservative gentleman in this curious, eccentric and satisfying hobby?
4. Barbatus Beard Balm – St. Augustine observed, “The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man.” A group of enterprising Catholics have developed a wonderful new product which I can recommend. Barbatus Beard Balm is a hand made product which comes in four manly, Catholic scents: Chrism, Lectio, Franciscan and Holy Smoke. This product calms stray bristles, shapes and conditions your beard and with a bit of extra grooming can help turn your bearded gentleman from a hippie-type “beardie weirdie” to a dignified Czar Nicholas lookalike.
5. Blade and Badger Brush – If he doesn’t have a beard your conservative gentleman should enjoy a hot, wet shave with style. You can get old-fashioned safety razors, straight razors, badger brushes soap mugs and all kinds of accessories at this website.
6. Book Book – Let’s face it, we like the technology, but conservatives treasure old stuff. Book Book is a company that provides hand-made leather covers for iPhones and laptops. With Book Book, your iPhone looks like a quaint little old Bible or prayer book. When closed, your laptop resembles a venerable, leather-bound tome from an ancient library. A monk friend dismissed mine as “a fake” but Book Book products put a nice cover on that technology we love to hate. Go here to check out their products.
7. Beer – There’s nothing wrong with giving consumables as a gift, and the different craft beers on the market can make a nice, festive gift. Resist the temptation to be too creative however. Remember who your conservative gentleman is. He will probably not appreciate elderflower beer, cranberry blush, or blueberry-cinnamon-flavored poo brew. Here are the top ten craft beers, and this website can help you search more widely.
8. Biographies – If you’re buying books narrow your shop and get your conservative gentleman a good biography. He’ll like reading about historical figures and will be surprised at your choice. Think about his passions and deepen his reading with a biography of a fringe character in his interest area. Does he admire the Inklings? Check out Unafraid of Virginia Woolf—Joseph Pearce’s biography of Roy Campbell, or The Fellowship—a new book which partners Owen Barfield and Charles Wiliams alongside J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
9. Boots – He needs more exercise, but jogging and suburban walking is so dull. A good pair of stout walking boots will encourage your conservative gentleman to get his exercise in the great outdoors rather than just striding around the neighborhood looking like an old git in a track suit whose doctor told him to get more fresh air.
10. Benedictine Books – The timeless spirituality of St. Benedict brings quality, common sense, and beauty into your man’s life. There is no spirituality that is more fitting for a conservative man. St. Benedict’s Rule ground his outlook in the wisdom of the past, the insights on which Western culture is founded, and the heartfelt religious commitment in which “nothing is to be preferred to Christ.” St Benedict: A Rule for Beginners is a good introduction, Seeking God is excellent and Listen My Son – St Benedict for Fathers includes daily readings from the Rule and a commentary which applies it to daily family life.
And I’ll close by recommending this poem by a “B list” poet, John Betjeman—the last stanzas reminding us about the real focus of the upcoming feast of gifts.
And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.