A crocheted beer koozie? Rudolph boxer shorts with a light-up nose? A membership to the Bacon-of-the-Month club? Everyone has that amazing gift they never forgot or that hideous one they never quite got over. And even if you don’t want to be the Grinch who commercialized Christmas, let’s be honest, a gift can really make or break your holiday season. We asked the Where Y’at writers to tell us about the best and/or worst gift they’ve ever received, and from New Kids on the Block tickets to a brick, they’ve come up with a list of nice (and not-so-nice) gifts that is worth checking twice.
One year, my mom thought it would be clever to wrap up a couple bags of raisins and stick them under the tree. Raisins. As in, withered grapes. Rabbit poop look-alikes. The things that everyone picks out of cookies and no one wants in their bread pudding. Imagine ripping open a fancily wrapped package with a bow, having hopes of a real gift—even socks would have been preferable—and finding nothing but raisins. Definitely among the worst gifts I’ve ever gotten.
But interestingly, this was also one of my best gifts as well. For one thing, they were cinnamon-coated raisins, which, sadly, no longer exist. And I actually like raisins under other circumstances—when they’re not trying to pass as an appropriate Christmas gift. The best part is that my brother was so oddly jealous of my gift of raisins that he had a little temper tantrum and left our Christmas celebration to go pout in his room. He saw some deeper meaning in my receiving raisins from Mom, and said he never got special gifts like that. Go figure. In any case, his jealousy raised the value of the raisins in my eyes. It was sweet (and black and chewy) justification. –Kathy Bradshaw
Here’s a story about a young teen girl who was never satisfied. That girl was me. I look back to the many times I whined and cried over a gift. I can’t say that I’ve ever received a “worst” gift, but I can say that there were many occasions where my mom (always my mom) would purchase something for me that I simply did not want. Every time I look back on my actions after opening that gift—whatever it was—I think, “Wow, what an ungrateful brat I was!”
One example was when I was about 16 years old and I kept asking my mom for a digital camera. But I specifically wanted a video camera for my Media Arts class. My mom (aka Santa) did buy me a digital camera (pictured right) that year, but it was not a video camera. I excitedly opened the present, then immediately lost my cool. I was furious! How dare she spend a couple hundred dollars buying me a digital camera during a time when digital cameras were a luxury and camera phones did not exist? (Insert sarcasm.)
I went on to use that camera for the next six to seven years of my life. And I actually ended up loving that gift. Get this, I still have it. Moral of the story is: always be grateful, because your worst gift could become your best. Thanks, Mommy!
The best Christmas gift I’ve ever received wasn’t something that you could put in a box or wrap up in colorful paper. My mom, when she thinks something I have looks hideous, has a knack of getting it replaced with something better right under my nose. So, when I was a junior in college, my mom called me before I came home for Christmas and said, “By the way, I’m getting your room redone. Merry Christmas.” So, my bedroom, which hadn’t been changed since middle school, got a complete overhaul. The best addition to the entire package was a narrow table on wheels that I can move up and down the length of my bed.
The worst Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten was during a Christmas Day party when my folks invited all of my elementary school classmates to our house (like, as a play date). Well, one of the kids who I never talked to (and I still can’t, for the life of me, even remember his name) went up to me and said, “I didn’t know what to get you, so here’s a brick.” I actually spent the rest of the party throwing that brick at the other kids. –Burke Bischoff
The worst gift I ever received had to be from my brother a few years ago. He likes to give random gifts, and I received a Chia Pet. I’m not knocking the weird little plant holder, but anyone who knows me knows that I am horrible at maintaining any plants. So, a random animal-shape made of terracotta that sprouts chia is not my idea of a great gift. I did not want to waste the gift, however, so I followed the directions. In the end, of course, the chia didn’t survive my black thumb and has made the Chia Pet number one on my “worst gifts I have received” list. –Krystral Cooper Christen
It was a dark and stormy night. Literally. I was nursing a bad liver and a broken heart a week before Christmas, was going to assuage my heartbreak by making some Christmas pudding, and had procured a bottle of brandy for the recipe. Cheap brandy.
