A pandemic may be robbing us of our traditional sense of the holidays, but nothing will ever, ever take away our tidings of
capitalism comfort and joy. If there’s one thing being trapped inside my house for the past nine months has taught me it’s that I need more stuff to clean, and that I should probably replace my entire wardrobe with nothing but pajamas because there’s no way I’m ever going back to real pants. This is a brave new world, baby, and it’s time to reinvent ourselves for the future that lies ahead—a future where we pledge allegiance to our favorite corporations with cheeky sweatsocks, ugly Christmas sweaters, and clothing for dogs.
This holiday season we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite food-related swag shops, branded nonsense, and meat-scented paper products; we’ll keep updating this list as companies keep wowing us with examples of gifts we’d like to receive in the event that our families are actually reading this site like they say they are.
Back in the simpler times of January, Mr. Peanut died a brutally tragic death in a freak Peanutmobile acident. We should have realized that the 104-year-old’s shocking demise was a harbinger of more batshit things to come, so what better way to memorialize the year than by hanging the four-wheel deathbox that burned him alive on your Christmas tree? You can buy that ornament and so much more in Planters’ holiday shop, which, truly, has some pretty killer merch, like a Cheez Ball t-shirt and not one, not two, but three ugly holiday sweaters. If you choose not to focus on Mr. Peanut’s death but rather his resurrection as Baby Nut, there’s but a single piece of merchandise to celebrate the miracle: the Baby Nut plush doll. The ostensible reason for this is because peanuts age rapidly, and by August Baby Nut had grown into a strapping young 21-year-old man who went by the name “Peanut Jr.” This week I received an email from Planters informing me that he is now 50-years-old, and is going by the name of Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe, or “Bart” for short. (I will absolutely not be calling him Bart.) Now that we know how peanut-years work I’m about to run some numbers, and have calculated that at the time of his death, Mr. Peanut was approximately 5,200-years-young. Suck on those nuts, Methuselah!
I’m a little jealous that I’ve never been to Whataburger and developed the sort of deep, spiritual connection it apparently inspires, because judging by the sheer number of products in its holiday shop, Whataburger is not just a fast food restaurant: it’s a lifestyle. There are shower curtains and scrunchies, bowties and baubles, shirts, hats, and so many shoes. Want the neighbors to know which god you’re really praying to this Christmas? Put a $69.99 inflatable table tent out on your lawn and declare your fealty to the Church of Beef and Cheese. If you don’t need a holiday to praise the lard, go a step further and hang this $99.99 LED neon sign in your window. But of all the wonderful products found in the Whatastore, none is as beautiful and precious as the limited-edition Whatakid with Fries Snowbaby, an absolute bargain at only $32.99. What is a Snowbaby, you ask? You can go Google that one for yourself, because a whole chorus line of the little fuckers took center stage in my nightmares last night and no matter how much I love you all, I am not going back into that accursed realm of porcelain puppies and children with dead eyes.
The thing I love most about HoneyBaked Ham is the directness of its name; on an average day you might not be thinking you’re in the mood for ham, but you drive past one of its locations and see the sign, and immediately you’ve got a hankering for a big ol’ pile of that sweet honey-baked pig meat. Even if it’s not at the forefront of your mind, your heart is always open to receiving ham, so it stands to figure that when it comes to holiday gifts, the same logic applies. You might not think your mom needs a $49.99 spa kit that includes a ham-scented candle (with 75-hour burn time!), a “Dreaming of Ham” eye mask, and a set of aromatherapy bath balls, but now that you know these sorts of things exists, can you honestly think of a single thing your mom would want more? Maybe you could buy her this $25 ham hammock, too, so she has somewhere to relax outside of the bathtub. And don’t forget to grab a $25 set of Hamjamas for her to lounge around in, because if you’re giving the gift of ham-based luxury, it’s go big or go home.
