There is no uniform way to describe the word “weird” that works for everyone—in fact, that lack of homogeneity is precisely the point. Unusual, strange, odd, curious, eccentric, unique: Weird is in the eye of the beholder. Here at Atlas Obscura, we celebrate all the ways to stand out from a crowd, and that goes double during the holidays, which can start to feel formulaic rather than festive, rote and not remarkable, ho-hum rather than ho-ho-ho. So this year, skip the average scented candle and chain-store gift card. Here are some gift ideas inspired by confusing medieval trends, scientific thought experiments, or the smells of a bygone world. You’re an original, so why shouldn’t your gifts be, too?
Collapse your loved ones’ universe.
Much the same way that Schrödinger’s cat can be both alive and dead at the same time (quantum mechanics are fun), this gift is simultaneously very simple and oh-so-complex. Inside the box is a single pin in the shape of a cat that is, at random, either spry with the word “Alive” printed under it or flipped on its back and very much “Dead.” Both the purchaser and recipient won’t know which they’ve received until they open the box. Or, better yet, they can choose to leave it sealed as both a conversation piece and an homage to infinite possibilities. It’s a delight for physics nerds, thoughtful conversationalists, or even cat fanciers. And remember, no animals were harmed in the making of this thought experiment.
A good luck charm with triple entendres.
In medieval times, some people wore badges on their hats to commemorate pilgrimages, and sometimes those badges had what we might call adult shapes. Whether the 14th-century pilgrims were just collecting, trying to ward off the plague, or had the obvious thought on their minds (as any reader of Chaucer would agree), the clothing pins depicting various examples of genitalia were a riot. In this special replica, three phalluses carry a vulva wearing a crown. You could go traditional and pin it to a hat, though the badge would also add character to any hiking pack or look dashing on a lapel.
The truth is out there.
If you have a friend who was glued to Congress’s UFO hearing, has an “I believe” sticker on their water bottle, or doesn’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories except the one they just need to tell everyone about, this gift is for… that friend. In this subscription box, you can learn about a new cryptid every month, with deep cuts way beyond your average Mothman or Jersey Devil. Expect paraphernalia, books, movies, and a hefty dose of suspended disbelief.
Add an Elizabethan plot twist to any mundane afternoon.
Whether you’re writing about sojourns to different countries or just typing a message to a coworker, click-clacking on the Sojourner Keyboard can make you feel part of an old epistolary tradition. The board is made from aged leather and tarnished brass, the USB cord is wrapped in braided cloth, and the keys have a springy weight to them that is reminiscent of a typewriter. You can choose different typefaces for the keys, from Elizabethan or Elemental Alchemy.
Wear a bit of the universe as jewelry.
A rock formed in space around 4.5 billion years ago, hurtled toward Earth about 4,000 years ago, crashed into present-day Argentina at a speed of over 8,000 miles per hour, then was mined into small pieces by the Spanish military in 1575. That’s a lot of cosmic history to have dangling from your ears. These earrings are made from pieces of that actual meteorite, which formed in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, and is about as old as our planet. Made from iron nickel and coarse octahedrite, wearing the Campo del Cielo (meaning “Field of the Sky”) meteorite is like having a piece of the galaxy sparkling beside your face.
Stop and smell the extinct roses.
If you want to stand out from the overwhelmingly common jasmine- and gardenia-based perfumes, Future Society has got you. They use DNA sequencing to create scents that don’t exist anywhere else any more—because the flowers they came from are extinct. The Scent Surrection Set evokes impossible memories of forests and grasslands that no longer exist, from Ohio to South Africa. Different strains may strike users as more traditionally feminine, masculine, or gender-neutral, and some profiles are so captivating that wearers may have a hard time deciding on a favorite from the initial sample kit. Whichever you end up choosing, it’ll pretty much be unlike anything anyone alive has smelt before.
Sensual fun in the sun.
If you’ve had daydreams of covering someone’s body in whip cream, you’re in luck. The receiver of Classic Whip SPF 30 will be both topped like a dessert and responsibly protected from harmful UV rays. The sunscreen is reef safe, water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and comes out in a star-shaped stream that you can whirl into little twirly mountains. It’s best applied on the beach, in public, to cause as much confusion as possible among onlookers. Just please resist the urge to spray dollops into your mouth.
Cute little animals, clearly up to something.
Some of us might argue that woodland creatures wearing medieval armor or wielding powerful spells are not that weird, but it’s all about perspective. Lily Seika Jones fully embraces anthropomorphism, the scenery of the Pacific Northwest, and fantasy storytelling in her whimsical illustrations. You can buy her one-of-a-kind prints from a gallery in Alhambra, California; Portland, Oregon; and online—or you can buy permission to use any of the images as a tattoo.
Score on time throughout your day.
Pinball is all about timing. Exactly when the flipper and metal ball make contact is just as important as knowing when to leave your house or run for the train, at least if you want multiballs or jackpots. The Ricochet is a unique timepiece of Mr. Jones Watches designed for pinball lovers, robot lovers, or just people who want an unusual clock on their wrists. And since the hours and minutes are displayed on the scoreboard of the tiny pinball machine, as the day progresses, you’ll be impressed with how well you’re doing.
A colorful companion to carry your belongings.
Pigs are fun and purses are functional, so a pig purse is just the ultimate gift. While it’s traditional in Mexico to weave bags from palm tree fibers, it’s a step up to shape that bag like an animal that users open from the rear end. Store your precious wallet, phone, and coins in this portable piggy bank. You can choose between colorful swine, scorpions, chickens, bees, and more. And it’s also easy to hide the cord and use the wicker animal as a garden statue, to elevate any yard.