Gift getting & giving

As the Year end holidays approach, I feel this frenzy around me, of  people in the throes of gift buying vertigo.

Do you love it or hate it

Spinning out of control, crowding around tables in stores, picking through oddments in search of that little bit of glitter to gift a brass ring.

I don’t have that problem. Perhaps because when I was growing up, besides being Jewish, I was living in the southern hemisphere where it was summer and we spent our holidays mostly on the beach, or at the pool.

My mother had a small white plastic tree for us kids. She loved to celebrate for the magic of it all.

She always gave us clothes and books. Not very exciting. and nobody cared but us. There were no stockings or great hullabaloo.

I grew up believing holidays were about friends, family and food.   The only gifts we gave were food related. A box of chocolates, dried fruit & nuts or bottle of wine or champagne. Meals shared, laughter and talk.

Some chocolates or a few rand for the kids.

Christmas crackers, & crowns. A roast and Christmas Pud with brandy sauce.

And Christmas Boxes. Cardboard boxes filled with turkeys, hams, fruit, sugar, tinned goods clothing and toys to be carried on heads, as the house staff made their journey home, for a rare break to spend with

their families.

Boxing day when workers would come around for their “Crismas Pansella”  a gift of money so that they could be “heppy heppy”.  The dustbin men & the gardeners, the painters & the street sweepers.

Poverty and plenty, parallel paths.

But I digress. This fever I feel all around me,

makes me think about all the gifts bought not with love or usefulness, but out of need to buy a gift.

Any gift will do.

A white Elephant.  Something that flies in the face of your taste. Has no relation to who you are. Something you abhor.

Have you ever received such a gift?  Or given one?  A slap in the face.   A useless bit of drivel that you had to discard.  Take to goodwill,  re-gift or shame of shames, keep hidden and drag out when

the relatives who showered you with their ugly little bit, come to visit?

I have received a few bits of nastiness. And lamented the fool who chose a gift I could not love, nor eat.

Holiday fingertip towels, that dripped with festive embroidery, that matched neither my rooms nor my style. nick-knacks that lacked the least bit of elegance, knockdowns and bargain basement catastrophes.

So dear reader, what is the ugliest gift you have ever received?

I want pictures, I want stories, I want to know how it made you feel.  And what did you do with the gift of supreme Ugliness?

Did you share at a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

Get your cameras ready, or pull out your albums.  We are having a contest.  Launching on January 1, 2011

To find the ugliest most horrible nastiest holiday gift.

Prizes and laughter galore!

Gather round and share your tale!  The White Elephants are gathering at the waterhole.

Comment below and let me know what you think about shopping gift giving and all that bah humbug 🙂

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Email


Gift getting & giving — 24 Comments

  1. I love the expression “gift buying vertigo”! I feel it all around me even though I do not participate. I actually love the Christmas season in the weeks right before Christmas–the decorations, the lights. I often think that because I don’t celebrate Christmas, I get to enjoy it more than many people who go all-out to create “memorable” Christmas events. I love being unencumbered by the demands of many gifts, and I often search for nonmaterial gifts, like classes for my grandson (he’s going to take Karate – at age 2!) and photos I frame for others. One of my best gifts (actually a birthday gift) once was for my husband: I made him a book (with an accompanying DVD) showing him how to work our new DVR box, so he could record and watch shows! I had so much fun making the demonstration video.

    Happily, I am on the receiving end of very few gifts, so I don’t have a stash of ugly ones! Whatever knick-knacks, tchotchkes, and sundry stuff I have — I have only myself to blame!

    Happy, happy holidays to you, Jen –

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

    • Happy Holidays to you too Judy. I like you enjoy the spirit of holidays without suffering from the gift giving vertigo. Experience is the most valuable of gifts, I am sure your family loves what you create and offer.

  2. Gosh, I really can’t remember ever getting anything that was that bad – guess I’m lucky! I’ve always tried to give the giver a break and think that it’s the thought that counts. But I agree – I actually don’t enjoy Xmas time at all because I always feel this immense pressure to buy the “perfect” gift, and I don’t think that’s always possible. I can only hope that those I do give a gift to give me a break as well.

    I loved hearing about your childhood xmas – it reminds me of here in Belize right now. I think I would like to adopt that as our new tradition and make it about people and less about objects.

    Sharon Hiebing
    Follow Your Dream Compass

    • Sharon you are right. It is a lot of pressure,when one buys the gift to fit the person. Adopting the Belize custom of holidays about experiences sounds so much more civilized and relaxing, I say go for it. Thanks for kind mention of my childhood memories.

  3. I can’t really recall anything in particular, but I collect a couple things (clowns & pigs) that I don’t share with people because they often don’t “get it”. I don’t like scary clowns and I don’t like ugly, realistic pigs. I have received a couple of those items and they end up in Goodwill bag right away. Today I gave small gifts to my customers at my annual Thank You lunch & Crop – some bits of papers they could use in scrapbooks and a Tupperware smidget with coordinating M&M’s. If they don’t like it, I don’t mind if they re-gift and even tell me that they did!

