The holidays always bring out the warm and fuzzies as people prepare to spend quality time with family and friends. There is always the excitement of giving gifts and anticipation of receiving them. Every so often, someone will put little thought into a gift or even worse- give a bad gift on purpose. People share the most messed up Christmas gift they have received. This content has been edited for clarity.
“For the sake of context, I was an avid fan of history, especially World War II. I loved watching WWII documentaries, collecting WWII antiques, and playing WWII games like Hearts of Iron IV and Medal of Honor.
Now the problem here was my mother. She is a genuinely nice person and I love her no matter what, but she’s also kind of ditzy. When it comes to buying gifts, she is really absent-minded about it. What she got me for Christmas is probably going to haunt me for the rest of my life as the most embarrassing thing anyone could go through.
Picture this: I was 16 years old and around the table with my family and friends having a good time. That included my crush I had managed to become good friends with. As I was opening my share of gifts, I found a large box from my mother who seemed really ecstatic. I opened it and at first, it seemed fine. It was just a bunch of clothes making up a suit which made me happy because I had never owned a suit.
She asked me to put it on because I’d look so handsome in it, yadda yadda yadda, and I accepted. I brought the box into my room and started taking the suit out but my face sank when I realized what she had actually gotten me.
My mom unknowingly bought me a WWII German Soldier SS uniform complete with a belt that had a Luger holster, a cap, and, yes, even the armband.
After gathering myself, not believing that my mom really bought that uniform for me, I quickly ran back up to her and asked to chat in private.
Mom: ‘What’s the problem, Mark?’
Me: ‘You know what this uniform actually is, right?’
Mom: ‘Yeah. It’s a German uniform from World War II, isn’t it? Don’t you like it?’
I paused for a moment, not wanting to upset or offend her in any way as much as I detested the fancy suit.
Me: ‘I mean, I appreciate it, but I’m just not comfortable with it at all.’
Mom: ‘But it’s a real German officer uniform from WWII! I know you like stuff from that period, so I went looking for things like that and came across that suit! I thought you’d look so good in it, too.’
Me: ‘But that’s the thing, mom. I can’t wear this suit.’
Mom: ‘Why not?’
Then I had to sit down and explain to my mom what the German soldiers actually did and why they were bad people. I know, it should be common knowledge, but my mom was born in Taiwan. As with a number of East Asian countries, they don’t absolutely detest the German soldiers because they weren’t as affected by them as the West was.
In the end, I managed to get her full understanding when I explained the Germans were to Australia and the West what the Empire of Japan was to Taiwan. Being aware of the foul actions of Japan in WWII, she finally understood what that meant, but still pressured me to wear it because it cost her a lot of money.
Unable to win the argument, I compromised with her. I wouldn’t wear the medals, belt, armband, or hat, but I’d be fine with the rest of the uniform. She accepted, and thus I went to the table in what merely looked like a suit were it not for the boots and the SS collar. Luckily, not too many people paid attention to that detail, but I still felt really uncomfortable for the rest of the holiday.
After the season, I sold the uniform to a pawn shop nearby where I lived. They kind of lowballed me, but I didn’t care one bit. I wasn’t going to live with a full German uniform in my closet.”
“My father-in-law had been with a woman for a few years. This woman was independently wealthy thanks to her father who had died years before.
Let me be clear: I didn’t expect anything from this woman. But over the last year, she kept talking about her multiple trips to England, her winter home in Florida, the three cruises she took every year, and so on. So I knew this woman obviously had money.
At Christmas, I was told she had a present for me. I was actually touched and excited to see what a woman of such culture would get for me. When I opened it, it was a set of fake mustaches. The type that would’ve been sold in the ‘toy’ aisle of the grocery store in the 80s.
I was shocked. It would’ve been more meaningful to give a simple card rather than whatever random thing she happened to come across. So what did I do? I thanked her, taped one of the mustaches to my upper lip, and carried on with the party.
From that point on, my expectations were lowered and I was happy to receive anything. But I always expected something absolutely cheap and inconsequential. It would’ve been different if my family would not have searched for gifts we knew she would truly like, but oh well. It is what it is. We still try, even if she doesn’t.”
