Ah, the holiday season. There is nothing else quite like it. As crazy as people can be most of the time, their nice sides always manage to come out for at least this short time each year. And what can be nicer than giving another person a sincere, thoughtful gift during this festive season? When it comes to gifts, however, deciding what to get someone can be a difficult task. Often, we aim to find the flashiest and most outlandish gifts we possibly can—yet, most of the time, it’s the simple, practical, or thoughtful presents that end up meaning the most to their recipients. On that note, here are 42 stories of holiday gifts that turned out to be surprisingly awesome.
1. All You Need Is Love
My wife and I are separated and we share custody of our daughter. One year, the kiddo bought me a cheesy sign for Christmas that says “Home is wherever I'm with you.” I put it up in the new place before anything else, right by the front door. As a result, whenever I leave for work, I see it and instantly feel better about how terrible everything is.
2. Spicing Things Up
The best Christmas gift that I ever received was a garlic crusher. It may not sound particularly cool or exciting, but it’s extremely useful. I now use garlic in and on pretty much every food that I make!
3. Keep On Truckin’
The best Christmas gift that I ever received was this awesome toy truck that would respond to voice commands. I was probably about eight or nine years old at the time, and it seemed like the coolest toy in the world to me. I played with that thing all the time because it was fun. It lit up, made noise, and drove forward. Over time, it slowly stopped working and I eventually grew up and forgot all about it.
Nevertheless, my grandma had this policy where she refused to ever throw away any toys that us kids had ever played with. After my grandma passed away in 2017, I was trying to keep busy and decided to clean out my old toy box. To my surprise, I found the toy truck in the box and suddenly remembered how much fun I used to have with it, and how much I loved it.
I opened up the battery compartment, only to make a hilarious discovery. There was a note in my grandpa's handwriting, saying "Mary Lou, don't replace batteries, this thing is annoying.—Bill." I replaced the batteries and discovered that it still works. Learning after all these years that my grandpa had taken the batteries out and that there was nothing actually wrong with the toy made me smile.
I miss my grandparents so much.
4. Your New Home Away from Home
My family was abusive and poor. Growing up, I always kind of hated the Christmas season because it just highlighted how lousy my own family life was. Well, one year after I moved away to college, I was scheduled to work on Christmas Day since I was a Resident Advisor. A student who had been evicted from housing for selling illicit substances came after me and attacked me.
The school told me I should leave the campus until the police caught the kid. I didn't have anywhere to go, so I called my best friend. She and her dad drove all the way to my school on Christmas Eve to get me. When I woke up on Christmas morning, I was stunned. I discovered that my friend’s mom had somehow conjured up a full stocking and a couple of small gifts for me by the time we had arrived.
It was the most amazing gift that I had ever received because I had never had a good Christmas before and then, out of nowhere, my friend’s mom just went so above and beyond to make me feel loved. It was a very special moment that I will never forget for as long as I live.
5. Does Not Compute
As bizarre as it may sound, my favorite Christmas gift of all time was a simple RAM upgrade. I was a budding PC gamer but knew jack-all about how computers worked. My grandfather, who was a retired computer engineer, gave me a RAM upgrade, taught me how to install it safely, and explained what it was going to do for me.
Now, thanks to that one little gift, I work in IT and find computers absolutely fascinating. I still play a ton of games, too. Thanks, Grandpa!
6. Pillow Talk
One year, my nieces got me a Pillow Pet stuffed animal for Christmas. As a dude in my mid-30s, I'm not exactly part of the typical Pillow Pet demographic. Two years earlier, I had discovered Pillow Pets just before they had become popular and, in a total win at uncle-ing, I bought them for all my nieces. They loved them, and everyone at their school loved them. Big win.
So, a few years later, when they found a Dragon Pillow Pet on sale, they insisted on getting it for me to return the favor. Their mother (i.e. my sister) was skeptical about whether I would want such a thing. I loved it. Not because I need or want it, but because they wanted me to have it as a gesture of love and gratitude.
I know that I've received bigger gifts over the years and others that were given with the same kind of love, but this one will always stand out for me.
7. Little Things Mean a Lot
I'm difficult to shop for during the holiday season because I usually just buy myself exactly what I want all year round. One year, my sister bought me a magnetic dish for small screws and such, and a set of ramps for my car. That dish has saved me from losing so many screws. The walls in my room have a steel fold on the corners, so the dish hangs perfectly on them.
It's literally never out of reach. I thought about getting the ramps myself, but I always preferred using jack stands when I did my oil changes. Now, I just drive my car up and get to work. Game changer. My other sister always buys me neck ties. Every New Year’s Eve party, I'm always looking extra fresh. I love my sisters!