    Pat Zahn, Photo Solutions Superhero

  4. I love Christmas — the excitement, the decorations and lights, the food and family — but I agree that the gift giving has diluted the joy and magic of what should be such a special time of year. It should not be about finding the perfect gift, it should be about being together and sharing time and enjoying one another, and because I am a Christian, I also believe that the focus should be on the one perfect gift that was given to us on the original Christmas and the Spirit of joy and thankfulness for that gift! Have I ever received an ugly, awful gift? I honestly don’t remember anything that bad — although one time a neighbor gave me a picture frame and what looked like a homemade pot holder that I have to think she was regifting — I had brought them some homemade cookies and I think what she brought me was a last minute gift that she felt obligated to do. Last year I brought cookies to all my neighbors but did it on Christmas Eve so that no one had time to worry about giving me something in return! It worked for everyone except that same neighbor, who on Christmas Day brought over something that I honestly don’t even remember now what it was!

  5. Perhaps I will have a picture to submit after this Holiday season, but currently the prize for the worst gift I’ve ever received goes to my late, dear Grandma. When I turned 13 she gave me purple culottes and gold lame’ keds in the same box…apparently to be worn together? Grandma also won for the 2nd worst gift (green plaid golfer pants, age 11), for the 3rd worst gift (huge silver belt buckle with my name and a yellow daisy, age 12) and 4th worst gift (size 25 underwear, big enough to fit 3 people, age 15). Gotta love Grandma 🙂
    Brandy Mychals
    Split Second Perceptions

  6. Also being Jewish, the frenzy was not a big part of my growing up. However, at some point (and I am not sure when), I became obsessed with this frenzy! I am not sure what it is – maybe the fact that I did not have it growing up, but I love the music, the decorations, the hustling around, the crowds, and I just love all the gorgeous wrappings/trimmings, etc. Makes me feel like a kid all over. That being said, I like the sounds, tastes, and appearances of the season, but could do without all the gift giving. thanks for posting!

    • Rachel I can understand how easy it is to get caught up in the joy and then the obligation. I too enjoy the joyful moments color and decoration. Glad you stopped by.

  7. Nasty gifts – hmmmm. Well actually almost anything I have ever received from my Mother-in-law. She’s one of the cheapest people I know and only buys ‘bargains’ with no thought behind them at all. She has bought me vile items of clothing that I have never worn but the worst year was when she bought me a really horrid little spa set (one of those with what are really sample or hotel room sizes in) that was coconut based and I really don’t like the smell. So I took back to the store to see if I could at least change it for a different smell only to find that she had spent 50p (about 75c) on it. I wouldn’t mind that as I’m all for getting a bargain but this was clearly the ONLY reason she had bought it. I honestly wish she would not bother at all….
    I do also dislike the gift buying vertigo (great expression!) but I do love seeing my kids open their gifts on Christmas day…
    Louise Edington
    Facing Fears and Frontiers Over Fifty

  8. While I grew up Catholic and we definitely celebrated Christmas, I was lucky that I had a Mom who made us make a special gift for everyone in our family. So I never got the shopping madness. Plus, always having had to shop for my job, first in the fashion business and then in the interior design business, shopping is not fun for me!
    This year, my favorite gift Is a Alphabet book I am making for my grand daughter. Every letter is either a family member or a message of love. She will be surrounded by love and I have given her both my love and my time. I think She will remember that!
    I can’t really think of any really ugly things…useless, yes, ugly not so much

  9. I grew up in a working class (that’s posh for poor) family in the UK and I was the oldest of 4 with only 5 years between youngest and oldest. But I did love Christmas. Mom and Dad always managed to get us great gifts and we would wake at 5am and all gather ion one bedroom and open them. Later in the day we would all go over to my Aunts pub (it was closed Christmas day) and have a big family party with all the aunts uncles and cousins. We would play charades and other fun group games.

    One year my and my hubby decided not to get each other gifts but he decided to get me one anyway. It was in a small box (The size you might find a diamond tennis bracelet in) so I was excited to open it, after all, I was not expecting anything at all…..It was a tiny (about an inch tall) clock made out of bras. I was not sure what to say as it was such a strange little thing. Of course I smiled and said I loved it…Some years later, I told him what i really thought of it and so now every time anyone mentions “white elephant or crappy gift, we always look at each other and share a secret smile..just goes to prove even gag gifts can have some meaning to someone at some time.

    Julie Labes the…Fierce over 50 feels much younger, point and click junkie, loves to travel, does not use a jogging stroller, and before you ask, this is NOT my granddaughter..Woman

  10. It was good to hear that what Christmas and giving gifts really means for you. I can relate to what you said about the frenzy of it all. I’m just going to start buying gifts today because we don’t spend huge sums of money and go crazy with it all. I can remember some of my nastiest presents when I was a young teenager. It was those plastic polyester retro-style tops in garish colours. They squeaked when I wore them and snagged on everything I touched. And squeaky bed sheets to match. Ugh!!

