I’m already in the holiday mood, Pandas, and I hope you are, too. I’ve been listening to Christmas songs at work and I’ve been polishing my rusty cookie baking skills (so far, it’s all gone disastrously wrong). But! Most importantly, I’ve already started searching for gifts for all of my loved ones. It’s far from easy to be original every year and sometimes we simply mess up. And the internet has proof of this.
Internet users have taken to the r/AskReddit online community to share the very worst gifts they’ve ever gotten. There are more than a few twists and turns in their tales, however. Take a break from school or work, grab yourselves a big mug of tea and some snacks, and let’s dive deep into the world of horrendous gifts, dear Readers. As you’re scrolling down, don’t forget to upvote the stories that took you by surprise. And if you’re feeling up to it, why not open up about the very worst presents you’ve ever given or received in the comments?
I also reached out to author and child independence expert Lenore Skenazy for a few comments about gift-giving and the burden we face as the holiday season comes every year. Scroll down to read what she told Bored Panda. Spoiler warning: we shouldn’t focus so much on the gifts themselves, nor about trying to be ‘perfect’ but about the holiday spirit and being genuine!
#1When I was 8, I told my gran that I liked jeeps. So every year, for Christmas I got a crappier jeep. The first year was a model. Ok I like models I put it together it was fun. Next year was a remote. Then a matchbox. and so on. When I was 15 she gave me a jeep calendar. I love my gran so I hung the calendar and told her I loved it.
On my 16th Christmas, she gives me a key ring that says Jeep. UGH. Then asks me to go out and get some preserves from the barn. In the barn was a brand new 86 jeep! Gran plays the long game.
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#2Ex boyfriend gave me a pack of cigarettes after I had quit for 3 months to "celebrate my progress".
Most memorable thing he gave me was clamydia though.
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#3It was nothing. My in-laws bring gifts for my husband but not me because I'm not "real family".
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Lenore, the president of Let Grow, a nonprofit that promotes childhood independence and resilience, and the founder of the Free-Range Kids movement, told Bored Panda all about how we can ease the burden of the holiday season. In her view, all we have to do is turn on the power of our imagination.
“To ease the burden of the holiday season, think about two possible scenarios,” she said.
#4My wife used to give me things that were intended for herself.
This was a win-win for her and a lose-lose for me. She could give me something, then get mad at me for being unappreciative. One time, she gave me a frilly picture frame, thinking I would never use it. I thanked her and took it to work.
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#5A box of Hillshire Farms sausages from my wife's grandparents. I'm a vegetarian, they had known me for 10 years at this point.
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#6My husband received his recently deceased grandfather's used disposable razor as a Christmas gift from his grandmother. Complete with hair and all.
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The expert then went into detail about the two scenarios we should think about and compare in our minds.
“In one, you are invited to a party at a very fancy home. Everything is perfect, clean, expensive. Everyone there is on their best behavior. No one shouts, runs, slips, yells, spills, eats too much, or bursts into song. They can’t wait to go home and take off their too-tight shoes,” she went into detail.
#7When I was twelve my grandmother gave me a one-foot tall statue of a frog playing the flute for Christmas. She gave my brother bananas and a granola bar.
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#8Had a friend that received a gift from another friend of ours. It was a McDonald’s gift card. When he went to use it there was nothing on it.
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#9I'm asian. My secret santa gave me a box of instant rice. I wasn't offended by the rice. I was offended that it was the instant kind.
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Lenore then painted us a word picture about a different sort of party. One that’s more genuine, heart-warming, full of good times with loved ones.
“Now imagine you’re invited to another party the next week. The house is kind of messy and some of the food looks like leftovers. Someone’s playing the piano and people are singing. Someone else is showing the little kids a magic trick. Someone in the kitchen is making hot cider and the dog is sniffing everyone in a slightly embarrassing way.”
#10My sister received a brand new bike.....on MY birthday. My grandmother felt bad, so on her birthday she got me an Encyclopedia
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#11My extremely cheap uncle visited my family once for christmas and upon his arrival he gave me and my brother the chips that he had gotten on the airplane. This man is a Neurosurgeon.
