The best and worst Christmas gifts

Rachel Whatley, Staff Writer

    Waking up on Christmas morning is arguably the happiest time of the year. (Or Christmas Eve, if you’re like my family.) You might know exactly what you’re going to get, but for some of us, those colorfully wrapped boxes are full of surprises. From ugly Christmas sweaters and boring socks to brand-new electronics, chances are, we all have memories of what our best and worst Christmas presents were.

   One of my favorite Christmas gifts as a kid, believe it or not, was a dictionary. Yes. One year – I must have been in third or fourth grade – I asked for a dictionary. Most kids my age would ask for a puppy (that came later but not at Christmas), a dollhouse or a bike, but I was above that line of thinking. I was destined to be a scholar. Well, not really, but I was nerdy right from the beginning and had an extensive vocabulary for my age to prove it. The dictionary I currently had was geared toward kindergarteners, while the thick family dictionary at the time was too hard to understand. So, my parents managed to strike a balance and surprise me with one that was made for older kids.

   I asked some of my Facebook friends to share their Christmas gift stories. One of my friends here at SNU received one of the newest digital cameras one year. “I love taking pictures,” she said, “and it was a nice enough camera to where it took really good quality pictures!”

   A former youth pastor intern at my church said that her worst gift was a hair dryer. She said, “I was thirteen and not at all pleased with the practicality of the gift…I didn’t even like my hair back then! But now, as an adult, I’d be tickled to death to get something like that.”

   Tabitha Pope, director of disability services at SNU, got a lightweight racing bike one year. Her worst gift, a bag of re-gifts, is going to be re-gifted again.

   A couple of people had extremely good gifts to end the year with: a mom of one of my friends spent Christmas in Hawaii, and my sister got engaged the week before Christmas.

   My great aunt has fond memories of her mother’s pre- and post-Christmas gift planning: “My Mom started in October, perhaps, wrapping up free or extra small stuff she’d get for Christmas in newspaper, and throw the gift behind the piano (cornerwise) so we couldn’t get to them at all. This made Christmas so exciting to look forward to. She thought a great Christmas was when we’d have lots of newspaper to wade through on the floor afterwards.”

   However, there is one story that probably takes the cake.

   For twenty years, two brothers-in-law traded a pair of moleskin pants back and forth every Christmas.

   It started when a man named Larry Kunkel received the pants from his mother in 1964. He found that they would freeze up in the Minnesota winter, so he re-gifted them to his brother-in-law, Roy Collette. Well, Collette did not like them either, so he gave them back. As the pants passed hands several times, the wrapping and shipping became increasingly ridiculous. It was then that they agreed to stay within the boundaries of legal shipping and end only when the pants were damaged beyond repair.

   The outrageous ways the pants were shipped included mounting them inside an insulated window (with a twenty-year guarantee), putting them in a 600-pound safe and hiding them in a 1974 Gremlin automobile and then getting the car crushed (a note told Collette that they were in the glove compartment). In 1982 Kunkel was faced with the problem of getting the pants out of an eight-foot-tall tire filled with concrete.

   The pants – and the game – finally met an untimely end when Collette attempted to have the pants wrapped in 10,000 pounds’ worth of shards of glass. The fun ended as molten glass was being poured over an insulated container that held the pants. A large piece of glass broke, which turned the pants into a pile of ashes.

   Kunkel still received the pants – or the ashes, rather, that Christmas, in an urn with a note that read, “Sorry, old man. Here lies the pants… An attempt to cast the pants in glass brought the demise of the pants at last.”