    Fiona Stolze

  11. I grew up in the tropics far away from the rest of our family. Three Kings day was far more important in Puerto Rico than Christmas, however our parents refused to give in to our pleas to celebrate the day with a second round of gifts (which was for us more about “belonging” than the gifts). Gifts from the mainland were often not useful. Hangers with blow up little pillows for hanging up our sweaters (which none of us owned). Anything metal rusted quickly in the ocean air. Clip on earrings in a culture where girl babies ears were pierced at birth were not worn. For us Christmas was about having a day at the beach and body surfing. It wasn’t about big family dinners or cozy gatherings by the fire.

  12. Gift buying vertigo indeed ~ I call it combat shopping, its all about numbers and not about that one small thing that can tell people you care.

    My ex Mother in Law would also take the prize I think – one year she sent me a huge white candlewick robe, I’m talking a full 10+ sizes too big… I was a size 2 at the time and this was a 2X. Same woman gave her granddaughters 1980’s style clutch purses at age 8 and 10 (2005) ~ they were ‘new’ or at least unused and leather but… (I wonder what storage locker she had raided to get them and if they were meant for use on the days I send the girls to elementary school in high heel pumps)

    Her son, my former husband shares the same bad taste and once bought me a pair of pottery chilli peppers on a piece of raffia and a coaster with potpourri in it (it smelled like something died). This wasn’t part of my Christmas gift but the whole thing ~ Oi!

    Nice imagery about Christmas past Jen, sounds like the British colonial holidays we had as a kid.

    So now you have the pink flamingo are you moving to Miami?

    Laine D
    Aspire to Inspire

  13. Grandmas always seem to hold the title of worst/ugliest/most useless gifts — poor things. But mine, although they join the stereotypical grandma gift givers, were giving bad gifts with the best, most heart-ful intentions. Trying to shop for gifts at thrifts stores on such a pitiful little social security income can not be an easy task. So although I rarely enjoyed the items as they had hoped, I learned to appreciate the intent behind those unmentionable gifts.
    Yvonne Hall

  14. When we grew up , we used to get little presents from our aunt who used to get them used from her hospital thrift store. It was not because she couldn’t afford them, it was just that was her view of life. We used to all laugh about who got the weirdest one, but I did realize at some point that she was making an effort and that effort was more important than what she was giving.

    While the gifts were fun, it was always the family and traditions that I loved as a kid. I can’t think of a holiday that hasn’t been commericialized, so you just have to make of it what is important to you and not make the buying vertigo make you dizzy! (I love the pink flamingo, btw…)

    Candace C. Davenport ~ Little Books with a Big Message

  15. I can’t provide photos as I RETURNED it for the best gift of all: store credit! It was the most unfortunate pair of jeans I have ever seen. My dear husband bought them for me from a very expensive boutique. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were very flared with silvery, glittery, rhine-stoney embroidery running all the way down on the OUTTER side of each leg! Hideous. The most hideous part, however, was the price ($$$$) of these jeans!! I returned them as soon as I could and the clerk couldn’t believe that I didn’t like them. Then he asked me where was the matching COIN PURSE that was supposed to be attached to a CHAIN attached to one of the back pockets. The manager saw the look on my face and said to the clerk to forget about the coin purse. The best I could do was get store credit, which was fine, because I used it the next Christmas to buy presents for his side of the family.

  16. Gift buying vertigo…it certainly is a swirl. As far as the gift black list, I was in a relationship for a short while with a woman that only gave me gifts of things she wanted. I can’t remember any of them.

  17. I love everything about Christmas. I purchase my gifts throughout the year–only selecting gifts that truly fit a person. If I do not discover a thoughtful gift, I do not make a purchase. I have certainly received my share of distasteful gifts and, if I cannot think of anyone to give it to right away, I discard it since I do not collect clutter.

    Rachel Lavern
    Personal Transformation, Enlightenment and Development

  18. No bad holiday gifts per se, but I do have one family member that prides themself on giving us the cheapest, tacky “what were they thinking?” things they find at the local discount store. Most get donated, just because they are not at all our style.

  19. The worse gift I can remember is a summer sausage my sister gave me one Christmas. Not that anything is wrong with summer sausage it was just that it was a small one and contrasted against lavish gifts she had given her children. The beast I could get was something that looked like a d!@$ GREAT!

    Lisa Ann Landry
    Vibrating Positive Energy

  20. Thanks for this post, Jen. INTERESTING. I can’t relate to the idea of an awful gift — instead I believe it’s the thought that counts. Perhaps I reached this perspective when for years I’d receive socks, a book, or a shirt, when the kids around me received toys and candy. However, I’ll admit that while most of those underlying thoughts might have been wonderful, some of the actual gifts were pretty weird, to put it mildly.

    In my opinion, the best gift is something you make, rather than something you buy. Nowadays, my wife and I bake about ten fruitcakes every holiday time, and give them as gifts. No doubt adding to the world’s everlasting supply of White Elephants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.