8. Cat in the Hat
One year, my boyfriend got me a cute little book on how to make hats for cats as my Christmas present. I love the book and him. My cats, on the other hand, have been too busy biting the heck out of my hands to notice!
9. The Cat’s Out of the Bag
One year, my mom had these personalized cat figurines commissioned and built so that she could give them to me as a gift. They are painted to match the 3 cats that we have as pets. One of them even has a missing paw, just like my cat Nemo. They were really the perfect gift and something that I think I’ll treasure forever.
I have a nasty metal allergy, so I generally don't wear much jewelry. Nevertheless, one year, my husband got me gold earrings for Christmas and, surprisingly, I've been able to wear them for days without pain and it's really nice!
11. I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night and Practice Every Day
I just got a guitar as a Christmas present and I absolutely love it. I've been practicing every single day.
12. He’ll Always Be With You
My favorite gift was just received this Christmas, but I can already tell that it will be the best one I’ll ever get. My little brother passed away about two years ago, and my mom took his old shirts and made a blanket out of them. It’s a very simple gift, but the most meaningful one I’ve ever had.
13. Sounds Like Someone Is Chicken!
One year, my wife got me an air fryer as a Christmas present. It’s gotta be my favorite gift of all time. It makes chicken wings really well. I use it just about every week now, and I absolutely love it!
14. In Cold Blood
One year, my mother knit a pair of mittens for me which has a pattern on it that spells out "I’m really cold!" I live in Norway, where it is always really cold, so I use them almost every single day. I keep getting a lot of compliments whenever I wear them!
15. A Very Precious Gift
My best Christmas gift of all time was completely unintentional. It was the result of a perfectly innocent and casual conversation I had with my uncle on Christmas Day, 2001. He asked me, “So have you seen this movie Lord of the Rings yet?” I said “No, what's Lord of the Rings?” He freaked out. He said “Oh dude, you absolutely have to see it. I'm taking you to the theater to see it tomorrow, done deal.”
And that's where my lifelong Tolkien obsession began. Thanks for that!
16. Everything You Wanted and More
It was the first Christmas after my mom had left us to go be with “the love of her life.” For the first time ever, it was just me and my dad alone at Christmastime, and it had only been a short four months since she had left. We spent it in our little apartment with a small plastic tree that we had both decorated. I didn’t expect much.
I remember that I had wanted a Microsoft sidewinder wheel and pedals. Come Christmas morning, there it was! Beside it was a copy of the video game Need for Speed and a package of Life Savers candies. As soon as I saw that stuff, I suddenly knew that everything was going to be okay. I still have the sidewinder, the game, and the candy package as reminders of our first Christmas alone together.
I got one of those same candy packages a few weeks ago in a care package from him, and it made me tear up. It instantly reminded me about that Christmas and how much he has sacrificed for me as a single father ever since.
17. We’re in the Money
One year when I was little, my grandfather gave each of his grandchildren, myself included, $1,500 cash after he sold his house in the Philippines. I'm assuming that it was his way of giving us one last thing before he passed on. At that age, I had never even seen anything close to that amount of money before, so my heart pretty much burst during Christmas.
18. A Very Special Farewell Tour
My mom passed away from cancer this year. She had been Stage 4 for 11 years and passed away at just 55 years old, so pretty young. Last year, Christmas was really emotional for our family, as things had been taking a turn for the worse. For my gift, my mom made me a large shadow box with ticket stubs that she had saved from every single concert we had ever gone to together since I was a little kid.
We were both big fans of music, so she knew that I would love this. There was everything from Mr. Dressup to Pearl Jam and the White Stripes, etc. Not only had she saved these over the years, but she even went online and bought postcards, buttons, and patches from each of the specific tour dates we had attended, to go with the stubs.
The moment I unwrapped it and realized what it was, I burst into tears and cried for a good while. It was a very heavy moment and one of the best gifts that I've ever been given.
19. Right Card, Right Time
The best Christmas present I ever got was some new clothes and a gift card to a local grocery store worth $75 dollars. I was a broke college student at the time, so this was basically the equivalent of having my wildest dreams come true.
20. Weighing In
Last year for Christmas, I got a weighted blanket. It doesn’t sound like anything particularly special, but I've been sleeping with it every night since I got it and it really helps with my anxiety. With this blanket, I can fall asleep and stay asleep all night long.
21. Live and Let Liver
The greatest Christmas present that I ever received was my new liver. My best friend gave me half of his liver by means of a living donation transplant. Needless to say, I love it and use it 24/7.
