Awkward Holiday Moments


Awkward Holiday Moments: We’ve all had them.

Maybe it was the strange and experimental hand-knitted thing you had to thank your distant relation for.

Maybe it was the bikini calendar your older female relative gave your husband on Christmas morning in front of your impressionable young children… Oh! And your husband’s ex-wife, because, naturally, she had to accompany your family on your exotic vacation. This is just a completely hypothetical situation of course.*

Maybe it was the time you thought your brother had given you a much-desired electronic rabbit toy but it was actually an electric wine opener.**


Maybe it was the year you gave everybody in your family hand-made ornaments and you received a disproportionately expensive–and unwanted–technical gadget from someone you knew didn’t have money to spare.

“You” are so cheap!! Ahem.

Or maybe it was the time you enraged your own older female relative by re-gifting a very fancy Stevie Nicks-style shawl, which she’d given you, to your daughter, because it went so perfectly with the vintage bridal veil you’d gotten for her dress-up collection.

And then you had to make your daughter cry by rescinding it. Again, this is completely hypothetical.***

Bride Dress-Up
Thrifty Christmas Gone Wrong: Vintage Bridal Veil and Re-Gifted Shawl

What is it about gift-giving that pushes so many buttons?

Answer: It’s because there is so much pressure to express not only our love, but our deep understanding of one another through our gift-giving acumen. Finding the present that’s just right for the recipient proves how well we know them, what they want, like, and need. It shows we care.

Or at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe.

We grow up–or at least many of us grow up–with all sorts of messages that birthdays and Christmas (and I suppose Hanukkah, though I can’t speak for that) are the time to get just exactly what we want. Those days are supposed to be picture-perfect.

What a set-up for disappointment and hurt feelings. Reality can never live up to the dream.

Unless its your first Christmas and you’ve been given the wrapping paper tube AND toilet paper tubes wrapped in wrapping paper. Then it’s awesome:

Baby Christmas
Wrapping-Paper Wrapped Paper Tubes!! Nothing awkward here!

Many people think gift wish-lists and registries are crass.

But we instruct our kids to write lists for Santa, which gives us a cheat sheet to their desires. Why is that taboo when we’re grown up? If we’re going to throw around hundreds of dollars on each other, we might as well spend them on things we know our loved ones want or need.

So….. if you’re reading this, this is what I want/need: iTunes or bookstore gift cards. Dark chocolate (non-dairy). Massage or pedicure gift certificate. Gift certificates to the fabric store or plant nursery. Help with yard-work or home repair. Babysitting. A night out with you. A lunch date with you. A heartfelt phone call. A hug and a good conversation.

And Fiesta Ware is always a safe bet:

Christmas Fiestaware
I collect mugs and dinner plates!

What awkward holiday moments have you experienced?

How do you communicate with your loved ones about gift-giving?


*By hypothetical, I mean it happened. To me.

**Okay, okay, I thought that. It was me.

***See first note above.

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Part of the solution since 1973.

48 thoughts on “Awkward Holiday Moments

  1. Being in a religious community means I can get away with spending very little on presents, and my family now get me practical gifts, such as shampoo and shower gel. I now have enough shower gel to last me the next two years, however…

  2. I think there is a time limit on re-gifting. Like you are supposed to wait longer than 60 seconds to re-gift something in front of the giver of the gift.

  3. One plastered mother, chasing a half cooked turkey around the kitchen floor that she dropped out of the oven while trying to baste it…. maybe that’s too awkward?

    1. Oh you’re welcome! If you liked that image, you will REALLY like the post it originally belonged to: XXX-Mas. It’s the clickable link in the paragraph above the picture.

  4. Hahaha! My brother and (female) cousin had an awkward giftathon going a few years back. She gave him a blow-up doll one year. Then she gave him one of her used bras the next. Come to think of it I don’t actually remember what he did to deserve it… oh yeah. Fake winning Scratch & Win ticket. They are about the same age and not related by blood, too, which made it all the more awkward (especially the bra).

  5. I love that Christmas light Fiestaware!

    I tend to communicate by saying “If anyone wants to get me [fill in blank] for Christmas, I’d be really good with that.” My family is pretty shameless about stuff like that, fortunately. My in-laws are not so swift, from them I get things like pink frilly sweaters (I have no idea what made them think that those are things I’d wear, but whatever). I suppose it’s still the thought that counts, but without seeming ungrateful, sometimes I do wonder how much actual thought went into some gifts.

    1. I’m sure you’d look lovely in a pink frilly sweater. I’d like to dedicate a whole anonymous blog to strange gifts. This post was risky enough, but I like to give the gift of self-righteous anger to people for Christmas.

