Grandmas Are Considered the Worst Gift Givers at Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my Oma gave to me: socks.

Over-the-calf white tube socks.

This may be one of my most memorable gifts because it was both disappointing and the one that still makes me smile 40 years later. I have forgotten many of the presents I have received over the years, but I still remember those socks.

My Oma — which is Dutch for "grandmother" — was visiting us for Christmas one year. Not knowing what 12-year-old boys wanted or liked, she picked something practical and useful. Which is not something 12-year-old boys want or like.

Despite being disappointed that I got socks, I wore these socks regularly.

Over-the-calf tube socks were a fashion abomination worn by boys of the late '70s and early '80s. They are the mullets of summer casual wear. I only pray there are no photos of me in my short shorts and long socks hiked up, stuffed with a comb and a few dollars.

In those days, we boys used to stick our combs and money into our socks because it never occurred to us to use wallets and pockets.

We would roll up to a fast food joint on our bikes, pull our combs out of our sweaty tube socks, comb our sweaty hair to impress the pretty cashier, and then pay for our food with a couple of sweaty dollars.

Even so, when you're at an age where you're still hoping for toys and books, a package of socks is not very exciting. But I showed my appreciation at Christmas and used them until I wore huge holes into the heels.

Oma did give me some pretty cool gifts at other times though, including one I still have: A ceramic figure of a young boy holding a soccer ball, wearing the Dutch national soccer team's colors. It sits on a shelf in my office.

Grandmothers get a pretty bad rap when it comes to presents. A recent survey funded by Wright Brand Bacon found that when it comes to gift giving, 18 percent of people said their grandmothers had given them a gift they didn't actually want or could use. And in my Oma's defense, those socks were actually pretty useful, even if they weren't high on my wish list.

Coming in hot at second and third were children and grandfathers, both at 17 percent.

Meanwhile, dads came in at 11 percent, moms at 8 percent, and spouses/partners rocked the bottom of the list at 5 percent.

Which sounds about right. I'm awesome at giving gifts and anyone who says otherwise is lying and will not get their Scented Foot Balm of the Month subscription renewal.

And at the very tippy-top of the list?


That is, 43 percent thought they themselves were bad at picking presents. So if you're a grandmother, grandfather, or a child, there's a 17 to 18 percent chance you're right about that.

(But not you personally! You're awesome at gift giving! I would love whatever you gave me, no matter what. Send me a gift and I'll show you.)

So what do we do with the gifts we. . . are less enthusiastic about? Most of us will keep them, usually out of a sense of guilt, but we try to forget them.

More than two-thirds of the people surveyed said they hide those presents in their closets, 28 percent stick them in the basement, and 20 percent put them in the attic. Of the gift hiders, 52 percent will place the item on display right before the gift-giver comes to visit.

Also, 52 percent of respondents have secretly returned an unwanted gift to a store. Sometimes it's because it was the wrong size, but mostly because they didn't want it in the first place. Like a fuzzy toilet lid cover like Grandma and Grandpa used to have.

And those people who get rid of gifts, it usually takes up to four years to do it.

This isn't a one-time problem either. Some of us have even been putting up with this Christmas disappointment — Chris-appointment? — for forever. In fact, 35 percent of those surveyed have been receiving the same unwanted gifts for more than 10 years.

Like when you keep getting gifts for a hobby you gave up a long time ago, or when your family keeps giving you ceramic cherub figurines year after year because you made the mistake of admiring one of Aunt Brenda's ceramic cherubs, and now you're stuck with the second-biggest collection in the Midwest.

So what do people actually want? Surprisingly, 60 percent of us want food for Christmas. (Not surprisingly, Wright Brand Bacon thinks you should give bacon. As a fan of bacon, I don't disagree, and you are welcome to give me as much bacon as you want.)

Still, 60 percent seems kind of high until you realize that Starbucks alone sold $10.98 billion in gift cards in 2019. That's a lot of Christmas gifts.

So if you're worried that you didn't do a good job at Christmas this year, next year just give the little ingrates some food and they'll think you're the best gift giver in the world.

Like bacon. In fact, feel free to send me bacon any time of the year. You don't even have to wait for a holiday.

I could also use some new socks.

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.