Pretty soon we will get the opportunity to share gifts and tasty food with our loved ones, bathed in the multicolored hues of twinkling lights wrapped around a fir tree…Christmas is weird when you think about it.
Whether you are religious or not, one unifying ritual that most of the world still enjoys is this annual festival of doing nice things and getting cool stuff. But, lamentably, it doesn’t always pan out this way. This listicle, dearest reader, is a warning; gift-givers and receivers alike must take note. Some gifts are so sucky as to be offensive. Avoid giving the items listed below, and you can count yourself as being on Santa’s “good list” for next year. If you receive something you read about below, don’t fret. Easter is just around the corner. Nobody can get chocolate wrong, right?
Related: 10 Creepy Celebrity Fan Gifts
10 Any Electric Shock-Based Toys
Schadenfreude probably isn’t the best concept to explore around the festive season. But, it seems, shoppers are more than happy to explore the idea by inflicting such gifts on family members—”Hey Judy, kids, let’s all sit around and see who can get electrocuted and cry the quickest. Happy holidays!”
These sorts of torturous products don’t technically electrocute you—they rely on a cunning psychological trick. The product will claim it will electrocute you but what is actually occurring at the punitive point of “shock” is either a very low-level shock or just some heavy vibrations that trick your mind into thinking it is electricity coursing through your body. So, it hurts, and they are lying to you. Fun.
These sorts of “toys” have been on the market since the early 2000s, an era where self-harm became de rigueur in online communities.
Why is this allowed? Who would want this? Only YouTubers and journalists, I guess…
9 Spicy Hot/Gross Flavor “Challenge” Products
These are the sorts of gifts given when your local toy store has sold out of electrocuting games. The kinder version is the various “yuck factor,” Russian-roulette-style products. Harry Potter fans are mad keen on playing the jellybean game (after the infamous “Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans” that yield such flavors as dirty sock and vomit)—”Will it be butterscotch, or will it be dog turds? Isn’t this fun?”
What’s more surprising is that we haven’t seen a wave of Gen Z kids seeking legal emancipated minor status from their Millennial, Potter-obsessed parents. Just kidding, Millennials aren’t having kids.
The crueler version of this is the many iterations of “Hot Challenge”-based products out there. The Pacqui One Chip Challenge, where one Carolina Reaper pepper sauce-coated chip is eaten, has become the stuff of viral videos. Not because it’s cool, but because netizens love laughing at the pain of others. Do you really want your loved ones doubled over in agony, losing their tastebuds on Jesus’s birthday?
Look, if Shaquille O’Neil can’t take it, you are probably going to die.
8 Swingball…in the Northern Hemisphere
Before all you nostalgic readers out there start to cry about how much fun this backyard game was or how many times you were the undisputed champion of this game, think about the context for a moment.
There will be quite a few kids who receive this gift, replete with “Oh wow, swingball? I remember playing that with my mom and dad. Isn’t this cool?” from beaming parents. And you know what? They’re right. Swingball—or tether tennis—is fun. Just not in the northern hemisphere’s winter. Which Christmas falls in. for another few months. So, this gift, alongside Slip ‘n’ Slides, Super Soakers, and badminton sets, will only get used at a time where you won’t freeze to death.
But make sure you don’t mistakenly get the 1930s version of “Swingball,” the gladiatorial “girth control” exercise method advocated to keep women fit. The upside is “it will make dancing exercises simple.” The downside? You may break your pelvis. Better a soggy tennis ball to the chops any day.
7 Novelty Books
Carl Sagan once said, “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” Very wise words.
Unless you consider the millions of pages printed with utter dreck each year, solely for the purpose of shifting copies to individuals who have no idea what to buy and possess very little sense of humor, wit, or actual knowledge themselves. It’s a whole literary industry designed to cater to the lazy and NPCs. I refer to novelty books—designed to be read once and then sit in a cupboard or on a shelf or shipped off to a charity, ready to inflict its transient banality on another poor soul.
Some are quite funny: Dimly Lit Meals for One: Heartbreaking Tales of Sad Food and Even Sadder Lives by Tom Kennedy will give you a chuckle. Once. Then what? Nobody will want to read through this again. The same goes for Michael J Knowles’s magnum opus Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide, a 266-page book that covers areas like immigration, education, and homeland security…the subsequent “chapters” all being blank. Funny. Worse still would be the copycat Reasons to Vote for Republicans: A Captivating Interpretation by Char Daley. Same deal just penned after Knowles’s mildly amusing stunt. Which makes it worse.
Imagine receiving these at Christmas. What would it be, 35 maybe 40 seconds of mirth? Whatever happened to socks as a crap gift? At least you can wear them.
6 Executive Stress Toys
There’s a stereotype about corporate types that suggests that all they do is sit around in offices or cubicles all day, do very little work (if anything at all), and collect huge paychecks, siphoning cash out of a bloated system propped up by a clutch of hyper-productive people who do all the actual work.