22. Gaming the System
The greatest Christmas gift that I ever received was the Nintendo Switch video game system that my boyfriend bought for me one year. I developed acute appendicitis last week, and have been laid up in bed playing games on it ever since. Link is my new best friend!
23. May I Have This Dance?
When I was a little girl of about five or five years old, I was obsessed with ballerinas. One year for Christmas, my dad got me tickets to a professional performance of The Nutcracker. It was just him and me. I still remember feeling so grown up when we had dinner beforehand in a grown-up restaurant. The ballet was beautiful.
It was just a wonderful day and it’s something that I’ll always cherish.
24. Secret Santa
Christmas 2003, I received a toy kitchen from "Santa Claus,” but there was a heartbreaking story behind it. Four weeks earlier, my mom had passed away after being ill for almost a year. I eventually learned that this present had been from her; it was the last thing she ever bought before her passing. I guess my dad didn’t have the heart to tell me so at the time.
That toy means more to me than just about anything else I can imagine.
25. Making the Most of What You Have
My family went pretty broke right before Christmas one year. My mom was laid off and her last day was going to be December 31. My dad had already been on food stamps for a few years by that point. I myself was living paycheck to paycheck, and my sisters were both either in high school or living in dorms at college. Things were pretty sparse for us.
That year, one of my sisters got me a bar of face soap (which I desperately needed) as a Christmas present. My other sister got me a six-pack of lip balm from Costco. My mom got me the pajama pants that I happen to be wearing right now, and my dad got me a gift card went towards a nice dinner for my girlfriend and me so that we didn’t have to feel as poor as we really were.
As simple as each of those items was, they all meant the world to me.
26. A Poet and You Didn’t Know It
As a Christmas present, my girlfriend once wrote me a poem using nothing but lyrics from my favorite band’s songs. To this day, I get giddy whenever I open a card from her because she always writes me poems in them. I really love her!
27. Opening Up a Canister of Worms
This is almost certainly going to sound very boring, but one year my partner's parents bought us some tea, coffee, and sugar canisters that match our kitchen perfectly, and I love them so much. We only moved into the house last March, and I had been meaning to get some canisters since then but never really got around to it.
These are probably better than any of the ones that I would have found on my own, and I think of my partner’s family whenever I look at the canisters.
28. Lip Service
As much as this sounds like nothing, it was actually super convenient and useful for me. My friend once gave me a Chapstick for Christmas. My lips always get super dry, so having it readily available has been great and I've been using it ever since.
29. Cooking Up a Storm
In my case, I was the gift giver and my dad was the recipient. Years ago, when my dad was just starting to get into baking (mostly bread), I collected a bunch of popular recipes and made a laminated "bread book" for him. It was complete with pictures and funny quotes to make it more personal for him.
Years later, he still uses it and proudly calls it one of the best gifts that he ever received.
30. Tooth Fairy
A simple but awesome Christmas gift that I once received was an electric toothbrush. I use it every single day. My teeth feel so clean, I love it!
31. You Are My Sunshine
When I was only seven years old, I spent some time in my local hospital’s Intensive Care Unit battling pneumonia. It was horrible timing because Christmas was that week. The nurses brought in a massive television with a Nintendo GameCube hooked up to it. The only game I played was Mario Sunshine the entire time that I was in the hospital.
I loved that game so much! It was so colorful and just super exciting to play since I didn’t even know that the game existed before that week. It is still my favorite Mario game ever made, but I’m biased, of course. Anyway, I thankfully made it out of the hospital just a few days before Christmas, and on Christmas Day we went to my auntie’s house.
We started opening gifts and they got me my very own GameCube system, but it didn’t appear as though I had any games for it at first. It turned out they tricked me and hid the other gift that they bought at the bottom of the box. It was Mario Sunshine. I’ve never ever had tears of joy in my entire life, but when I opened these gifts I just couldn’t help but cry.
I was so surprised and so happy! I’ve still never again experienced the same emotions that I felt on that day in all the years since, and I don’t think I ever will.
32. Making New Friends
I’m a bird lover. My favorite Christmas gift was a hummingbird feeder with a rain guard. Some of our local birds do not migrate and are desperate for food during the winter. We now have three lovely regular visitors: a male and two females.
33. Money (That’s What I Want)
I went through some really rough times after I got out of the army. I was totally broke. I got a job offer 2,000 miles away from home but I wasn’t sure I could take it—until a miracle happened. For Christmas, every single member of my family gave me cash on loan to make it work. The money they gave me added up to over $5,000.