“One Christmas Eve, we were at my in-laws’ house opening Christmas gifts. I gave my husband several nice items that he opened in front of everyone. After opening his gifts, he reached into the tree and pulled out a small black box from one of the branches.
He handed me the unwrapped box with an offhand, ‘Here’s yours.’
I wanted to burst into tears when I opened the box. It was the same inexpensive watch that we had purchased for him to wear to work while his good watch was being repaired. It was an ugly, slightly sweat-stained, men’s watch that had been stuffed in his dresser drawer for a few months.
I was astonished at such a cruel, insulting ‘gift’ from him. How he could think so little of me broke my heart. Somehow, I managed to leave the room without crying in front of everyone.
When I returned from the bathroom, I saw he had written me a 100-dollar check (on our joint checking account) and placed it on the Christmas tree. He acted like he had done nothing wrong.
I wish now that I had ended our marriage on the spot that night. Instead, it took a few years of allowing him to disrespect and cheat on me before I kicked him to the curb — with only his clothes and his clock radio.
I wonder if he ever thought about that belated 100-dollar Christmas check when he was writing out my child support checks.”
“My most offensive Christmas gift was from my brother when we were young, but in the end, the joke was on him. I was around 16 and my brother was 13. My father was a recovering addict and my parents were starting to head toward divorce, so our home life was stressful at the time.
My older sister, younger brother, and I had been exchanging gifts for each other for several years. My brother tended to give me less-than-desirable gifts. One year it was a rawhide dog bone my mother made me give to our dog. That was a bit offensive, but not the worst.
A year or two after the bone, we were talking about our gifts to each other which were under the tree, neatly wrapped.
My brother let it slip what his gift was, ‘You know that brown banana that was on the kitchen counter?’ and he snickered a bit.
I wondered if he was joking around, but guessed he most likely was not. I couldn’t bear the thought of opening the banana several days from then in front of the family so I developed a plan. Two days before Christmas, I purchased a new, slightly green banana. I very carefully unwrapped my gift, removed the decaying piece of fruit, and placed the new banana in the box. I carefully rewrapped the gift and placed it back exactly how it was.
Imagine his surprise on Christmas morning when I opened his gift to find a perfect yellow banana! The look on his face was pure shock as I exclaimed,
‘Oh, Ky! You were only kidding! What a wonderful surprise! Thank you!’ and promptly peeled and ate the banana.
He stammered that that was not the banana he had put in there and accused me of changing it, which of course, I denied. Decades later, we look back on the story and laugh as we have grown up and are over our childhood stresses.”
“I grew up being hyper-sensitive about my weight and skin color because I was several shades darker than all my family members. At certain times during my life, they made jokes about it and alluded to the fact that being darker meant less beautiful/prospects. This led to me being overweight as depression hit from the time I was about seven or so.
I always loved Christmas and still do. As a kid born in a tropical country, Christmas with a tree, presents, and family dinner was my ideal holiday. I lived to give presents and although I stuck to a budget, put a lot of thought into them.
One year, everyone got presents from me. They gave each other presents too but I somehow got left out. The crowning insult came from my mom who had gotten a 24-pack of weight loss shakes, wrapped it up, and gave it to me like it was the best present ever. I smiled through it and cried in private for days. Everyone thought it was hilarious so there I sat with my only present, surrounded by laughter at my weight loss gift costing 20 dollars. We were not poor and presents typically had a 100-dollar price tag or more. I died quite a bit that day.”
The Proper Coat
“I basically grew up in foster care and had never had a real Christmas. However, when I was 12, I got adopted and was going to have my first proper Christmas (note that my birth family is Inuit, not Christian).
My parents showed me Christmas movies, helped me decorate the tree and pick out gifts for everyone, and even cooked some of my culture’s food (as best they could) for dinner! My adoptive grandmother also decided to come over which was normal for their family.
Apparently, because it was my first Christmas with them, my parents declined to go to my adoptive grandparent’s house for the holidays. They wanted to focus on me and help me be more comfortable without a bunch of strangers around.
The night started off poorly with my adoptive grandmother saying how disgusting my culture’s food looked and smelled and she physically gagged when she took a bite out of a bone marrow sandwich before spitting it out entirely. She stopped after my mom said she was the one who cooked everything. I did help a lot with the bone marrow sandwiches, but everything else was her doing.
I remember what each of my family members gave me. Mom gave me a sketchbook with a fox on the cover (my totem), dad gave me a book about native folklore (it had a chapter on Inuits!), and ‘Santa’ gave me a ‘First Christmas’ tree ornament!
My adoptive grandmother decided to give me a ‘proper’ winter coat as a present. Now, just saying that doesn’t sound bad but her reasoning behind it made it wrong. As I said, I’m Inuit, and we come from the arctic so we have PERFECTED winter coats. I had a big fuzzy one made from caribou and grizzly fur with an underlayer of whale and seal skin. It was one of the few things I still had from my biological family along with a picture and a necklace.
My grandmother said that it was ‘Hideous and looked horrible against my pale skin and hair’ and that I looked too much like a redskin (my father was Russian).
Thankfully, at the time, I still wasn’t the best at English so I don’t entirely remember what was said, just that my parents were standing up for me. I remember trying it on and twisting and turning in it while my adoptive grandmother smirked. I said in quite broken English that it wouldn’t be warm or waterproof. The stitching was entirely open to the outside which would allow water to get in and tear it easily. The inside wasn’t warm at all, nor insulating, and the outside fabric wouldn’t block the wind.
I still own my ‘redskin’ coat as she called it, the book on folklore, and I kept the cover of the sketchbook. The coat she gave me was destroyed after it snowed. It got so wet it became heavy and tore its own stitching at the shoulders.”
My Little Girl
“It was pretty apparent that my stepdad’s mom liked his son more than she liked my mother and me. I had been going to her house for Christmas since I was seven and he would get cool toys like a brand-new Nintendo DS and I would receive coloring books.
When I was 16, I sat down to open the presents at her house. I was happy to be receiving gifts but I wasn’t expecting much. I received gifts that my younger brother should have received: a plastic lime green watch, a hat that looked like a reindeer, a bracelet from Wish that broke within a day and would rip hair off my arm, and about 10 of the SAME EXACT bookmarks.
She bought him multiple branded hats and sweaters from Caterpillar (a machinery brand), a Rolex watch, brand-new ski-doo goggles, and much more. I smiled for my brother as I was happy that he liked his gifts but when I got home, I threw out the majority of mine. She gave me little kid items and I quickly realized that she didn’t know me. She didn’t know what I liked or who I was. I was almost 17 and treated like a little girl, not like a teenager preparing for college.”
“One year my father asked me to buy a special present for my sister from him. He gave me 200 dollars (this was about 35 years ago so that was a lot of money) and told me to buy her the best duvet I could find at that price. I found one for 199 dollars. I told him and he told me to keep the extra dollar because of the time and petrol I had used looking in different shops around the area. On Christmas day, he gave her the gift and told me that my gift was the leftover money from the purchase.
Interestingly enough, after he died, while going through his things, I found his ‘financial’ notebook. He had written that my gift that Christmas was the 200 dollars he had given to me to buy my sister’s gift from him!
I didn’t find that as insulting as my gift the year before, though. My mother gave my sister a couple of new dresses she paid over 500 dollars for and gave me a blouse that was size 14 (I wore a size four). There was a button missing and a rip in it but she put it in a Saks Fifth Avenue box. In a different year, she gave me a tube of lipstick that was a free sample. How did I know it was a free sample? Because she had tried to scratch the ‘Free Sample’ label on it and didn’t do a good job.
Ah, the joys of Christmases past. I tell everyone not to buy me anything because seeing a Christmas gift with my name on it triggers too many fearful and negative emotions in me and I feel sick to my stomach.”
“My husband doesn’t have a close relationship with his younger sister and that’s putting it mildly. I used to encourage him to reach out to her more and see if as adults, they could possibly form a friendship.
He would always tell me, ‘I don’t like her, she’s never been a nice person.’
I typically try to see the good in people and so whenever we did get together with my husband’s family, I always made an effort to talk to her and show her kindness even though she was never friendly towards me. She would make little comments about what I was wearing or make a joke at my expense. It didn’t exactly leave me with a great impression of her.
