Gag-gifts make the best presents

December 24, 2007

by Jennifer Gallus

A family tradition that started with my parents exchanging gag gifts for Christmas when I was young has evolved into my siblings and I doing the same thing. It’s our favorite part of our Christmas party.

My brother, sister, and I keep an eye out all year long for items that would be perfect for this tradition. The items are usually extremely unattractive and preferably have some kind of significance towards the recipient’s personality, interests, or past.

Many items are bought at thrift stores or garage sales that we wouldn’t otherwise patronize except for the all-important gag-gift search.

The “special” gifts cost anywhere from 10 cents to maybe $10, but that would have to be something extremely homely with a lot of significance to spend that much on it.

Each person usually gets about 15 or more gag gifts that we take turns opening one at a time and laughing our rear-ends off about. This can take quite some time. The spouses are included in this exchange as well.

We have the kids open their presents first and then have them go into another room to play with them while we have our “adult time.”

I usually laugh so much that my cheeks start hurting, which doesn’t happen very often – and I’m a jolly person!

Because there are so many of these “treasures,” we don’t take pride in wrapping them. Actually, the worse it’s wrapped – the better! And the price tags must be kept on them, which shows just how “valuable” someone thought it was.

If the item is dust laden, the dust must also be kept intact to show how long the thing has been sitting on the shelf.

For example, I love ducks, which makes me vulnerable to every kind of duck shaped nicknack ever crafted. My brother found what he thought was a very homely duck shaped soap dish and wrapped it up with its very thick layer of dust and all. I unwrapped it and actually thought it was kind of cute, washed it up, and still use it today, which makes the gift even funnier! He still can’t believe I like the thing!

Last Saturday, my family got together for our Christmas party and enjoyed another gag-gift exchange. Some highlights included some, I would guess, 40-year-old Avon cologne in a ship-shaped vial that my brother actually liked!

The gross-out meter elevated when he opened it and put some on! I would advise some hazmat apparel for such an application!

My brother has been targeted for Avon cologne since I found a treasure a few years ago. Some of you may remember seeing a pheasant shaped Avon cologne dispenser. Well, my dad had this cologne when we were kids and kept that pheasant on his dresser for years and years.

I found that same pheasant at a thrift store a few years back, gave it to my brother as a gag-gift, and he loved it. He still has it displayed in his bathroom and he has been known to wear it from time to time.

Shortly after receiving that, he was going to church and his wife said, “What is that smell?” He told her it was his new cologne and he started laughing. She said, “What? You put that bird stuff on?”

I would say about 25 percent of the gag gifts turn into something the person actually takes a liking to for some reason or another.

Most of the time, the person can’t wait to get it in the trash can after a good laugh is had at its expense.

My brother gave my sister some very old hair curlers that had hair on them yet. Luckily they were in a bag, but who in their right mind would sell such items? Throw them in the trash, people! I’m into recycling, but some things should not be recycled!

The tags on the gifts usually have a unique sender’s name on it, not the actual person who’s giving it. For example, I found an old item that was a popular county fair prize in the 80s so I addressed it to my sister, from the 1985 Scott County Fair.

My brother is a stout Republican and any talk about Hillary Clinton running for the presidency really brings his blood pressure up. I found the perfect gift for him. It was a car freshener that had Hillary’s face on it and said, “I’m your man.” After I wrapped it, I addressed it from Bill Clinton.

My brother addressed a gift to me from “Willy the pimp.” I won’t say what it was, but it was gross!

Many items are re-gifted as well. Some things are just too offensive to not pass around at the next year’s party. Those gifts get just as big a laugh, if not bigger, the second time around.

These types of gifts are fun to buy and fun to receive. I wish you a very fun-filled Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Merry Christmas!


My boys know that the Santas in the area are Santa’s helpers, and that they relay information to the real Santa. Because we’ve been out and about quite a bit, they’ve seen three or four Santas in the last couple weeks.

The other day, my 6-year-old thought of something he’d like, but hadn’t told Santa and he said in distress, “I haven’t even told any phony Santa that! Now I’ll never get it!”