The entire concept of branded swag was pretty much invented by Taco Bell, because when you’re high and full of chalupas at 2 a.m. you’ll pretty much buy anything the internet tells you to. And while Taco Bell could have easily made its merch complete garbage, it didn’t; I normally balk at giving brands my hard-earned money so that I can do their advertising for them, but hot damn I would have no ethical issues with wearing most of Taco Bell’s mad cute t-shirts, nor would I have a problem dressing my cat in Taco Bell formalwear. Unsurprisingly this years’ holiday shop is full of extremely covetable items; aside from the usual “extra festive” apparel, there’s a rather magical $30 snow globe featuring a model of Taco Bell’s original location, and a $200 inflatable Fire Sauce packet that can turn any lawn into the classiest on the block. Yes, it’s essentially a six-foot tall Taco Bell billboard that you pay them to erect on private property, but truthfully, Fire Sauce is not something that needs to be advertised as much as it needs to be celebrated.
Believe it or not, some good stuff happened this year. Like babies! Plenty of people brought brand spankin’ new humans into the world, and it is these humans who shall one day save us from the robot apocalypse. Get on their good side early by gifting them a personalized Babybel onesie at the Babybel Boom online shop. It’s a holiday fashion statement that lets them know you find them as scrumptious as cheese, which truly is the highest compliment anyone can receive. Bonus: each onesie comes with a coupon for free cheese, which the babies can’t eat because they’re babies. So it’s a gift to their parents, too.
Chipotle has released a “cozy capsule of holiday goods” in its online store. This year’s holly jolly theme is “minimalism,” a concept I’m not familiar with when it comes to branded swag and am unsure how to react to. Do I need a $40 pair of plain black sweatpants that only broadcasts my love of Chipotle on the mostly non-visible drawstring? Or what about a pajama shirt that eschews Chipotle’s branding altogether in favor of the word “extra” printed over and over, Jack Torrance–style, in silver sparkles? Chipotle’s swag might not be as flashy as that of its competitors, but then again, nothing about Chipotle has ever come off as ostentatious. Over-the-top people who desperately need everyone to know about their passion for burritos have always been more at home at Taco Bell. Chipotle people are the kind of folk that appreciate the company’s commitment quality ingredients, now reflected in the organic cotton of Chipotle’s rather smart-looking beanies. If the burrito lover on your list already has enough winter apparel, you can still gift them the sort of joy only fast-casual food can bring by wrapping their presents in $45 Chipotle wrapping paper.
Too many people have been buying ugly Christmas sweaters as gifts over the past few years, which has led to a surplus of irony in closets from coast to coast. No one needs to own more than two ironic holiday sweaters, and even that is pushing it, since after December 31 they stop being “fun” and go back to being ugly. A select few brands have managed to pull off this holiday marketing gimmick, though, and Krispy Kreme is one of them. I mean, look at those people in the picture! They’re both wearing the same sweater, and they’re so happy about it because it’s just that damned good looking. There’s actually quite a number of items in the Krispy Kreme holiday shop that look like they could bring lasting fun to your torso all year round, like this $45 “Hot Now” hoodie that I’m currently salivating over like it’s a warm glazed donut. The shop also features plenty of standard corporate swag, like Christmas ornaments, mugs, T-shirts, hats, and the best stocking stuffer in all of history: scrunchies.
If you’re tired of arguing with that special someone about the merits of ketchup, you might want to grab them some apparel from Heinz’s brand-spankin’-new online store, so total strangers can pick fights with them about nature’s most divisive condiment in public. Ever see a bunch of people on a municipal bus screaming about whether or not ketchup belongs on a hot dog? That’s the sort of joy and merriment you can bring to your entire neighborhood, which makes these items the gifts that keep on giving. If you’d rather your loved ones not get into any ketchup-related physical altercations, Heinz also has a pickle ornament that can turn any tree into a complete meal, and a mustard T-shirt that won’t ship until after Christmas is over. Maybe bookmark that page so you’ll be ready to go for when it’s time to buy Valentine’s Day gifts. (Yellow mustard can be very sexy, you know.)