      And the Fiesta Ware… it gets better! They release a new Christmas pattern every year or so, and my goal is to have enough for each member of our family to have a different mug and plate. It taps into my OCD/color-obsessed/collector side. It’s sort of a problem. But I’m getting better.

      I’d ask you about your awkward holiday moment, but… I’m guessing it involved vomit. Or possibly the turkey-in-the-pie. No, the vomit.

      1. This line: ” I like to give the gift of self-righteous anger to people for Christmas” makes me that much more fond of you, Kylie.

        I can absolutely see the appeal of wanting to have enough Fiesta Ware for everyone. I’m all about ceramic bowls, myself.

        And I can neither confirm nor deny the details of my favorite Christmas memory…

        1. 1. I also like to give people the gift of feeling smug. What can I say? I’m generous like that.

          2..Ceramic bowls! When I travel, I like to buy local pottery. Makes such a useful and pretty, if heavy, souvenir.

          2.a) The very, very best was a Hawaiiana Fiesta Ware pitcher purchased in Hawaii.

          3. I’m rather fond of you too. I actually found an Ursula the Sea Witch Weeble-Wobble I’ve been meaning to (virtually) share with you.

          1. My latest fetish has been Italian ceramic pasta bowls with hand painted pictures of food on them. I can’t help myself. But since I’ve never been to Italy, I rely on the interwebs in order to procure them.

            An Ursula Weeble! That’s primo. I will need to see a photo.

            1. You got it. Maybe I’ll gussy her up for the holidays.

              Those Italian bowls! I would love to hang them all over my walls, but my kids would destroy them with ricocheting balls.

  6. I avoid the hell out of holiday gifts, preferring the occasional “I thought you might get a kick out of this” gift.
    Unfortunately, my wife’s family gives gifts for every holiday on the calendar..

  7. My favorite is always getting my wife something that she would like. She doesn’t like flowers, perfume, lotion, jewelry or any number of lady related items. I always struggle to find her the right thing until she slips up and gives me a hint what she wants. Usually after I say, “What do you want this year?”

    1. Good plan. You could also just ask her: “How much money do you want so you can go get exactly what you want?”

      And just curious… what DOES she like? Coffee? Tea? Books? Because those are all good.

      1. She doesn’t like coffee, tea or books. She likes clothes, and thrifting, which neither she would allow me, nor would I attempt to buy them for her. I usually have to squeeze something out of her early if I want to attempt to surprise her.

  8. I absolutely LOVE giving gifts but it is always a little stressful to receive them… Because you don’t want to feel weird if you went over the top, or maybe you’ve been given a regift, or maybe that person just isn’t good at gift giving. I’m a fan of over-the-top gratitude no matter what!
    PS- LOVE the christmas light plates!

    1. Isn’t that weird? So fun to give, and yet so difficult to receive.

      I’m starting to think I should do a whole post about my Fiesta Ware Christmas plates and related-Fiesta Ware obsession. Some years, I actually manage to rotate out my collection to do a season-specific color scheme.

  9. We tell each other EXACTLY what we want. When possible, we go out and shop together. If you take the person for whom you are shopping with you, you always get the perfect gift. Oh, and we don’t exchange gifts with anyone but immediate family and our two best friends. Everyone knows “the polidy” so they don’t buy for us, either. Cheaper (most people are relieved to not have to spend money) and no one feels cheated. Sometimes, you can solve problems by doing it completely differently … and it works. Yay.

    1. Your comment could easily be my comment, Teepee. My husband always knows exactly what I want and the two friends I exchange gifts with are given several suggestions as well. People like our aunts and uncles will get our son things (since they will love shopping for him until he’s a teenager), but they don’t really get *us* anything because they know we’ll feel guilty for not reciprocating. Perhaps that’s tacky, but it works for our family.

      1. My enormous extended family solved the problem with a White Elephant Gift Exchange. It’s always fun, and only sometimes awkward, like when my uncle stole the dust-buster from us when we had just had a newborn preemie and gotten married and remodeled a house and blended our families to include four kids total and did NOT have a vacuum cleaner and he gloated that now they could have a dust buster for both upstairs and downstairs of their McMansion. Only he didn’t say McMansion.

  10. I can’t agree with you more. That is why the majority of my gift giving is the “green stuff.” They can choose their own gift. I know it isn’t very personal, but honestly, I would rather receive money than a gift that I don’t want and can’t use, so I assume they feel the same way. 😀

  11. And by “rabbit,” you meant THE Rabbit, right? And yikes.
    My wife now tells me exactly what she wants. It’s much more satisfying for all parties. Still, this year I bought her a watch. I imagine it’s what defusing a bomb must feel like.

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