Open Thread

Open Thread Update: Worst Holiday Gifts


The Holiday Gift thread had a ton of comments about Weird/Worst gifts. Some simply strange (a box of orange Jell-o? A dog toy to a non-dog owner?), some thoughtless (candy for a dieter? PJs for someone who never ever wore them?) and some just, well, indescribable.

I got a set of barbells — minimum weight 100 lbs. He got (from “Santa”) a weight bench …hmmm


And it’s amazing how many of these indescribable gifts came from SO’s the commenters described as “ex’s.”

…an enormous royal blue ELVIS LAMP (from an ex)



…the man I absolutely loved and who was living with me, gave me a plastic Alien figure that was about 2 feet long…he followed shortly afterwards….


Reader Fran got a piece of paper and a hint.

I once received a gift from a boyfriend and in the box was a page from a Victoria’s secret catalogue… 

And a note to married men:  make sure you keep track of the gifts you give your wife…and your side piece. Why? Just read the comments from readers Cassie E. and Lee.

Household gifts and Gift Cards

A few readers took exception to my position against ‘household’ gifts, like Shirley and K.G. (hope Santa gets you that Roomba!).  Others praised the convenience of gift cards…and I see their point.

The best advice came from Reader Patti, who simply advises, “Know your recipient.”

Every comment is a gem, so make sure you read them all and add your own! And have a happy holiday season, full of all the right gifts – like health, happiness and love.  See ya next year!

Original Text:

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


36 responses to “Open Thread Update: Worst Holiday Gifts

  1. “A note to men: do not ever and I mean ever, give your SO household tools, machines or equipment.” I’m in a same-sex relationship so maybe I’m missing something, but with enough communication this could be exactly the right gift. I’ve wanted a Dremel for years. And I would be thrilled with the right gardening tool, such as a holster for my favorite pruning shears. And Santa is welcome to bring me a Roomba or anything other fancy equipment that can make cleaning easier. Just ask, Santa!

    1. I am not the late Elizabeth Taylor but I announced to my small office that I was desperately trying to lose some weight. What did the “Secret Santa” get me? A huge box of Godiva truffles! Second worst gift: an enormous royal blue ELVIS LAMP (from an ex).

  2. My ex husband gave me a blouse from a petite dress shop 579. I am5’9” at the time I wore a size14. Excuses offered went from the sales girl made a mistake to I needed to loose weight because I could and would look great in that size. I later discovered I received the wrong gift the blouse was intended for someone else.

  3. I can’t remember getting a weird gift myself but a lady I know did! In 2018, for Christmas, her boss of 17 years gave her a $10.00 Tim Horton’s card and a box of orange Jello powder. That’s it. No card and he never gave her a gift ever before or after apart from that. She quit during the 18th year. Merry Christmas everyone!

  4. I was about 27 and the man I absolutely loved and who was living with me, gave me a plastic Alien figure that was about 2 feet long. I won’t tell you what he said but it still hurts to think about it. It went into the trash so quick! He followed shortly afterwards.

    1. My ex-husband, now deceased and no I didn’t do it, purchased flannel pjs for me on aChristmas Eve and wrapped them in our car before coming into the house. Earlier is the month I had run across a beautiful gold chain and locket that I thought was going to be my gift. Our marriage didn’t last too much longer.

  5. My brother and I have had a decades-long understanding for gifts: we tell each other exactly what we want. Sometimes there’s choice involved — e.g. last year, I wanted a waterproof backpack for a hiking trip in Costa Rica, and I left the decision of which one to him. He ended up not being able to decide, so he sent me three! Or it might be very specific — he wanted a cycling shirt in a specific color, and he sent me the link. We enjoy the gift giving, knowing we got it right every time!

    1. Now that’s smart thinking, Joan! I”m surprised you didn’t react to the genius who asked his SO for a sex act. I lost touch with the gal who got this suggestion but I can tell you the relationship didn’t last…

  6. So, in general, I agree with what you are saying, but if the recipient asks for a kitchen tool, then it is not inappropriate. Case in point, this Christmas I asked for non-stick fry pans, and a deep dish glass pie dish. I think such gifts are risky if you are in a newer relationship, but after 42 years of marriage, I appreciate functional gifts. I do not need what my mother used to call “dust collectors.” No figurines, small decorative boxes, and the like! Know your recipient!

  7. I disagree about getting a gift card or cash especially for teenage or young adult grandchildren. they love cash so that they can buy exactly what they want. As an 82 year old grandmother, I always buy them a book, but leave the rest to them via cash ior gift cards. They love it.
    I personally love receiving my annual gift cards to Trader Joes and Nordstroms. Happy dance.

    1. I agree. There is such a vast array of gift cards available. At 69, I would rather receive a gift card to just about anything, to some cute thing that is going to require some type of maintenance. Even tho I might love it, I don’t want to clean it!

  8. Some gifts need to be numbered. I bought my sister in law a large decorative pot for an outdoor plant. I thought I’d save her the trouble of having to buy potting soil. On Christmas morning she opened the wrapped package containing the soil first! Her kids talked for years about “when Aunt Dorothy gave Mom dirt for Christmas!”

  9. I’m one of those odd-ball women who LOVES hardware store gifts. The two best I ever got were a 6′ aluminum ladder and a pitchfork. Now that I’m older I only want a thoughtful gesture or homemade cookies….stuff that goes away. I’m also not offended by gift cards, and I’m pretty sure younger people would rather have gift cards.

  10. My husband gave me a large composter! He ordered it online and was very secretive when it arrived. He spent time assembling it and was so proud when he gave it to me. I am a recycler/composter/adapter re-user but I did not want a composter for Christmas or my birthday or our anniversary. Things have gotten better since then but it is the source for good laughs at parties.

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