One hell of a storm put an end to that enterprise by issuing a lightning bolt the size of Cinemascope, effectively killing the electricity in households as far as the eye could see. The phone rang and it was her, asking after my welfare. What am I to say, “I’m freaking miserable”? Not me, not after a ruinous affair in which she got off scot-free and I got the dirty end of the stick.
I hung up and opened the bottle.
Eight hours later, I woke up gibbering like a gibbon, being held to a chair by four people. I’d had a blackout, scared everyone out of the house, and was captured heading for my car. Somebody gave me a phone number to call.
I called and was told that the service was free and that I could learn a lot about myself; I began with the introduction, “Hello, my name is Phil, and I’m an alcoholic.” My best Christmas gift is a little wooden nickel that proclaimed that I had sobered up. –Phil LaMancusa
As a child, the New Kids on the Block were the best thing that ever entered my life!
On Christmas Eve of the year that the New Kids were coming to New Orleans, all of my siblings and my four cousins received a similarly wrapped gift. All seven children opened the gifts simultaneously and, low and behold, they all received New Kids on the Block tickets.
I was shocked that I was left out of a gift that was better suited for me than any of them. I immediately started crying. My parents were less than thrilled with my reaction and threatened punishment if I didn’t get over it.
On Christmas morning I woke up, still saddened by the fact that I was forgotten. I opened my gifts and acted excited because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I could not stop thinking about the concert. Just as we were picking up, my mom came in with one last gift. I opened it, and there it was—the GOLDEN ticket!
I jumped up so quickly that I fell over and exposed my underwear to the video camera that my dad had set up to record my reaction. I cried in excitement! That Christmas ended in happy tears, but I realize how deranged my parents were to make me wait overnight, thinking that I was the only one not going to that concert. Kind of messed up, but I also realize now that those are the little joys that parenthood brings! –Kelly Sherlock
The best Christmas gift came from my parents. It was a gift mutually agreed upon and shared by them, my sister, and me—the gift of not giving gifts. The four of us were all relieved when Christmas no longer involved returning ill-fitting gifts, or guilt at not spending enough or too much, or, as we grew older and farther away, the hassle of packing or shipping gifts. It frankly had come down to an exchange of money rather than something special. So, my practical parents let us off the hook to concentrate on the festivities. If money was spent, it could go towards food and drink, and perhaps some dining-out extravagance.
The best thing about this was it gave me the freedom to tell friends that I simply do not exchange Christmas gifts—a family tradition! I would rather buy a round of drinks and over-tip, take a friend out to lunch, and/or do the gift thing as a “happy” when one is not expecting a treat or trinket. Giving should be a year-round activity that comes without strings attached. However, if circumstances dictate, bake or procure some sweets (at a local green market), and give the gift of indulgence! –Debbie Lindsey
The best/worst present I ever received came from my parents in 2014. Previously, when my mother made her annual call to cross-examine me for gift ideas, I suggested she buy me an Amazon gift card that I could put towards camera equipment. Imagine my surprise when Christmas morning, I discovered she bypassed the middle man and stashed a brand-new Canon ultra-wide-angle zoom lens in my stocking.
While my heartrate raced like eight-year-old me opening my first present of the season, something felt off. First, my mother generally reserved our stockings for small treats like candy and cocoa—this was a nearly $1,000 lens. Second, the equipment felt weightless, and its outer physique was rigid, as if petrified … it lacked the density and delicate finesse one expects from such an expensive specimen. My fortune quickly eroded to a brick of coal when I popped off the lens to discover, in a cruel act of taxidermy, that the lens had been hallowed out and transformed into a coffee tumbler.
But, when the holidays give you lemons, you make boozy lemonade. I now use the mug to smuggle liquor in my camera bag during Jazz Fest. –Greg Roques