Just save everyone a lot of headaches. If you want something specific for Christmas, just tell him!
Every year (except our first Christmas) Anthony and I discuss gifts for each other. We decide upon a limit and let each other know stuff we are interested in. A few times we have also decided to buy something big for ourselves. For example, last year we bought a new bed. It was the perfect Christmas present because both of our backs felt much better on the new bed. (plus it came with a TV!)
This year we have decided to pay off some debt for Christmas and Birthdays. Some people think that is a bad idea because we might fall into a habit of not doing anything for each other. This isn't true. We always find a nice way to celebrate our birthdays (we usually go out to eat) and spend time with each other, without the need for gifts. Sometimes we do gifts, sometimes we don't. I like having the feeling of not being under pressure to "top" what I did last year. Yep, this is my selfish way of not having to think of the perfect gift for him. And you know what? I think he likes it too. :)
Besides, throughout the year we do buy things that we both want and could use, but it's usually a family item. For example we may buy a new camera now that we are expecting a baby. We have also been discussing a food processor and we did just purchase a new vacuum. Even though these weren't surprises and they were not gifted to each other, we did spend the time together picking out the items. And I prefer to spend time with him more than anything else.
So ladies, do your man a favor. (or men, do yourselves a favor, you never know, she might be secretly pleased!) Bring up the holidays and other gift giving occasions, set up limits or expectations. But most importantly, spend time together. Tell each other how important you are to each other. And never under estimate the well thought out card. :)
Or if you still want to try the hint routine, use this comic, but I would still be blunt, men don't pick up on our "hints" as much as we think they should.