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15 Taboo Gifts for Christmas

It’s worth thinking carefully before you rush out and buy the first gift

01.09.2016 It can be tough sometimes to come up with original Christmas presents for our loved ones and friends. Every year, it seems the run up to Christmas is upon us again before we’ve recovered from the previous Christmas’s gift-buying spree.

However, it’s worth thinking carefully before you rush out and buy the first gifts you spot on the department store shelves. After all, you’ll presumably want to continue to see your family and friends long after Christmas is over so the last thing you want to do is give a gift which isn’t wanted or, even worse, could offend them. Give the wrong gift and who knows what could appear under the Christmas tree for you next year!

Just in case you need some help with your festive present buying, here is our guide to those gifts to avoid:


The catchphrase “a dog is for life not just for Christmas” is well-recognised. However much your kids plead for Father Christmas to bring them a puppy, you should resist. Puppies are unimaginably disruptive and hard work. They may look unbelievably cute wrapped in a red ribbon and sitting under the Christmas tree but they’ll look like a monster when they’ve pulled the tree down, eaten the Christmas turkey and swallowed several Lego characters, necessitating an emergency visit to the vet. And that’s just Christmas Day.

A dog is for life not just for Christmas

However, if you’re planning to get a dog anyway and have researched it thoroughly then Christmas would be a fun time to introduce a puppy to the family.


Buying lingerie as a Christmas present for your girlfriend or wife is a big risk. Actually, it’s a no win situation. You can’t ask her size if you want it to be a romantic surprise and you don’t want to risk looking like a pervert rummaging through her underwear drawer. Buy it too small and she’ll feel fat when she can’t get into it. Buy it too big and she’ll feel fat because you think she’s bigger than she is. Even if you buy the correct size you’ll be wrong – you should have thought she was a smaller size.

The only time you can get away with it is if you’ve been married a long time and she knows you and loves you well enough to forgive you if it’s wrong. And she may appreciate the romantic gesture.


Does it get any more boring than giving socks as a Christmas present? Men buy socks as a functional item of clothing, usually only when all their existing pairs have holes in them. If they don’t buy them their wife does. Christmas presents should be indulgent, not functional.

Does it get any more boring than giving socks as a Christmas present?

However, you could be ironic and give some humorous socks. Personally, I have found Grandfathers quite like “Grumpy Old Man” socks and Dads love to have superhero socks.


Boyfriends: don’t give your girlfriend chocolates for Christmas. There’s every chance she’ll devour a box of Black Magic quite happily on her own whilst watching the latest weepie film on Netflix but she’s not going to eat chocolates in front of you; she won’t want to give you any excuse to criticise her weight. Nor will she eat them if there’s any risk of putting on a couple of pounds meaning she can’t squeeze in to her skin tight white jeans on New Year’s Eve.

Girlfriends: give your boyfriend chocolates for Christmas. Hopefully he’ll share them with you. You can decline politely and he’ll encourage you, saying you don’t need to worry and that your figure is stunning. End result: a chocolate and a compliment. Win win!

Drum Kits

Every boy’s dream and every parent’s nightmare. Small boys just want to bang things hard and make lots of noise; teenage boys want to be the next Dave Grohl. Either way, giving them their own drum kit as a Christmas present is asking for trouble. By the time New Year’s Eve has arrived you’ll be ready to spend the whole of the next year cocooned in your duvet muttering gibberish as the rhythmless crashing continues from the bedroom next door. Strangely, uncles and aunts and godparents seem to think giving a drum kit as a Christmas present to their dear nephew or godson is a great idea. If this happens to you, think hard about what you may have done to upset them in the past year to warrant this form of revenge.

Every parent’s nightmare

Of course, if your son (or daughter for that matter) is genuinely keen and talented, you may have to grit your teeth and go for it. Make sure you soundproof their bedroom, find them a practice space away from the home or buy yourself some super-strong ear plugs.

Bathroom Scales

We all have friends, colleagues and family members who seem to be on a permanent diet. However much they complain about their weight and discuss their diet, they do not expect you to agree that they are overweight. As a friend or loved one, you are supposed to reassure and compliment them (ok then, lie) and tell them they don’t look remotely fat. Even if you know your dieting friend, colleague or sister would find it useful, never buy them bathroom scales as a gift, particularly at Christmas with all that delicious food around.

Never buy them bathroom scales as a gift

The only exception to this rule is if your friend or loved on asks specifically for this present. Then you can’t be blamed.

World’s Best Boss Mug

Humorous mugs are usually a good bet for an inexpensive Christmas present. There is so much choice it’s not difficult to find a mug appropriate for the intended recipient and no-one can have too many mugs. However, giving your boss a “World’s Best” mug at Christmas is the best way to make yourself unpopular with your colleagues and your boss may wonder what you’re after.

If your boss is a family member or your best friend you may get away with this as an ironic Christmas gift. Otherwise avoid it.

