Holiday gift-giving is a tradition that dates back roughly 2,006 years, to when the Three Wise Men went to Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Baby Jesus. Of course the next day the Virgin Mary returned these items for store credit, because she was a low-income mother with a newborn, and as the old saying goes, ''You can't diaper a baby with frankincense.''
But it was too late: The Three Wise Men had started a tradition. And in keeping with that tradition, this holiday season millions of people will spend billions of dollars to buy gifts that their friends and loved ones do not need.
For example, one holiday season seven or eight years ago, we here at the Holiday Gift Guide bought our wife a 75-pound coffee-table book on impressionist art. It may actually have been closer to 80 pounds. Whatever the actual weight, our wife definitely did not want or need it. We seriously doubt she has looked at it, or even tried to lift it, since the day we gave it to her. It is probably the least necessary thing she owns.
Why did we give this book to our wife? For the same reason that inspires most holiday gift-giving: desperation. That particular year we did not start our holiday shopping until Christmas Eve at approximately 7:30 p.m. (Usually we start earlier, around 6 p.m.) We found a store that was open, and we did nearly all of our holiday shopping there. We selected the impressionist book because it was rectangular, which is the easiest shape to wrap.
You may laugh, but you probably are no better. We bet you have bought all KINDS of comically unnecessary holiday gifts for people, to reciprocate for the comically unnecessary gifts that you know they're going to give to you. That is the spirit of the holiday season.
And that is what the Annual Holiday Gift Guide is all about. Our mission, here at Gift Guide Strategic Holiday Command Center, is to assemble a roster of gift concepts that no actual human being could possibly need; gift concepts that not only surprise the recipients, but sometimes cause them to sprint to the bathroom.
We find these items through an exhausting and highly demanding process that we call ''reading our e-mail.'' Throughout the year, people from all over the earth and beyond send us gift suggestions. We pore over these for several minutes until we have found the items that meet our exacting Gift Guide standards, which are:
STANDARD ONE: The item has to, physically, exist. All of the items in the Holiday Gift Guide are real. We have touched these items with our bare hands, and we have the skin grafts to prove it.
STANDARD TWO: The item has to be something that we can talk The Miami Herald into paying for. This rules out buying anything nice, because The Herald, like most newspapers these days, is cutting costs in every way possible. For example, we're considering reducing our ink costs by eliminating most vowels. Cn u rd ths? Gd!
STANDARD THREE: We do not walk around all day wearing one of those blinking cellphone earpieces, because those things look stupid, especially if you are not talking to anybody. (This standard has nothing to do with the Holiday Gift Guide, but we believe it is important.)
STANDARD FOUR: Standard Four has been eliminated for cost-cutting reasons.
Except in some cases, every single one of the items in this year's Holiday Gift Guide meets all of these exacting standards. That is why we are able to give you, the consumer, our
PLEDGE OF QUALITY ASSURANCE GUARANTEE WARRANTY
If you purchase any of the items featured in this Gift Guide, and you are not totally 110 percent satisfied for any reason such as a malfunction or instantaneous death by beheading, simply file a formal complaint to the United Nations Security Council. A customer-service representative will get back to you shortly. Your call is important to us.
But enough of the ''legal boilerplate.'' Let's get to our first Gift Guide item, which is the: