Christmas is a time when we celebrate the joy of giving, and there is no greater joy than a loved one gushing over a thoughtful gift while you suck up the adulation like a vacuum cleaner that runs on insecurity.
Unfortunately, like stuffing with raisins, or oatmeal cookies with raisins, or basically anything with raisins in it, a bad gift will take all of the joy out of an otherwise happy experience and leave a gaping hole of resentment and bitterness.
There’s a time and place to be cheap and unimaginative, and it’s called Secret Santa. Other than that you must avoid inflicting the following gifts on humanity at all costs (assuming you have no plans to go live in a cave high atop a mountain with your dog and a heart that’s three sizes too small).
Cookies, fudge and various other goodies are a Christmas staple, but like Christmas songs or the Kardashians, there are way too many of them for one person to stomach. Throughout December every home and office is overloaded with decorative tins full of sugar bombs and people desperately trying to pawn them off on one another.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your grandma’s double chocolate coconut caramel brownie recipe is, throwing more sweets into the mix is like punching extra holes into a sinking lifeboat. People will secretly wish hot molten death upon you for ruining their chances of walking away from the holidays without those extra pounds of self-loathing.
7. Coffee Mugs
A household only needs one mug per person, plus one mug to hold pens and pencils. That’s it. All of the other mugs are just taking up space in the cupboard giving spiders a home, so there’s absolutely no need to add to that mess. This also includes travel mugs; if they don’t already have one they are not going to look at your gift and say, “oh, wow!
I never thought of drinking hot beverages in the car before, but I’m totally going to do it now!” You may be tempted to buy a mug with a clever slogan or cute cartoon, but don’t be swayed. You can get the same shtick from a greeting card, which has the added bonus of fitting neatly into a paper shredder.
6. Page-A-Day Calendars
Calendars are supposed to be simple. You slap one on the wall and use it to keep track of birthdays, soccer practice and interventions. Then someone came along and said, “Hey, how can we make this needlessly complicated?” The life cycle of this calendar is the same as a New Year’s resolution: people follow it for about a week before forgetting about it until March, at which point they’ll take one last stab at it before giving up for good.
And FYI, just because someone once said they admired Winston Churchill does not mean they want a Winston Churchill calendar. He may have been a great man, but no one is so interesting that there are enough “fun facts” about him or her to fill 365 days.
5. Scented Candle
Has anyone ever dropped you hints about how they wished their home smelled like gingerbread or ocean breeze? If the answer is no (and you know it is), they will accept this gift with the same forced enthusiasm usually reserved for a middle school play. The only people who actually want scented candles are the ones trying to hide a smell that comes from cigarettes, illegal substances or a part of the body that is impolite to discuss in mixed company.
Since you’re not perceptive enough to know which family member falls into this category, you’ll end up giving it to that quiet relative you hardly know because it’s better than nothing, which everyone in the room is acutely aware of as they watch her unwrap your gift.
4. Coffee Mug With Crap Stuffed Into it
We’ve already gone over why giving mugs as gifts is a bad idea, so rest assured that there is nothing that can be stuffed into a mug that will make it any more appealing. You can custom order a mug filled with all kinds of fancy chocolates, teas, and cocoas, but the bottom line is you’re giving people something they don’t want crammed with something they don’t need.
Or something they don’t need crammed with something they don’t want. Either way it would be far kinder to just knock the glasses off their head and step on them.
3. Picture Frame
Four words: Facebook Instagram Snapchat iPhone. If you’re going to give someone a picture frame you should also include a time machine set to 2007 so they can go someplace where it might actually be useful. Why would anyone want to put their pictures in a frame where their followers can’t see them and more importantly, leave comments?
People used to derive self-esteem from playing sports or excelling at work or school, but then the Internet came along and now measuring self-worth is as easy as taking a selfie. So unless you find a picture frame that tells people how awesome they are 24/7, you’ll have to give them some other gift they can squeeze onto an overcrowded shelf.
2. Basket of Hand Soaps and Lotions
Yes, people need hand soap and lotion. They also need toothbrushes and toilet paper, but there’s a reason no one is making gift baskets with them. As a rule of thumb, anything that can be bought at a gas station convenience store is a lousy gift no matter how much you try to dress it up with bows and baskets.
Speaking of which, even if they use the toiletries they’re still left with a basket that isn’t good for anything but holding toiletries. Now they’re stuck with something useless but too nice to throw away without feeling like a jerk. Their only choices are to put it in storage or pass the buck to a charity, where the judgmental stares they receive as they drop it off will also make them feel like a jerk.
1. A Starbuck’s Gift Card
You are basically giving them a cup of coffee for Christmas. Way to go, big spender. Maybe they can put it in that mug you got them last year.