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#12A girl I dated for two years got me a blue Powerade for my birthday because “you like blue Powerade”. I don’t even drink Powerade. Plus it wasn’t even a big bottle, it was one of the smaller ones that come in the packs. That was the end of that relationship
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She continued: “The teens are rolling their eyes in the corner, Grandma is repeating that joke she tells every year, and uncles are one-upping each other with stories about the times they had to sneak into the house after curfew. Which party is more fun for everyone? The one that gets people together with a chance to be themselves and feel unself-conscious.”
According to Lenore, it isn’t expensive and fancy things that we need. In fact, we can have an amazing holiday without them if we focus on our family and learn to relax instead of chasing the ‘perfect’ way to celebrate.
#13Growing up I used to hate that my uncle would get all of us kids the same $1 pair of cheap one size fits all gloves. I clearly remember thinking how I'd really rather just have the dollar, and yet he never failed to get them for us. It was always the last gift my cousins and I would open... Thanks uncle Craig.
Craig was developmentally disabled, and although he was well into his 30's when we were kids he would come out into the street and play baseball with us, he'd ride bikes across town with us, buy us beer and nudey mags when we were older... And yet every year, these damn gloves even when we were grown adults and his health was fading, and we all moved away. This will be Christmas number 3 without Uncle Craig, and as I look back at it now it makes more sense. He was living in a shack that he was renting for $350 a month there were 15 nieces and nephews... We knew he couldn't afford to get us any toys or anything, but he wanted us to have something more meaningful than a dollar bill, and Christmas was his favorite holiday.
RIP Uncle Craig. I wish there was a poorly wrapped pair of gloves under my tree this year.
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#14My mother in-law have my wife and I a book about surviving infidelity. Neither of us have ever cheated on the other in 20 years of marriage. Merry Christmas.
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#15An ashtray. I was 7 years old. I didn't smoke then, and I don't smoke now.
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“People might think you need fancy food, gifts, clothes to have a truly wonderful holiday. But really all you need are people you love (and a few who drive you crazy), some food, and some time together. Don’t stress about spending money and time making things perfect. Use that time to connect with each other instead. That’s a holiday everyone will appreciate—including you!”
#16It wasn’t really the gift itself, but what my dad said after I opened it.
It was one of those ninja blenders that a lot of people starting using instead of juicers. I was 16 when my dad gave the blender to me, even though I had never expressed any interest in wanting or needing one.
After I opened it, he said he chose this gift because he wanted me to live a healthier lifestyle and hopefully lose a few pounds.
At the time, I was taking ballet classes 5 days a week, and I often performed with my dance troupe on the weekends, so I was pretty fit at the time.
It didn’t help that he said this in front of his entire side of the family.
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#17I got a spray that you use against foot-odour by my Sister last christmas, she had packed in a box for a power tool I wanted so I went from excited to dissapointed.
She got a quite expensive set of fancy soaps and body products + a gift card from me.
Apparently she gave the power tool to some friend and gave me the box.
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#18My husband gave me a $10 keychain on my birthday this week. It was in a box that definitely looked like jewelry. Nope, keychain.
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#19My uncle got me a taxidermied dove for my 9th birthday.
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#20I was in 7th grade and dating my first ever boyfriend. He lived in the next town over (about 20 min to drive). His friends were dating my friends (there were several of us girls all dating these cooler out of town boys.)
We spent our Christmas gift giving night at the bowling alley and took turns making out in the alleyway behind the bowling alley. It was my first kiss and I was awful. Like open mouth shark breaching for a seal.
That's another story-we each received a gift. They had group picked out necklaces to match our personalities. Sarah got the one with a sports pendant, long chain to match her long hair. Elizabeth got the dainty chain and tiny heart with a jewel, because she was girly and dainty. Leah got the cross with a jewel, because she was religious and it was her favorite color. I got the fake gold biker chain with nothing on it, because it was "manly like you are." So my friends all got cute little dainty necklaces and I got the equivalent of a something you'd see around the neck of a man with a hairy chest that is trying to sell you stereos that his brother got at a cheap price.
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#21I met my wife in january of 2010. For her birthday in July I bought her a crockpot. She was .....appreciative, but later had told me she was upset. Her sister told her to break up with me cause what kind of guy buys his new girlfriend kitchen appliances.
About 2 months later she finds a recipe she wants to try and busts out the crockpot. Inside it she finds a smaller gift. It was a brand new ipod touch.
She was pissed.