Desk toys don’t help that stereotype.
On top of that, they suck. These “toys” are just surface fillers. Formica surfaces, of course. If they really are meant to function as toys, they are the most depressing, Soviet-esque style toys ever—black plastic, chrome, one single motion or function. No point, no goal, no elements of a game at all.
This may very well point to a darker reality than “lazy, wealthy fat cats”—maybe this is what some AI singularity-type entity wants for us. Maybe this is to distract office workers as more and more of their productive activities get usurped by machines. Maybe this “office toy” phenomenon is the shiny pair of keys jangled in front of our faces while Skynet becomes sentient and prepares to launch the nukes. The cities burn, silence falls, broken only by the clacking of millions of desk-placed Newton’s Cradles…
What? Okay, I’m back.
5 Noooot Quite
Some of you may be old enough to have received prohibitively difficult video games during the ’80s. 1986’s Ghosts’ n Goblins for the NES springs to mind. Contra, too—the game that made every player wish they had a real-life machine gun in order to fire a few rounds into their console. But hard video games aside, could there be a more disappointing gaming experience? Something that’ll irk you more than dying 45,000 times while playing Dark Souls?
There certainly is.
There have been many games released over the years that are pale, droopy copies of more venerable, much better games. Even if they aren’t rip-offs, there are often games within the same genre that don’t quite match up. You want Mortal Kombat? Try Killer Instinct instead. Fancy a FIFA game in your stocking? Why not Pro Evo Soccer? That’s the same, right? Want a retro gaming experience on your N64 with a vintage copy of Madden 64? Well, all we could get you was Olympic Hockey Nagano ’98. That’s an American sports game, right? Stop moaning; you could have gotten a lump of coal.
You press your face up against a bed of pins suspended between some panes of glass. Then, on arching your neck back, the pins descend, capturing your grimace as you lower your head. Is this medieval torture? No, it’s a novelty gift. Once you experience the pain of an errant pin that goes just too far into your nostril as you try to capture the perfect aheago expression from your favorite manga, you’ll never play with this toy again. Still, the middle fingers are funny, especially if your mom is in your room searching for porn…you weeb.
Art is a very tough thing to define. One thing that we can probably say with certainty is that no “art” has ever been created using one of these novelty gifts.
3 Lava Lamps
OK, lava lamps aren’t the worst kitsch gift a person can give. They look cool to some, feel very nostalgic, and will net anyone who has their lamp explode in their face a hefty settlement. But there is an issue in that previous sentence. Nostalgic for whom?
Everyone who remembers having one of these in their rooms is a grandparent now. But it’s not these people who are still buying these items—Millennial parents are buying them for their kids. Do they remember the age of the lava lamp? No, but marketing nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is big business now. Retro and vintage are the new “cutting edge” and “time-saving,” the sorts of descriptors that shifted products in the 20th century.
Criticism is often leveled at Americans of a “certain age” for harkening back to a past that never really existed (a white-picket-fence 1950s with a nuclear family and a car in every garage). But it seems to be those who level such critiques who yearn for re-dos of all that has come before—repackaged, remakes, sequel upon sequel upon sequel, then a reimagining. Maybe they believe that lava lamps were actually a cultural phenomenon during their childhood because they watched That 70’S Show?
Rest assured, in 50 years, Gen XYZ Beta will be giving their kids lava lamps too. Ad infinitum.
2 Land! (But Not Really)
Ever fancied yourself as a Lord, commanding servants to bring you some fresh wineberries from your estate in the Scottish Highlands? Wanted to be one of the first claimants to a plot of Mars or the Moon? Maybe God-President of the JimWilkinsonIsWayCool star system after you bought a certificate to name the celestial body? Well, now you can…with a terrible deed that has no legal weight behind it that doesn’t make you any of these things. https://shasthrasnehi.com/buy-a-land-on-the-moon-who-is-being-fooled/
You could, if you really wanted to, save some cash (and your soul) by printing out a “deed” which proclaims the very same “ownership” to whomsoever you deem worthy of such a gift. For free. At home. But don’t.
1 Any Festive Paraphernalia
Christmas-themed stuff is all very well and good—who doesn’t like an ugly Christmas sweatshirt, a dancing/singing animatronic snowman, or frankincense-and-myrrh-scented room diffusers? But all these things are good for the RUN-UP to Christmas, the festive SEASON, not the day itself…as a gift…possibly in someone else’s home so you can’t use it.
Even with a Christmassy pair of socks, are you really going to wear them past the day itself? The next possible time you can use such items without looking like an obsessive (possible) serial killer is a whole year later. Who wants a gift that you are restricted from using for a whole year? Do us a favor, people who give festive-themed gifts. Don’t.
But if you must, at least make it funny. Stick of butter Christmas tree ornament, anyone?