Dummies Books

The Dummies series of self-help books (eg Spanish for Dummies) are a marvellous innovation but should be purchased by you for your own self-improvement. As soon as someone gives you a Dummies book it suggests they think you are failing in that area and it’s easy to get offended. For example, don’t give your boss or a work colleague “Management for Dummies” as a Christmas present. Avoid giving your married best friend or sibling “Divorce for Dummies”. Don’t consider giving your pet-owning mother-in-law “Dog Grooming for Dummies” in her Christmas stocking.

School-aged children and students, however, can often benefit from a Dummies book. Its language is easy to understand and most young people are hard to offend!

Cleaning and Household Products

Never ever give your wife or mother anything associated with housework as a Christmas present. Gifts should be a treat and an indulgence; since when has cleaning floors or ironing been considered an indulgence? Even if it’s a super duper iron with all the trimmings and brass knobs, she would still have preferred a big pamper box of toiletries.

Never ever give your wife or mother anything associated with housework

The only exception is fun kitchen utensils. You can just about get away with giving a decorated washing up brush or a dinosaur-shaped plastic ladle as they should make her smile.


Unless you know the recipient’s favourite wine, avoid giving a bottle of vino as a Christmas present. Some friends or colleagues may interpret receiving wine as an indication that you think they have an alcohol problem. Others may drink very little so you risk the wine gathering dust in the cupboard. Also, you risk exposing your limited wine knowledge – your high flying boss is likely to be unimpressed with a bottle of £5.99 Bulgarian Merlot.

The exception to this rule is if you are something of an amateur wine expert and have a few affordable hidden gems up your sleeve. Giving friends and colleagues a bottle of your favourite tipple could be considered as a thoughtful Christmas gift.


Serious cooks love serious kitchen knives. They collect expensive knives for every culinary purpose from chopping onions to carving the turkey. However, giving someone a knife for Christmas is open to all sorts of misinterpretation, particularly if you have a slightly dodgy relationship with them. Psychologists would have a field day if you gave your boss, work colleague or mother-in-law a kitchen knife as a Christmas present.

However, if you’re helping your son or daughter to set up home, a good kitchen knife block is likely to be well-received at Christmas. Otherwise, if you really want to give someone a knife, go for a cheese knife. It’s much less threatening!

Charity Gifts

Think before you give

Come Christmas, there are a plethora of brochures flying around containing a variety of gifts involving charitable giving of some kind. Flick through one of these brochures and you’ll be invited to buy your grandparents a well in an Indian sub-continent village or your sister a llama in an Andean hamlet. Think before you give – who is going to get more out of this Christmas present? Yes, you will feel virtuous and wonderful but be honest – wouldn’t your grandparents or sister prefer a Body Shop gift box or a Terry’s Chocolate Orange?

There is one type of person who deserves a charity gift at Christmas. The person who claims to have everything they need and encourages you not to buy them anything (whilst hoping secretly for a Harrods’s hamper). Call their bluff.

Sexy or Rude Gifts

It may seem amusing to give your sister a chocolate willy as a Christmas present, or to wrap up a pair of plastic boobs for your brother. Perhaps you want to give your girlfriend some erotic lingerie or you’re considering popping a sex aid in your boyfriend’s Christmas stocking. STOP! Christmas is a family time and in many families, Christmas presents are unwrapped in front of each other. Imagine the look on your mother’s face when she sees the plastic boobs. Or worse, the look on her father’s face when he sees the lingerie. You’ll be straight out of the door without any Christmas turkey.

STOP! Christmas is a family time

Rude or sexy presents at Christmas can be fun in the right circumstances ie in a private gift-giving ceremony with no-one else around to get embarrassed or shocked.

Recycled Gifts

No, not gifts made out of recycled materials – that’s cool. These gifts that have been literally recycled ie unwanted gifts taken out of the cupboard and given to someone else as a present. We’ve all done it at times, usually in a panic when we’ve forgotten to buy someone a Christmas present, but let’s be honest – would you like to receive a reject gift?

The only time you can get away with recycling a gift at Christmas is if it’s expensive, in pristine condition as if it had come straight from the shop shelf, and you know with absolute confidence that the recipient will love it. Just make sure you wipe the dust off it first.

Gift Cards

Yawn. How boring are gift cards? Isn’t it always a disappointment if someone hands you a white envelope as a Christmas present? Giving a gift card screams that you can’t be bothered, you ran out of time or you don’t know the recipient well enough. It doesn’t take much effort to come up with a proper gift.

How boring are gift cards?

Of course, sometimes people ask for gift cards so they can put them towards a specific, larger gift in which case you can give the gift card without guilt. Alternatively, if you have a work colleague or boss you don’t care for but would expect a Christmas present from you, a gift card is a perfect effort-free solution!

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blog: f-a-p's gift adviser

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