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#22A bunch of random tools from my wife. Not tools I needed. Not tools I asked for. Not tools I could use for my hobbies. Just random tools she picked out from Lowes because "Guys like tools".
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#23My older sister got me a Veggie Tales coloring book for my 19th birthday, and it wasn't meant to be a joke gift.
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#24A 1kg box of dried milk for babies from my uncle
We don't have any kids and they knew.........
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#25Nothing. One year my very well off (we're talking millionaires) aunt and uncle got everyone in the family a gift except for me because suddenly, since I was 20, I was "too old" for gifts. But all the other aunts and uncles got gifts, so it wasn't just me being singled out among the many cousins, but among EVERYONE. If they were not absolutely loaded and they had also not given anything to the other 18+ people I might have understood. But they didn't.
As an already very stressed out, poor (parents were lower class) college student it really upset me. I spent most of the celebration crying in the bathroom and trying to hide it.
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#26On my birthday when I was around 10 my parents got me this adorable pink and yellow bird. At some point during my birthday party all my friends were standing around the table and I’m taking the bird out to show him to everyone and he just dies. Right then.
He was acting a little weird. He must have been stressed with all the people? I don’t know. But he just collapsed and hit the bottom of the cage with a tiny thud. Of course I cried like a little baby. Anyway, my parents went out and got me a new bird that day because it’s safe to say that ruined the party lol
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#27My sister got me a rat as a gift. I'm f**king terrified of rats but I decided to let it be and see if it helped curb my fear of them. It did not.
Instead, while I was sleeping it got out of it's cage, crawled up on my bed, and started chewing on my lip. Didn't sleep for a week after that. Thoughtful gift in the sense she was trying to help but dear God it made my fear so much worse.
#28My ex gifted me tickets to a big country music concert for some goofy relationship milestone (like 5 months?). I reminded him that I don’t like country music and he said, “Well, I do and I already bought the tickets so we’re gonna go so the money isn’t wasted.”
That was a dumb relationship.
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#29For Christmas, my aunt (Aunt 1) gave me and my sister liquid soap that had already solidified. She's known for being "thrifty" and re-giving old gifts.
Aunt 2 gave Aunt 1's son a shirt for his birthday. After a few years, Aunt 1 gifted the shirt to Aunt 2's son.
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#30As a small child I got a water bottle and a helmet for Christmas and nothing else. I was totally pissed because I thought my mom just thought I was extra special and needed a helmet to not hurt myself while running around and that I was especially underhydrated. Turns out I had actually gotten a bicycle for Christmas but all of my presents were stolen except for the helmet and water bottle. The worst gift I received wasn't those presents, it was the knowledge that the world is a cruel and uncaring place.
#31First Christmas with my husband of three months, my mother decides to make everyone underwear and boxers. Weird as is. The boxers showed total disregard for male anatomy (things didn’t line up) and the girls’ underwear were all way too big. She wanted to fix them, and asked us for a pair of underwear to fit correctly to go off of. It’s my favorite ‘my family is weird’ story.
#32My grandmother got me a nightgown one year. I'm a guy.
#33My aunt gifted me a snowscraper for my car. When I opened it she said "I bet you don't have one of those! "
I was 21, living in northern Midwest and driving everyday. Including that day, which had 4" of snow.
I gave it away to some fool clearing his widow with a credit card a few weeks later.
#34A friend gave me a toilet roll with "Emergency Toilet Paper" written on it
#35About 10 years ago my uncle was giving out Christmas gifts to everyone in the family. He's mentally handicapped but he makes sure to go to the dollar store to buy everyone something, typically mugs. Now my uncle doesn't really put much thought into who gets what mug. He just wraps the mug and puts someone's name on it. Sometimes people get multiple mugs and other times you get none because he doesn't keep track of who has already been assigned a mug. Well my cousin was married to a Muslim (it's relevant, I promise) and her gift was a mug that said, "Jesus loves you." It was the only religious themed mug out of probably 50 and she got it. The entire family was laughing, including her. She thought it was great.
#36When I was a little kid (going back about 25 years) I cut the legs off a pair of sweatpants and gave them to my dad for Christmas as "leg warmers." No clue where I came up with the idea. Found out a few years ago he still has them and it still cracks him up whenever he sees them.
