ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
KATHLEEN MURRAY: A lot of hand sanitizers.
MARY LOPEZ: Clorox cleaning spray.
CHARLES KOPEC: A phone sanitizer.
RITESH RANJAN: Five-pack Clorox wipes.
SHAPIRO: All year, cleaning products have been flying off the shelves. And now they are flying straight into Christmas stockings and wrapping paper. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.
ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: It would not be a pandemic holiday without grown adults asking Santa for the hottest sellers of 2020. Sanitizing wipes and sprays - sales doubled this year. Hand sanitizer - quadrupled.
KOPEC: You can say, oh, yeah. Remember back in 2020 when we all had a bottle of hand sanitizer in our stockings?
SELYUKH: Charles Kopec is a scientist from New Jersey who is married to a physician. They're really focused on safety and sanitation. This year, they bought his wife's parents a UV light box to help keep their cellphones a bit more clean.
KOPEC: And we're also giving scented hand sanitizer to people sort of as a stocking stuffer joke gift, but it's also something that we know everyone's going to use.
SELYUKH: Whether as a joke or something serious and practical, coronavirus essentials are no-brainer gifts - fancy soaps and face masks, bedazzled face shields, little bottles with hooks for sanitizing on the go. Mary Lopez and her family in California have been doing pandemic-themed presents all year.
LOPEZ: I had made a joke that if I want anything for my birthday, it's toilet paper because it was really scary there for a while (laughter).
SELYUKH: Her daughter obliged and procured an industrial-sized pack, which Lopez staged like a cake. She repaid her daughter with her own themed gift basket.
LOPEZ: I looked for months, but I got a big bottle of Clorox cleaning spray, a thing of Clorox wipes, two wine glasses filled with candy and a bottle of wine.
SELYUKH: Lockdown survival supplies, which her daughter loved so much she's replicating a version of this pandemic basket as holiday gifts for friends. In Northern Virginia, Ritesh Ranjan's friends are getting a gift card and a bulk pack of sanitizing wipes, which Ranjan spotted at Costco after these friends mentioned having trouble finding some.
RANJAN: I wouldn't say it's a joke. It's a kind of serious gift. Hopefully, it'll remind them of the conversation we have had about it.
SELYUKH: He says he later felt a bit guilty for snatching these wipes, which are so rare these days. I briefly mentioned his find to Kathleen Murray from Virginia Beach, and she was impressed.
MURRAY: Maybe that person could put me on their Christmas list (laughter).
SELYUKH: Murray made Advent calendars for family members, little daily gifts that are often candy and chocolate but, this year, also include Christmas-themed face masks and the 2020 classic, hand sanitizers.
MURRAY: Christmas-scented and, like, vanilla and Christmas cookies - it at least cheers you up. Like, you have to use it regardless. But if it smells like gingerbread, I'd rather use that.
SELYUKH: I asked Murray, don't cleaning-oriented gifts feel a little sad?
MURRAY: I guess a bit sad - but also, like, if you could give anyone a gift, like, you want to give them safety. Like, I would love to be able to give them all the vaccine, but you obviously can't do that.
SELYUKH: And so she says gifts of sanitation are the closest thing to gifting someone safety.
Alina Selyukh, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF LEONARD COHEN SONG, "I CAN'T FORGET")
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