Open Thread: Worst Holiday Gifts

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Only Santa can give the perfect holiday gift, because he’s, well…Santa.  Everyone else muddles along with a combination of hints, outright requests/questions, or guesses.

The best gifts, I think, are the ones that make the recipient feel seen.

Years ago, before online shopping, my late husband surprised me with a framed copy of a painting I had admired the three times we visited Paris and the Louvre. Each time I couldn’t buy a copy from the gift shop. The gift shop was closed, or it was out of stock. The last time we went, the gift shop workers were on strike! I wailed, “I’m never going to get a copy of that!”

He secretly contacted an acquaintance who was going to Paris and arranged for him to purchase it, bring it over and had it framed for Christmas.  When I opened it, I was so happy and touched I cried.

Educated(?) Gift Guesses

Some of them are educated guesses.  A woman I knew made it a habit when outside with her husband, to stop at the same jewelry store every time and remark on a particular pair of earrings.  She all but wore a sandwich board saying “I want this.” Guess what he gave her?

A note to men: do not ever and I mean ever, give your SO household tools, machines or equipment.

Other times, though the guesses are, to put it kindly, uneducated. A note to men: do not ever and I mean ever, give your SO household tools, machines or equipment.  One guy I was seeing gave me a frying pan.  It was hard to resist the urge to hit him over the head with it.

“Don’t Let This Happen to You” Gifts 

A related no-no: a gift that really benefits the giver.  A cousin of mine gave his girl three boxes of lasagna noodles.

Another route to avoid is to simply ask what the recipient wants. You may not like the answer. A woman I know asked her SO what he wanted and he mentioned a highly specific sexual act.

Of course, the last resort is a gift card or cash.  If every gift sends a message, this one says “I can’t be bothered.”

A close runner up, though, is the gift that is so off key it’s almost funny if it weren’t so appalling, like some of the ones listed here.

But how about you? What was the worst/weirdest holiday gift you’ve ever received? Share your story in the comments!

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to

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