#37This is going to sound bad because it was all super expensive but I figured out my parents were planning to get me the PS4 when it came out, and I asked them not to get it because my husband (boyfriend at the time) had just gotten one and we really didn’t need 2 especially since I play maybe once a year. They just play coy and say they don’t know what they’re getting me. So I end up getting the PlayStation and not only that, every single family member gave accessories to go with it. Special remotes, special headphones, all different games. Every present I opened I got sadder and sadder because everything was PlayStation related.
I feel bad and it sounds so unappreciative but I just really don’t play and I’m sure for a gamer it was a dream...but my husband had a good Christmas that year at least!
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#38I got a Game Boy. The original. The year it came out. I was, as you could imagine, thrilled, especially as it came from my older brother, who wasn’t always particularly nice to me. I was absolutely horrified and instantly hysterical when I opened the sealed box and it was filled with D batteries, thinking it was another “prank.”
Turns out someone had bought it, stolen it, re-wrapped it, and returned it to Walmart for someone else to buy. Fortunately, they replaced it. I am still emotionally scarred.
#39My parents renovated my bathroom at their house. It was a “surprise”. Thing is, I didn’t live at home anymore - I had been living in a different state for 4 years. I was visiting for Christmas with my fiancé. Bathroom is connected to my room and everyday for the five days we were visiting we were woken up at 8am and had to leave so the construction guys could work. When I sort of complained about being woken up she called me ungrateful and screamed at me. We didn’t speak for four months.
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#40I’m gonna speak on my husbands behalf here. We don’t speak to his family or see them at all, there’s a history of abuse and just a lot of toxicity so we cut them out of our lives. It’s been almost 3 years of radio silence, which is amazing and it was absolutely the right choice for us. Whelp, unfortunately my husbands parents live in the same city as us and they know where we go to church. So this year, on my husband’s birthday, my MIL dropped off a gift at our church for him because she doesn’t know where we live and can’t contact us any other way.
The gift was the DVD of the movie I Can Only Imagine. If you’re not familiar with the premise of the movie, let me fill you in. It’s about a man who was abused by his father as a boy. He leaves home and stops having a relationship with his dad. Years go by and the man decides to reconcile and rebuild a relationship with his dad, who was previously abusive but because he found God, he isn’t anymore.
It was really f**ked up to get that movie from someone who manipulated and abused my husband until his early twenties. So that gift absolutely takes the cake. And in the event MIL or the family finds this comment and reads it (though I doubt they use reddit), the only thing I’ll say directly to you in 3 years is “Shame on you.”
#41I got a half of a box of chocolates for my birthday one year. Yep - I opened it and half of them had been eaten already. It wasn't from a child - it was from adult family members. The reasoning was that they knew I would share them when I opened them, but I was away on a business trip on my actual birthday and they couldn't wait to eat some.
#42My mother and her friend came to stay with me last year for Christmas and I got them both standard stuff like scarves and bath bombs and stuff.
My mom’s friend got me one gift, which I opened on Christmas morning - it was a package of ground espresso, which I don’t like. I was nice about it and said thank you and then put it in my cabinet and went about celebrating the holiday.
The next day I woke up late and went to go make coffee - she had opened the espresso and made it for herself! I remain deeply offended.
#43My grandfather would give as Christmas gifts free junky stuff he got from his bank or some other such place. Like, a cheesy plastic ornament with the name of some bank or insurance company on it. Then he'd be angry and offended if we did not treat this as the greatest and most generous gift ever.
#44A gun rack... I don’t even own A gun let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack
#45This is kind of a s**tty/hilarious gift. Around Christmas in college, my fraternity would do a Secret Santa exchange (draw a name out of a hat and buy that person a gift). We had a $20 limit on the gifts, and we would exchange them at our annual Christmas party. The first year, my fraternity brother got me a framed picture of him sitting on Santa's lap at the mall. Not one from his childhood, but one he went to the mall to get earlier that week. It was a terrible gift, but it was hilarious.
#46Foundation (as in makeup) from my husband. Turns out he went to Sephora, pointed at a colour and said “that looks about right” (with his FEMALE friend who ALSO wears makeup AGREEING) and bought it for me!
I am a pasty white girl. Like I’m always the lightest shade, and sometimes the lightest shade is too dark.
The colour they picked was from the middle-to-end range. Like for a black person.
I laughed so hard I almost peed and we (and the female friend) still laugh about it years later!
