21/12/2012 11:40 GMT | Updated 19/02/2013 05:12 GMT

Don't Mock the Awful Christmas Present Giver


There's always one in every family. You know, the person who gives out extraordinarily awful gifts. The presents are either highly inappropriate, horribly cheap or in some cases, clearly items that the giver never paid a penny for.

The person who passes on second-hand presents. The present-bestower whose gifts cause titters around the living room when they're eagerly ripped open by an unsuspecting child.

You can usually tell by the way it's wrapped. Sometimes it's barely taped together, other times it's merely presented in a folded over carrier bag.

In my family, the cringe-inducing gift giver was my beloved Nan. I love my Nan to bits, but every Christmas would become an exercise in how to act suitably surprised and pleased with whatever sad-looking gift appeared on my lap from her.

To give you an idea, over the years I and my siblings received various handbags which had clearly been given away with women's magazines (because they invariably had the magazine's moniker stamped somewhere on them), enormous pieces of gaudy costume jewellery and scarves which smelled of the depths of a wardrobe which hasn't been opened since at least the Napoleonic war.

Perhaps the best presents were those that were accompanied by a story about how she had come across them.

One Christmas, as the family was gathered around the traditional fire, I was the first to receive my Nan's present. It was a small white box, about seven inches square, with an embossed rose on the lid.

Before I opened it, my Nan said: "You know your Dad took me and your grandfather to New York earlier this year?"

Yes, I thought. This'll be good - it's got to be better than a bright red handbag she had picked up in the car boot sales at Great Yarmouth the previous year.

"Well, I was walking down 5th Avenue..." she began.

Immediately my mind raced - ooh it could be Tiffany's! Actually, probably not, look at the box... but still, it'll be a nice department store...

"And we got to this big, fancy store called Macy's..."

Macy's! I knew what Macy's was - the store of the little brown bag fame. Hurrah, I thought.

Curiosity got hold of me then and I opened the box. Inside was a fairly big, silver-sprayed brooch with a garish purple glass stone in the centre.

"And there it was, on the pavement outside, looking up at me... and I thought, that'd be great for my Charlie...."

Somebody behind me sniggered, but I managed to keep a straight face, and agreed sincerely that it was indeed a lovely item.

I don't want you to think I was ungrateful dear reader - I wasn't. Every year my parents would ask, 'wouldn't you rather just give the kids a cheque?' but each December she stoically went out and spent the time to choose something she thought each of us would like.

And it was the thought that mattered.

Sadly, she passed away a few years ago, and Christmas hasn't quite been the same since.

Nan's unusual taste for gifts had become as much of a Christmas tradition as turkey and mince pies.

So no matter how awful the gift you get from your appalling present-giver, be grateful, smile, and be thankful for the time they clearly spent rooting around trying to find it.

Because trust me, when those gifts stop coming, it leaves a large, present-shaped hole on Christmas Day.