5 Gifts for Every Reenactor

Normally this is not the type of list that I would write. I am a pretty hardcore minimalist when it comes to everything from daily life to reenacting. My motto is “Reenact for the experience not the appearance” after all.

But I also have a December birthday and live in a country that really enjoys it’s gift giving holiday season. I am also well aware that there are those relatives (Hi mom!) who want to support us in our hobby but need some direction on how to do that. If you are one of those family members looking for gift ideas for that weird reenactor nephew this Christmas, are trying to find a birthday present for your best reenacting buddy, or are just looking for something for your own stocking this year, here are 5 ideas for things that every reenactor, regardless of their favorite era or level of authenticity, will always need & appreciate.

Socks, or gloves or a wool blanket.

It’s cold out there in living history man! Reenactors spend a lot of time camping, marching, eating & living regardless of what the thermometer says. One of the best gifts for helping us survive those crazy temperatures are things like socks. While authenticity minded reenactors can be extremely selective about style, color and material, I don’t know a single person who is going to turn down a solidly made “spare pair” to keep in the tent for those extra cold nights or when their perfectly authentic pair gets wet. Some of my favorite wool stockings from from South Union Mills while I am partial to Burnley & Trowbridge’s silk stockings for wearing under other layers when the weather is particularly chilly.

A flash drive or external hard drive.

There is no doubt that reenacting is a research heavy hobby. A lot of that information is increasingly available on digital media, via museum archives online, ebooks and social media sharing. But with all that digititzation comes the risk of losing everything from one computer crash. Thank goodness for flash drive backups! I personally have a dedicated drive for every era, another for just my thesis and several that are full of curated music lists. But I could always use another! Possibly the best part of flash drives is just how inexpensive & easy to find they are now. Even if cheap old Grandma Peg who won’t shop on “the internets” or Amazon, can still get one from Walgreens without having to break a $5.

Gift card to a bookstore, or Amazon.

While there is a lot of information available online, there is nothing quite like a good old fashioned book. But man can they be expensive. I am a huge fan of borrowing from the local library or resale books from Half Price Books for the cost savings alone. Not to mention, HBP always has an interesting selection of original books that I wouldn’t think to look for intentionally. But sometimes the books we really want to read aren’t easily found at the library or at a discount. The deeper we get into our subject, the harder those great references are to find too. A gift card lets your favorite reenactor know you support their research, but lets them make the ultimate decision about which book they would enjoy the most.

Tickets or a membership to a museum.

If experiences are more your gift language, then what is better for the history buff in your life than the experience of visiting a museum? This doesn’t have to be a huge nationwide museum either. Local, smaller museums and historical sites need our support often times just to stay open. Many of the events we attend each year are held at smaller, local historical sites & museums, these events can be major sources of fundraising and public awareness for places that would struggle to meet their budget otherwise. Giving the gift of a membership or even just a donation in their name to a favorite historical place is a great way to let the reenactor in your life know that you support their hobby as well as support sharing history with others. Need some ideas for local living history sites? Check out ALHFAM’s regional listings for living history farms or the American Alliance of Museum’s “Find a member museum” for local historical societies.

Supplies for their hobbies within the hobby.

Yes we are all reenactors. But beyond that, most of us have particular interests. If you read Slightly Obsessed long enough you will notice that I gravitate towards historic sewing & cooking. Meanwhile my guy is more interested in historic vehicles and weapons. For every one of these sub-interests of history, there is bound to be a slew of supplies that the reenactor on your list would enjoy. It could be a package of sewing needles, thread & a great pair of scissors. A full set of screwdrivers, a magnet try for small parts and a really powerful flashlight. Maybe it’s a collection of your great-grandmother’s handwritten recipes from the depression, a cast iron pan & some obscure spices? When you can’t think of a finished product that might help support their hobby, aim for the parts & let them make something for themselves!

I know reenactors can be some of the hardest people to shop for during the holiday season. I hope these simple ideas, which work regardless of their favorite time period, or where they fall on the authenticity spectrum, will help make this year a little less stressful. Who knows, maybe this years present will be the one they end up bragging about to all their friends in camp. "Look what my Aunt Francis got me for Christmas. So much better than the fruit cake she sent me last year!"

See you in the past!