By Anne Gagliano
I’ve been married to a firefighter for 28 years now, and every Christmas I struggle to come up with new gift ideas to place under the tree for him. Let me restate that—NEW gift ideas—not the same old, same old. But try as I might, I seem to fall back on the proven favorites as they never fail to bring him delight. For those of you new to a firefighter Christmas, let me share with you my vast experience in this area. Most firefighters seem to like the same things, so here’s a list for your next shopping trip. These are the must-haves for your firefighter this Christmas; all have been either received by my firefighter or given to other firefighters by him.
1) Foot Stuff. I know, these are the boring-type gifts, but every firefighter’s feet get sore in those heavy, steel-tipped boots. My firefighter loves to receive extra-cushy shoe inserts, and he cherishes his heavy duty, soft, durable socks. He never has enough socks; he goes through them at an alarming rate.
2) Massage Gift Certificates. This is sure to bring a smile on Christmas morning. These can be actual, professional massages or free home-style ones for those on a tight budget. If you’re buying one from a pro, make sure it’s for “deep tissue massage”; these cost a bit more but are worth the extra for those sore, thick muscles from long hours of fighting fires.
3) A Good Work Bag. My firefighter goes through these at an alarming rate as well. They get thrown, shoved, grabbed, and packed hastily, which causes them to wear out quickly. The best ones I’ve found have been at the FDIC in Indianapolis; but if you can’t make it there, try a sporting goods store. My firefighter needs one made of durable fabric with lots of pockets for toiletries and pain pills. It should be big enough to hold several changes of clothing but not too big to shove into a locker. Darker colors are preferable for hiding dirt and soot.
4) Tools. I know, again this gets old, boring, and same-y. But firefighters always light up at the sight of tools of any kind, even if they already have them. Leatherman tools are a favorite; most firefighters carry one. A good knife with a seat-belt cutter is also highly desired. But the king-daddy of all tools my firefighter has ever received is his cherished ax. It’s super deluxe in every way, lightweight and durable. And it has an awesome leather carrying belt, also a gift. For the truckie, this is a must-have, worthy of coming from Santa himself.
5) A Gym Membership. My firefighter loves to play sports and work out. Firefighters need to stay fit to better do their job, especially as they age. This is a perfect gift in so many ways; good for them, good for you too, as exercise is the only way to burn off some of that extra adrenaline, which will help your firefighter to be good-natured. It will also help them sleep. If there is not a gym nearby, or if your budget does not allow for a membership, workout equipment for the home is also a good gift idea. Used equipment abounds on Craig’s List or eBay.
6) Cookbooks. All firefighters have to take turns cooking at my husband’s firehouse, even the officers. This is a task that is avoided at all costs, even to the point of playing “games” in which the loser must cook. My firefighter hates to cook and struggles to come up with new dishes. He’s best known for his “chili of despair” (don’t ask), so he needs a new repertoire. Many firefighters might be offended by a regular cookbook, but they will, however, take no offence to one written by another firefighter. Check out cookbooks published by Firefighters Rip Esselstyn and Kipp Rix. These and other firefighter recipe authors can be found on Firelife.com.
7) Coffee House Gift Cards. This is a perfect stocking stuffer for your firefighter. Try to get one from a coffee house near the fire station. Firefighters love to stop and get coffee on the way to work or between runs. Caffeine is a great fuel source for their high-energy work. And a hot cup of java is especially nice during a long shift on a cold winter’s night.
8) Joke/Prank/Cartoon Books. Firefighters love to laugh. It’s not just because they’re mostly large children or slightly juvenile; it’s mainly because laughter is the best medicine after a tough or stressful run. And laughter makes the firehouse an especially fun place to be. Try Paul Comb’s cartoon book for some great firefighter humor; my husband gave one to his crew and they love it.
9) A Cell Phone with a Good Camera. This is in conjunction with the last gift. Photo ops abound at the typical firehouse, as pranks and jokes are practically nonstop. A handy cell phone camera is necessary not only to capture these hilarious moments in real time but to pass them on to the firefighters who are off shift as well. Nothing is sacred; all humiliations are made public as quickly as possible via photo or text.
10) Snuggies. A snuggie, you say? Surely this must be a typo. But no, it is not. I’m talking about an actual Snuggie as seen on TV. This probably goes down in my firefighter’s history as the best gift ever received by his entire crew. A snuggie is perfect on a cold night as the firefighters gather ‘round to watch “Duck Dynasty” or “Swamp People.” They’re comfy in their chairs wrapped warmly in the softness of their firehouse snuggie, complete with patches of course. The snuggie must be blue too, as no other color will do. They look so fetching hanging neatly on the wall along with the other fire gear and will add a touch of cozy charm to any firehouse.
I hope these gift ideas help you spouses out there in your efforts to surprise and delight your firefighter this year. Merry Christmas to all, and firefighters, as always, be safe!
Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 28 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.