Have you ever dreamed about grilling a turkey with a beer can jammed up its tuchus and then had to sit idly by as the laws of physics murdered those dreams? Budweiser is gifting us a blessing, ensuring that never again shall anyone’s holidays be marred by uncooperative poultry with the first-ever Bud Can Turkey stand. Crack open a tallboy, set it into the stand, plop your turkey down, and toss it on the grill. (To ensure your resurrected dreams don’t die a second, more brutal death, make sure your grill is big enough to fit a turkey before you start making any big plans.)
Moving beyond Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch’s official online store has an utterly ridiculous amount of swag for several of its most popular brands, and yes this absolutely includes the King of Beers: Natty Light. Why not let your fancy friends know you love them with a $150 flamingo-embroidered belt, or a giant flag so they can share their insatiable thirst for Natty Light hard seltzer with the world? If their tastes are a bit more refined, perhaps a set of two Michelob Ultra golf clubs for $935, or an authentic Clydesdale coat-lined wallet for $140? Truly, there’s not a human being alive who couldn’t benefit from the lessons of Blaze: The Clydesdale Who Never Gave Up.
Frito-Lay’s Holiday Shop is surprisingly practical, which I did not expect in a year that gave us fried chicken shoes and a talking recliner that doubles as an ordering system for hot pretzels. It’s a mathematically satisfying store, too: each of its five most popular brands (Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, Lay’s, and Smartfood) get the same five items to lend their iconic motifs to: holiday sweaters, pom beanies, knit scarves, fuzzy socks, and hooded onesies. Maybe next year will bring us Cheeto caftans so I can gradually introduce a bit of elegance back into my post-pandemic life.
The ever popular Jimmy Dean Recipe Gift Exchange is back this year for all you sausage-loving maniacs. Now through December 11, if you make a holiday recipe with Jimmy Dean sausage, take a photo of your creation, upload it jimmydeangiftexchange.com, you can win a sausage-themed gift. It’s not even Thanksgiving and already the Sausage-Mint Bark, Sausage Patty Sled, and SausageBuds are out of stock, but if you act quickly, you may be able to score a “Jigsausage” puzzle, sausage-scented wrapping paper, or a glass sausage Christmas ornament before supplies run out.
Sour Patch Kids has a new line of limited-edition candy boxes and winter-inspired merch in its Naughty Then Nice Shop. If you’ve also like that to be name of your bedroom, give your lover the gift of candles that smell like frikkin’ Sour Patch Kids. (Available in watermelon, blue raspberry, redberry, and “general Sour Patch scent.”) Pamper them with luxurious aromatic bath bombs and tight boxer briefs. Find something to do with this. Or just buy a whole bunch of socks, shirts, and candy, because who doesn’t need more of those things.
There’s still days to go before Black Friday, and these are all the things that Dunkin’s official holiday shop has already sold out of: shirts, pants, bathrobes, onesies, scrunchies, dog leashes, Keurigs, aprons, scarves, gloves, lunchboxes, and wrapping paper. The good news is that there’s still some mini-fridges, twin-sized duvet covers, and tandem bicycles to go around, which makes me wonder if something has gone horribly wrong inside Dunkin’s purchasing department.
While almost all the Gen Z–friendly merch is gone, there’s plenty of old-people-friendly Dunkin’ merch for Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials alike to enjoy. This year’s shop is all about personalization and will let you slap any name you wish on an official “Runs on Dunkin’” laptop sleeve, iPhone case, long-sleeve T-shirt, or adjustable baseball cap. You’ve got room for 11 letters, meaning that “Turd Ferguson” won’t fit on anything, but “Farts McGee” can.
Ranch dressing awakens all sorts of feelings in all sorts of people, from the tiniest babies who slurp its creamy goodness out of sippy cups to the grizzled old-timers who swig it from a flask. At times it can be comforting like a warm blanket, or seductive like a high-cut swimsuit. It’s debatable if ranch dressing looks good on pizza, but but ranch dressing and pizza sure do look good together on a button-down shirt. The Hidden Valley Shop gives us so many ways to share our hearts with adults, infants, and dogs this holiday season, because if all the world’s a salad, then ranch dressing is the love.