Link to MyFrugal Life Home Page My Frugal Life Blogs My Frugal Life Feedback My Frugal Life Photos My Frugal Life Posts My Frugal Life Blogs My Frugal Life Blogs
 User Login:  Username:    Password:      Forgot It? | Register
Blog: My Little Farm in Town

2010 Nightmare Before Christmas: A Family Tradition

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Every November my side of the family kicks off the holiday season by gathering to share good food, good company, and attractively wrapped atrocities. Other families with warped senses of humor have similar gatherings and call them White Elephant exchanges. We call our party simply—THE NIGHTMARE.

Each year I clean my house and put up several tacky plastic trees which I have come to love dearly (Blog to follow!)  My guests arrive, we visit, eat lunch, and then gather in the family room in front of a brightly lit Christmas tree surrounded by sometimes oddly shaped but attractively wrapped Presents of Horror. Each person picks a number, and the presents are chosen and opened in that order. There is no stealing  or exchanging of wrapped or unwrapped presents—no one would want to!—just a lot of laughter and expressions of horror and dismay as each ghastly present is revealed. (No off-color gag gifts or regifting from the previous year’s Nightmare is allowed.)

When all gifts have been viewed and the first shock has worn off, the voting begins. The giver of the gift with the most votes for nastiest present of the year wins the grand prize. My eldest sister always donates the prize, which is actually something nice. Then we all share who gave what present, were it was found, its cost, and any story connected to the purchase of each fiendish Violation of the Christmas Spirit.

Our gifts are not simply unique, off beat, or tacky. They are disturbing, horrific, creepy—sometimes even panic inducing. We garage sale and thrift shop each year with the upcoming Nightmare always lurking in the back of our minds. When we run across that perfect gift, there is no hesitation, just an overwhelming urge to purchase at the lowest possible price. One year it may be a creepy chalk clown head (which my Mom stored on a shelf at the bottom of the basement stairs after the party, until she had to get rid of it by popular demand. It was freaking out everyone who went downstairs for potatoes.) Another year it might be a spectacularly tasteless five-foot-long oil-spouting swag lamp with scantily clad nymphs in gold plastic. My favorite was the exquisitely wrought “butt brick,” a hefty hunk of wax molded from the bottom half of an ancient bas relief of the three Graces (Hey, it was Art!).

 Some gifts were destined to become bizarre garden ornaments or equally distressing household décor because some small child instantly fell in love with them, such as the famous owl lamp with built in peanut dish (or was it an ash tray?) or this year’s fluffy fun fur owl-on-a -stick. Other gifts are quietly deposited  in the first available dumpster.

Each gift has its provenance, such as the stuffed rattle snake I found last year and purchased for the princely sum of $3. It was a gift requested by a five-year-old boy whose parents were going away on an anniversary trip to the Southwest. He wanted them to bring back for him a pair of cowboy boots and a rattle snake. They honored both his requests. The snake now graces the science classroom of a Catholic grade school in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Surprisingly, the rattler did not earn me the grand prize that year—I am still bitter.

The first winner of this nightmare competition was what we called “The Bordello Lamp” with its giant, bulbous, amber-glass base with malfunctioning night light and scarlet shade shaped like a saloon girl’s corset and skirt, complete with dingle-berry trim. It had a commanding presence, standing nearly four and a half feet tall. (It ended up becoming an anonymous cabin warming gift at several hunting camps up north.)

The most recent (and I think most repugnant) winner was a set of cattle hooves made into pillar candle holders. (I actually felt my gorge rise when I got my first good look at them. Gulp!) They looked and smelled vile (that rhymes with bile). My sister caught her Golden Retriever slinking off to bury one of the pair in the woods the week before our get together! The aroma that rose from the wrapped gift had our cat Bert sniffing around under the tree as well.

This is definitely not a holiday tradition for the faint hearted, but even my 87-year-old mother looks forward to it annually (amazing considering that she took home a repulsive, grass-skirt-clad coconut monkey this year). Soon four generations will again begin to taunt each other and drop dark hints about the “gift” that will surely earn them the grand prize next year. Season’s Greetings! Begonia

2 Comments | Post Feedback

This Year's Winner of the Most Nightmarish Gift Grand Prize



Thursday, November 18, 2010 | By heatherie

That sounds like such a fun tradition! I wish my family got together and did fun things like that, but we're all lame.

Hey Heatherie!
Saturday, November 20, 2010 | By begonia

Try not to think of your family as lame--just sane! Begonia

Post Feedback:

You need to be a registered ThriftyFun user post feedback. If you are registered, login using the form at the top of this page. Click here to register.

begonia (Contact)
Wisconsin USA
Blog Home
RSS Feed
Photo Album


Better Living
Budget and Finance
Craft Projects
Food Tips and Info
Garage Sales
Green Living
Home Improvement
Make Your Own


July 2012
April 2012
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
© 2019 - A website!
Disclaimer: cannot accept any responsibility for any injury or damage that you may cause to yourself, others, or property when following any advice given on this site. has no control of how you may use information you get from this site and does not attest to the validity of any information found within. Much of this information comes from third parties (newsletter readers and other contributers). Use advice found in our newsletters and on our site with common sense and at your own risk. If you see something in our newsletters or on our site that you disagree with, please let us know. Our goal is print only valuable information and advice. If you find any information on or in our newsletters that is either erroneous and/or potentially harmful to others, please Contact Us, immediately.