One year, my in-laws decided to do a secret Santa name draw for our holiday gift exchange. We were all supposed to buy a nice gift for the person we drew (not a gag gift) and each of us were asked to make a list of ideas for our secret Santa. As luck would have it, my husband’s little sister drew my name. I was diagnosed with celiac disease a few years ago and his entire family is well aware of this as I usually have to eat different meals at family events.
At our gift exchange, I watched everyone open their nice gifts. There were books, fluffy blankets, fragrances, and clothing items. When it was my turn, I unwrapped a cookie. A big, gluten-filled bakery cookie in the shape of a dumpster. I’m not even sure where she found such a ‘unique’ cookie. The smirk on her face told me she absolutely knew I couldn’t eat it and she was thoroughly enjoying watching me open her ‘special’ gift. I understand now why my husband never liked her and this year, I’m skipping out on the family gift exchange!”
“No matter which side of my family is gathered for a Christmas celebration, the order of events is the same: family and friends arrive at a family home (we rotate homes each year), we have a dinner made up of our traditional holiday foods, and then everyone gathers around the Christmas tree to pass out Christmas presents. Once everything has been distributed, one by one everyone opens their gifts publicly from youngest to oldest.
This is normally not a problem, but one year when I was still a teenager and it was my turn to open gifts, I reached for a box from my grandmother. Yes, the grandmother who raised me. The one who was so harsh and cold with me. The one who took every opportunity to scream at me and beat me silly. That grandmother.
I pulled back the paper and peeked into the box. My heart clenched in anxiety that spiked off of the charts. How could she be so cruel and embarrassing? Why did I always find myself the target of her aggression? You see, the box was full of underwear. Yes, you read right. Imagine being a fourteen-year-old girl sitting in front of your grandfather, father, brothers, and a multitude of uncles and being expected to open a box full of bras and panties and hold each one up one by one. Back then, it was very inappropriate to allow male family members to see your undergarments.
You’d think that as prim and proper as my grandmother was, being such a stickler for decorum, manners, and etiquette she would never do such a thing. But she took special pleasure in making me feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, inadequate, or stupid. She could sacrifice her ideals if it served a purpose and her purpose was to humiliate me.
I wasn’t having it. I tightly closed the box without revealing the contents. The room broke out in laughter and teasing calls that I wasn’t following the rules and that I had to show everyone. I shook my head and refused.
‘No. I’m not showing this to anyone. It’s inappropriate and I won’t do it,’ I said firmly.
My grandmother huffed and rolled her eyes, ‘For goodness sake, Annie, you have no sense of humor. You are far too sensitive. How childish of you.’
She had orchestrated this to ensure I couldn’t win either way. If I revealed the contents, I would be publicly embarrassed among my family. If I refused, it gave her the opportunity to put me down in front of others.
I was not having that either.
‘Yes, I’m very sensitive when it comes to protecting my privacy. I won’t be humiliated,’ I spoke back.
You’re never supposed to ‘back talk’ your elders in the south. But even from a very young age, I fought back when it came to her. My refusal to be broken is why I so often paid a high price. For daring to stand up for myself, I’d been backhanded and smacked around, bruised and bloody many times over. I no longer cared. She could scream at me later, hit me, and the like. I’d rather take a physical beating than to be publicly humiliated.”
“I was 14 or 15 and had just started working at Dominos and my dads business on weekends. I had been saving money for about six months to buy my mom a really nice Christmas gift. I bought her a beautiful rose gold and white gold ‘mom’ pendant that was about 500 dollars.
I went up to her house a week and a half before Christmas with her gift all wrapped, I just needed to use some wrapping paper to wrap my Nan’s gift. My mom told me she hadn’t gotten a present for me yet and saw me drawing the entire time I was up there. I really wanted sketch pencils and a new artbook. I even would’ve been fine with dollar store quality.
When Christmas Eve rolled around, after shopping for food, my mom sprinted into the dollar store to buy my present. I got around 10 dollars worth of cheap makeup I couldn’t use as I have really sensitive skin. Also, I didn’t even wear makeup because my father always called me names if I wore the tiniest bit- even lip gloss.
I was so hurt because I realized she didn’t know me at all. After I put so much work into her gift, I got a rushed makeup set from dollar store that I couldn’t even use.”