If you want or just need to liven up a lagging Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holiday party, try this. Ask everybody: “What’s the worst holiday gift you have ever received?”

After a moment or two of hesitation, someone will break the awkward silence. Your party guests will come up with some doozies.

One of our favorite examples was with a family we know who lived  in Southwest Florida.

Son A, in his 40s, was surprised when he opened a Christmas gift from his male sibling, a few years his junior.  The gift came tumbling out of a large box. It was an elaborate, high quality, burgundy smoking jacket, compete with black velvet lapels.

Ideal for a sixty-something, distinguished business tycoon on a cold winter’s night up north? For sure. But for a 30- something beachwear-loving surfer guy in Marco Island, Fla.?

Other family members said it looked great.  Next to open a gift was the family patriarch, a retired corporate executive who loved boating, biking, golfing and the beach.  

Voila! He too got a velvet-trimmed smoking jacket from his youngest son. And yes, the fourth male in the family, a southern son-in-law, also got an identical smoking jacket. At that point the whole family was laughing, guffawing actually, as the three men stood up, donned their lookalike smoking jackets and paraded around the room.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” said one, as though he were on stage in a Motown night spot,  “We are Vinny and the Velve-Tones!”

To our knowledge none of them ever wore those jackets again. But for many Christmases to come, that family never let a gift-exchange event go by without referring to their very short, hilarious reign as the “Velve-Tones.  

A somewhat less satisfactory gift moment was explained to us by a work colleague, a TV news reporter/anchor in a major city.

A day or so after her birthday, we asked her what her boyfriend gave her to mark the occasion.

She frowned, more of a scowl, really, and said, “A Shop-Vac, a %@#%$@%^ Shop-Vac, one of those wet-dry things.

“And just so you know, he’s not my boyfriend anymore.”

We started to ask why and she went on, “I broke up with him. I mean, what’s next, a chain saw?”

Luckily for him, there was no next time.

Apparently a lot of people give and/or get some awful Christmas gifts. They’re all over the Internet. 

A woman says that when she was a child, her dad asked her to help him wrap his gift for her mom. The adolescent was shocked to see that the “gift” for her mom was a plastic dish drainer, the kind some people put by the sink. She says she didn’t like her dad much so she didn’t stop him from giving that mundane plastic kitchen thing to her mom.

“It was weeks before Mom would talk to him again” (from gawker.com)

• A device to strap your iPad to your wrist. Honestly.

• A Snuggie.

• An iPod toilet paper holder.

So now it’s your turn. Please tell us via email your experiences with terrible or inappropriate or hilariously not funny Christmas season gifts. We will share some with other readers, but we promise not to use your names unless you say it’s okay.

Email to: don@donfarmer.com.

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