I asked the Internet, “What’s the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever received?” and then sat back and waited for the responses to roll in. The following are all 100% real, though some names have been withheld to protect the innocent.
1. The unintentionally creepy gift. Setup: Senior year of high school. This girl has been dating this guy for some time. He’s great and all . . . but they’re headed to different colleges. He’s thinking long-distance relationship. She’s thinking short-distance relationship with somebody new. Boyfriend’s parents to the “rescue”: they present her with three different (elaborate) maps, all with the route between their future colleges highlighted.
Today, that boy and that girl are happily married . . . to other people. (And that girl has asked me not to mention names.)
2. The “little kid” gift — for someone who isn’t little. “My brother got a ‘pretend’ Lion King shaving kit . . . when he was 14. This was just wrong and made us all sad.” — Kristin McKelvey
3. The really bad homemade gift. “Someone in my family received toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint to be used as fire starters (I am not making this up).” — Wishes to remain anonymous
4. The “funny” gift that isn’t funny. “My grandpa got my grandma a nightgown from Longs that said, ‘the buck stops here’ in HUGE cartoon letters with an even bigger smiling reindeer. It was NOT a joke, and Grandpa was surprised when my grandma got upset.” — Ashley Bridges
5. Anything from an infomercial. “My sister got a sleep sack one year . . . it was essentially a burlap sack with arm/leg holes and a hole for your head. It was not very form-flattering. Needless to say, it was immediately re-gifted.” — Tyler Potter
6. That sweater. “How has the horrible, really scratchy, snowflake turtleneck sweater from your grandparents not been mentioned yet? Was I the only one? Beautifully wrapped in gold packaging with a red felt ribbon. A box that was maybe just the right size to be a GI Joe vehicle, but nope! My parents made me wear that for years after when my grandparents would visit.” — Jon Dietzen
7. The botched newlywed gift. “It was our first year being married, and I used to walk past my college’s power plant coal chute. For some reason, I thought it might be funny to actually have coal in a stocking, so I took a couple of pieces, wrapped them up, and put them in Rachael’s stocking. Instead of a funny moment, she was devastated, thinking that I was trying to tell her something.” — Dan Porter (who is still happily married to his very forgiving wife, Rachael)
8. Things that bite. “All-white hamster with red eyes. I pulled it out of the cage, it immediately bit my finger, I threw it down, it ran off, I never saw it again.” — David Pitts
9. Random food items. “I have a friend whose family draws names each year, and one year his quirky aunt drew his name and gave him a breadstick. No sauce, just a breadstick.” — Shall remain anonymous
10. And the misdirection. “My dad said he had one more gift for me. (That was the year I hoped for a pogo stick.) Imagine my feelings when it turned out to be brown wrapping paper so I could make book covers for my schoolbooks. Funny how we seem to remember the disappointing gifts more than the special ones. Wonder what that says about our emotions and how they affect us!” — My awesome mom