Oy, it’s been a year. We’re beleaguered. Beaten up. Depressed by the economy, distressed by political dithering, swirled by tornadoes, slammed by hurricanes, shaken by earthquakes. Things must have been better, once — when we were blithely pre-supercommittee, pre-Sandusky, pre-Occupied. Right now we’re on our way to a blue Christmas even Elvis wouldn’t want to sing about.

But there’s unsurpassing joy in giving — and this year, more than ever, the best thing to give is joy itself. Where better to find it than in music, art, books and movies that transport us to sublime heights the real world can’t?We asked our critics for suggestions of bonbons from the worlds of pop culture and art, and they responded with gift ideas guaranteed to provide a flush of sensory pleasure, a glow of humanistic compassion — heck, maybe just an honest laugh.

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An adult pause that refreshes

What holiday season is complete without the bawdy comedy caroling of a quartet of overeducated gay men decked out like four versions of your dear Aunt Dorothy? How lucky are we that The Kinsey Sicks will be back in town this Christmas to fill this essential Yuletide function. Having rocked Theater J last year with their fiendishly irreverent “Oy Vey in a Manger,” the guys return to the D.C. Jewish Community Center on Dec. 24-26 for a short encore engagement of this rousing evening of raunch. Let me be even blunter: The salty show is not for the youngsters, or even for easily offended grown-ups. But it manages to spread its one-of-a-kind brand of seasonal cheer without an iota of malice in its heart — or under its wigs. Okay, so maybe the stocking stuffers include a dagger or two. Still, this self-styled dragapella beauty-shop quartet offers up a merry hoot and a half. For more information go to www.dcjcc.org or call 800-494-8497.

Romance for Christmas

Hi-Fi heaven: Tree’s trimmed, kindling’s lit and Melissa Errico’s voice laps up like waves from a crystalline lake out of the speakers in the den. If someone in your life has a hankering for the sensations of a gentle Christmas Eve from not so long ago, then the new album of Michel Legrand songs by this underappreciated Broadway actress will be an ever-so-pleasing surprise. Errico, who starred in “My Fair Lady” and “Amour” and caused a stir with her Encores! performance in “One Touch of Venus,” went on something of a hiatus to raise a family; she’s married to tennis commentator Patrick McEnroe. Now she’s moving back into the limelight, courtesy in part of Ghostlight Records and “Legrand Affair,” on which Errico croons 15 romantic songs by the movie composer. The hits include “The Summer Knows” (from “Summer of ’42”), “The Windmills of Your Mind” (“The Thomas Crown Affair”) and my favorite, “I Will Wait for You” (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”).

There’s always Jackman

Deck the halls with bows from Jackman: Or, we wish Hugh a Merry Christmas. You just can’t go wrong, putting this Boy From Down Under on your shopping list. And if you can score a pair of tickets to “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway,” I promise that you will be a heroic Santa to anyone on whom you bestow a seat. Whether you reach Manhattan by stretch limo or Bolt Bus, his exuberant song-and-dance act at the Broadhurst Theatre will leave you feeling like an enriched member of the human race. That’s because Jackman is show business’s last cockeyed optimist. Though he tends to stick to the bunny slope with his familiar show-tune selections, he’s a mogul-jumper when it comes to leavening an audience’s mood. The delight he takes in performing is so palpable they could sell it in quart bottles at the concession stand. Go to www.hughjackmanonbroadway.com for more information.