The worst Christmas gifts

Spain is the country of the Three Wise Men, but, for some years now, Father Christmas has been entering homes and little by little Christmas is divided between these emblematic characters.

Children have it clear that, if they had to choose, they would choose both…that’s because they are children and, hence, they can ask, wish and choose who brings presents. Therefore, if they are given the opportunity to choose, they would choose both, which doubles the fun!

Although in Spain, the tradition says that Three Wise Men are the ones who bring presents and some more traditional families don’t even want to hear about Father Christmas, the truth is that others have adopted him as one of the family. Some people prefer Father Christmas to brings present so that children have more time to enjoy them. In fact, we must bear in mind that the Christmas holidays for children begin around 23 December and last until 7 January.

In Spain, as in other countries around the world, gifts are part of these festivities so loved by everyone. Giving gifts is an art and each culture has its own rules, traditions and customs that make the act of giving gifts not as easy as it seems.
Therefore, we are going to give you some tips on how to act in the case of receiving or giving a gift in Spain. First of all, you should know that the first thing you have to do is open the gift. You can’t keep it for later or not open it in front of others. This is one of the first things that may come as a surprise in some countries. So, if you get a gift in Spain, open it!

Now we are going to discuss the Christmas gifts that may not be appreciated, although this might also depend on the person:

Kitchen utensils.

Gastronomy is a fashionable sector that attracts people, but unless you know the person very well, this type of gift is not a good idea. It is true that many TV programmes such as Master Chef have made it popular to give frying pans as gifts, but most people think that it is not a suitable present, especially mothers. Maybe a cooking course would be a better idea.

Household appliances.

Very similar to kitchen utensils, these gifts are shared items that can be used by any person living in the house, hence they are not so personal. These gifts are more suitable for weddings or when someone moves into a new house, but giving a mother a toaster or a hoover is never a good idea. If you want to maintain good relations with your mother-in-law, never give her appliances as a present!

Money, Vouchers and Virtual Cards.

Many people may think that giving money as a gift is a very useful thing. And maybe the person who receives it really needs it, but the more traditional Spaniards believe that this is one of the worst Christmas gifts. In fact, it is considered impersonal, almost a sing of little interest towards the person. It is true that more and more young people prefer to receive money, but one of the most fun things at Christmas is to find the perfect present for the people you love.

That is why giving money is often not a good option. In Spain, the tradition to give money as a gift to a relative is called “aguinaldo” or “estrenas”.

The origin of the estrenas seems to be traced back to the Roman Empire, when Romulus encouraged the people to make offerings to Queen Strenia to ensure a year full of happiness and well-being. Little by little, the people of Rome did the same with their family and friends, so that they too would have a prosperous year. This tradition is still celebrated on the 25th of December in many cities and towns of Spain. People give an envelope with money to the closest relatives, after kissing their hand as a way of thanking.


Giving food as a gift to a relative is also considered impersonal. The truth is that nobody would be disappointed to receiving a good wine, but before giving this gift we must make sure that the person likes it. Chocolates, ham and that kind of gifts that are usually included in the “Christmas basket” that many companies give to their employees, are not the most suitable gifts to wrap and give at Christmas. We should not think that we cannot give chocolates or food, but, generally, food is given at social events or to friends and acquaintances to wish them a merry Christmas. In other Spanish-speaking countries, giving food as a gift is more common than in Spain.

Socks, ties and sweaters.

If there is one gift that children and adults don’t like very much, it is socks and ties. We all have anecdotes with this type of gifts and although they are remembered with fun, they are not one of those unforgettable gifts. Have you ever been given socks or a sweater that you have never worn?

Picture frames.

In the past, giving it as a gift to frame family photos was quite common, but nowadays it has become obsolete. The most suitable frame for each house is a very personal thing. Also, not everyone prints photos, so this type of gift can be disappointing.

Christmas decorations.

Although it may seem surprising, there are people who give Christmas decorations for Epiphany. Although it may seem a nice gesture, you have to take into account that maybe it is a bit late, since the decoration won’t’ be used till the year after. Gifts are nicer when they can be used soon, don’t you think?

Self-help book.

A book is a good Christmas gift, especially for a book lover, but a self-help book is not a good choice. This kind of gift can hurt the other person’s feelings and, especially at Christmas, you don’t want people to feel bad… We know that there is something for everyone, but self-help books are very likely to make you look bad if you don’t know the person well.


Tools are very useful but not at Christmas, because the last thing a person wants to think about is work, even if it’s home repairs. This is definitely one of the worst Christmas gifts, which can jeopardise a friendship.

After seeing this list of gifts that don’t guarantee success, tell your Spanish teacher which is the worst gift you’ve ever received. Maybe other students won’t consider it so bad…

Finally, if you were left with a nasty taste in your mouth, visit our article talking about typical Christmas sweets.

From El Rincón del Tándem Spanish school, we wish you happy holidays and a Happy New Year!