Due to the nature of the job, I had everyone paid back within the first month. I love my family.
34. Where Did I Come From?
I'm adopted, and my birth mom didn’t remember my birth father well enough to include any info on his heritage or anything like that. As a result, I've always been curious about where the other half of me originates from. My best friend has always known about this interest of mine. So, one year, he and his girlfriend got me a 23 and Me Christmas present so that I could finally find out more about myself and where I come from.
It was so thoughtful and awesome!
35. Under Pressure
One seemingly boring but actually super useful Christmas present that I got recently was my new Instant Pot. I have been using the heck out of that thing, and I’m now constantly looking for new pressure cooker recipes to try.
36. Shopping Around
At a time when my bank account had a total of just $5 in it, I got a Costco card as a Christmas present. It paid for a lot of groceries and made a big difference in my life.
37. Grandma Knows Best
My grandmother lived a simple life, always making do on very little income. Nevertheless, to everyone's surprise, she managed to give me the gift of a fine college education by leaving me her life's savings in her will. She specifically stipulated that the money was to be used for that purpose. This one gift made all the difference in my life and career.
38. Sucking Up
This sounds so boring, but the best Christmas gift I ever got was a vacuum cleaner. It has awesome attachments and an easy cleaning canister. It’s the little things in life that matter most!
39. Hello Kitty
When my aunt passed away, my uncle gave me the kitty slippers that I had bought her four Christmases earlier. She wore them every single day until she passed. You can still see where her sewing repairs were made. They mean so much to me. She loved those slippers so much.
40. Poster Child
When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Spice Girls. One year, my grandma gave me a poster of them for Christmas. My parents are divorced and, as a result, we moved a lot with my mom over the years. No matter how many bedrooms I had or what city we were living in at any given moment, I always had my Spice Girls poster hanging on my door at all times.
One of the last times that we moved, my mom was packing up my room. While she was trying to get my poster down, she accidentally ripped it. Now the rip was not anything terrible, but she pretty much assumed that it was garbage at that point and threw it away without my knowing. When I found out, I just cried and cried for days.
Because so many years had already passed since the poster had first been purchased, I couldn't ever find the same one for sale on eBay, Amazon, or anywhere else. Then, one day, I happened to casually mention the story to my mother-in-law. Two years ago, she somehow managed to find a copy of the poster and surprised me with it as a Christmas gift.
It was the first time in my entire life that I had ever cried over getting a present. I still need to get around to properly framing it some day, but it has been one of my prized possessions ever since.
41. It’s the Thought That Counts
I don't even know if this is really the "best" Christmas present that I ever received, but it is without a doubt one of the ones that I'll never forget. My dad and I have always had an extremely distant relationship. He was never an affectionate or emotional person. All birthdays, celebrations, and events that we were a part of would always go to my mom to organize.
It was just simply not an area that he was ever involved in. He didn't give gifts or engage in the theatrics of any kind and, at the end of the day, I can't blame him. He is an immigrant, lived a very hard life, and, culturally speaking, this is just how it always was for him. One Christmas, when I was probably something like 10 or 11 years old, I noticed that among all the other presents that I had from my mom and other family members, there was an actual present from my dad addressed to me. I opened it up.
The present was a picture book for children. It was definitely not a baby book by any means, but it was clearly something aimed for ages seven to eight, which was way too young for me. It was just shocking to me that he would, first of all, suddenly care about getting me a present to begin with and, second of all, choose this child's book out of all the things that he could have gotten me.
Nevertheless, even though I was just 10 years old, I realized that my dad genuinely had no idea what to get me, but wanted to get me SOMETHING. He only knew that I loved to read and that I read books all day long, so he got me a book even though he had no knowledge of what reading level I was at.
Maybe that is not a very good story or makes him seem bad, but it will always stick with me as one of the most touching things that I ever experienced. He is such a non-sentimental and stoic person. I can't even imagine him going to a bookstore, choosing this very cutesy, colorful book with me in mind, and actually giving it to me as a gift.
But he did. He wanted to give me a Christmas present in his own awkward way, and he tried his best. That meant more to me than all the toys in the world.
42. The Butterfly Effect
For Christmas two years ago, my mother had sent my grandmother a butterfly necklace. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away on Christmas Eve, so she was never able to open the gift. My aunt sent the necklace back and my mother kept it in her jewelry box. This year, when I was getting ready for graduation, my mother told me to turn around.
When I looked in the mirror, it was my grandmother's butterfly necklace. One of my grandmother's final wishes was to see me graduate college, and this was my mother's way of making sure my she could see it. I cried. A lot.
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