#47Mom got me a Widows Mite when she visited Israel. For those of you who don't know, the Widows Mite is from a story about Jesus.
Bonus: she took it away later because I didn't appear appreciative enough.
#48Worst gift I ever got was last year from a friend from school. I was 3 weeks post partum with my first kid and in a motel alone for Christmas and she came by with a bunch of JuicePlus tablets and an ItWorks wraps. Then she told me since I’m “doing nothing” I could help her sell it. I was cordial at the time but afterwards I thought it was pretty s**tty thing to do
#49My parents, for whatever reason, got me and my sister school supplies for Christmas one year when I was young. Every. Single. Gift. Notebooks, pencils, erasers, protractor, calculator, etc. And I wasn’t even mad. I truly thought my parents believed those gifts are what we wanted for Christmas and I couldn’t bear letting them see my disappointment. So I faked excitement with each gift unwrapped and thanked my parents. To this day, I don’t know if those gifts were some kind of punishment for something we did or if they truly were trying to make us happy. Either way, I just showed them I appreciated whatever they got me.
#50One year for Christmas I go to open an unusually large present from my grandma. Inside there was a slightly smaller but also large wrapped present and after about 10 more unwrapped presents later I get down to hopefully the last one which is the size of a shoebox. Unwrap it and yep it's a shoebox but what's inside I wonder? It's got to be something good right? .... It was one woman's shoe. I looked at her confused and then looked down at her feet, she was wearing the other matching shoe with one bare foot I had not noticed before. She kind of giggled, and put the shoe on lol I was like 12 at the time so I kind of laughed it off but was very surprised when she did not have another present to give me. That was it :( However it is a good story now and the look on my families faces at the time was priceless, no one knew how to react
#51In my family, we have a competition to see who gets the fewest presents. That person gets to whine and complain all day about how no one likes them.
Usually this is my dad, but one year it was my brother. He got almost nothing.
Except a garden hose.
After all the unwrapping my Dad looks right at him and says "Well, you really got hosed this year."
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#52A card from my grandparents that said “Happy Birthday Evan!” with a picture of my older brother on it
#53After buying a very expensive watch in front of my ex as his Christmas present, he gives me a pack of stickers and a book on making crude origami as my gift.
#54My grandparents got me a flight of mini bottles of flavored vodka for Christmas one year.
I was 17.
Let's just say, my parents were less than thrilled lol
#55Do intentionally terrible gifts count? We did a white elephant gift exchange and I ended up with a broken Legolas figurine in a bag of seeds.
#56a bottle of gatorade for my 11th birthday. and on that day my mom dragged me to the store and went ALL out for my cousin in front of me, who was born the next day.
#57Last year my grandfather got me a blanket for Christmas except that he realized he'd forgotten to get my older sister a present so gave the blanket to her instead. How do I know this? Because he told us while he was giving out his presents.
#58It was my 16th birthday and my family is strapped for cash. Eating potatoes, cabbage, and eggs for most meals because it's what we can afford. Mom says they'll have to get me a birthday gift later. Cool, I get it, not going to make a fuss.
A week later my stepdad gets paid and goes out and buys himself a longboard, even though we still are struggling for money (before people chime in saying it was his money, both paychecks were used for everyone to live off of, my mom made a lot more than him and he certainly lived off of more than his share of the money she made).
So to answer your question, my stepdad got a longboard for my birthday,
I never did get a present.
#59My demented grandma got me a package of disposable plastic forks for my birthday
#60I was living in Korea and we did a gift exchange at work. A female co-worker got me shoe lifts (kkalchang). It is, or was, rather common for shorter men to wear them. I'm only 5'8" and, naturally, some people assumed I was shorter and was just wearing kkalchang. I opened the box and the look on my face said it all. Her expression went from joy to terror thinking she had insulted me. I threw on a nice face and slid them on, I was almost 5'11". It was at that moment that I realized a good deal of people assumed I was 5'5" / 5'6" pretending to be 5'8". I was not super happy.
#61James Corden's autobiography, written when he wasnt even particularly famous
#62My dad got me a "Bota Bag" (special canteen that traditionally holds wine) for christmas one year.
I was 11.
#63My mom had a rule about making sure my sister and I had the same number of gifts, regardless of cost per child. To make sure that the number was equal, she gave me a 12 pack of Irish Spring Soap on Christmas.
It counted as one, for those of you who are wondering.