CDs? Please. Friends who really care give the gift of local vinyl. This year, take your pick from The Decemberists’ What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love, El Vy’s Return to the Moon, Pure Bathing Culture’s Pray for Rain, or Pfarmers’ Gunnera. $17–22 at Music Millennium.
With its an eye-popping sequence of 150 infographic maps—charting everything from racial diversity to security camera locations, ghost sightings, and breweries arranged by bitterness—Portlandness: A Cultural Atlas should be required reading for newcomers and natives alike. $25 at Powell’s
Classically choosy? Oregon Symphony’s Flex Pass lets you mix-and-match from its Classical, Pops, and Kids Series concerts. Subscriptions come in packages of 6 or 12 tickets, so you can treat the whole clan to a "Gospel Christmas," or make the music last through May (with options ranging from virtuosic violinist Simone Lamsma to “the Sinatra Century”). $156–$780 at Oregon Symphony.
Investing in local artists is a win for the city and your walls, with options to suit most budgets. Souther Salazar’s fantastical, satin-finish prints will delight your inner—or actual—child ($40 at Souther Salazar). Further (OK, a lot further) up the scale, Ellen Lesperance creates subtly formal, politically rooted patterned works on tea-stained paper. (Pictured right: We Have No Leaders Here, All the Stars Are in the Sky. $6,500 at Adams and Ollman).
For a classic holiday-themed treat, tickets to OBT’s annual performance of The Nutcracker offer Balanchine’s beloved take on synchronized snowflakes and toys come to life. (From $25 at Oregon Ballet Theatre.) If ballet’s not your thing, Portland Center Stage’s Great Expectations brings Dickensian orphan Pip’s rags-to-riches adventures to the stage, with Dana Green as the iconic and intriguingly unhinged Miss Havisham. (From $25 at Portland Center Stage.)
From a fifth-grade Madonna concert to the rise of Sleater-Kinney, Carrie Brownstein’s memoir of a musical journey is as political as it is personal. Telling in detail, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl —featured on the New York Times list of notable books this year—is a rangy, jagged reckoning of the band from the inside, bad hair days and pubic-hair-infested mattresses included. $27.95 at Powell’s.
Need a stocking stuffer or a belly laugh? Portland comic Ian Karmel’s new album 9.2 on Pitchfork—recorded at Mississippi Studios earlier this year— came out last month on punk label Kill Rock Stars. Hear him riff on Taco Bell and monkeys dressed as cowboys riding around on dogs, and you’ll find yourself smiling through the post Yule slump.