Small Wonder residents share tales of Christmas gifts that Santa botched.
Maybe it’s his bad memory. Maybe it’s laziness. Or maybe he’s just the world’s biggest troll. No matter the reason, it kinda sucks when Santa brings lackluster gifts.
The silver lining to unwrapping disappointment under the Christmas tree is that it usually makes for a funny story. A few Delawareans (all adults) recalled hilarious tales about their worst holiday gifts ever.
Greatest story ever told
As a teen in the late-1990s, Quiana Nieves wanted the closest thing to a cellphone: a pager. Instead, what she received wasn’t even an electronic device.
“The most disappointing Christmas present I’ve ever got was when I was 15 years old. I walked up to the tree and got a Bible,” said Nieves, 38, of Magnolia. “That was because of the fact that it was the only present there. It was really sad.”
Two decades later, however, Nieves looks at her gift through a different lens.
“I still use the Bible and I take it to church,” said Nieves, owner of Children First Learning Center in Dover. “It’s something I can pass down to my own children. So it was a blessing in disguise.”
Mom gets wrong gift
In Marty Mooney’s mind, his mom only had one job. She was supposed to gift him a record by one of his fave artists when he was around age 11.
“The worst gift I’ve ever got in my life was a David Cassidy album, because at the time I wanted a Shawn Cassidy album,” said Mooney, 49, of Newark. “My mom didn’t understand it was the wrong artist.”
When asked if Mooney and his mom ever joke about the Cassidy crisis during the holiday season, he unflinchingly remarked: “No.”
Hubby sees ‘evil eye’
In the early 2000s, Heather Duffy and her husband had only been together for a few years and were raising a couple of kids.
Bogged down with being a mom and tasked with keeping the house clean, Duffy said one special Christmas her husband decided he’d make her life easier (or so he thought) with a clever gift.
“He got me a frying pan,” said Duffy, 40, of Clayton. “I turned to him and gave him the evil eye.”
Her husband had good intentions, “but it wasn’t necessarily appreciated,” she said with a laugh.
“When you have little kids like that, you don’t want to be reminded of the dishes, the dirty diapers and cleaning the house,” Duffy added. “You want to feel a little more humanized and not necessarily looked at like the person who cleans the house. You want to be seen as your own individual person.”
These days the couple are close to celebrating 23 years of marriage. In order to reach this point, Duffy said she had a friendly conversation with her husband following the frying-pan fiasco.
“We sat down and talked. I said, ‘I love you, but don’t do this again,’” the Clayton woman said. “I’ve not got another frying pan since.”
Man celebrates 50 winter holidays
Differing from his peers who dished on their least favorite Christmas gifts, Bill Walton shared a story about his ongoing, whimsical tradition of recognizing a bunch of winter holidays. He has a Facebook page dedicated to them here.
Considering Walton is an active actor/director and set designer with Milford’s Second Street Players theater group, this suits his personality.
For nearly a decade, he’s been celebrating a mix of silly to serious observances recognized by people around the world, including the offbeat Festivus -- a parody of Christmas popularized by the sitcom “Seinfeld.”
“I have to put up a pole in my living room and tell everyone how disappointed I am in them,” Walton, 52, of Harrington, said of his Festivus celebration.
The Dec. 23 Festivus is celebrated with an unadorned aluminum pole that’s used in place of a Christmas tree. During the dinner, there’s the “airing of grievances,” where people go around the table (one at a time) telling everyone else how they’re disappointed in them.
The idea of honoring various holidays started in 2010, a year before Walton began the tradition. He had a conversation with his eldest daughter, who at the time was a freshman at Lake Forest High School.
“She said a kid in her class told her that non-Christians aren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas,” said Walton, who isn’t a religious person. “I told her, of course, that’s silly. Anybody is allowed to celebrate whatever they want.”
He said that jokingly. But then things started to get real.
Walton decided he’d start celebrating a bunch of holidays, starting in 2011. That would allow enough time to research and plan everything his family would recognize.
Since Halloween is his favorite, the 52-year-old said he chose to start his observances then, and continue until St. Patrick’s Day.
Walton said he celebrates at least 55 holidays, mostly discovered on the internet. Some share the same day and many involve eating something tasty and/or lighting candles.
Ninja day, Zappadan, Chalica
A holiday Walton recently celebrated is called Zappadan. It’s a tribute to Frank Zappa, the jazz/rock musician, and its observed from Dec. 4-21.
“It’s like Ramadan, but with Zappa,” Walton said. “We listen to a lot of Zappa music.”
Zappadan extends from Dec. 4-21 because Dec. 4 is the day Frank Zappa died in 1993, and Dec. 21 was his birthday, Walton explained.
Another holiday he celebrates is Chalica. It’s recognized by Unitarians and is held the first Monday in December and runs for seven days.
“Each one of those seven days focuses on a different aspect of humanism,” he said. “There’s a day about generosity and a day about kindness, and things like that. It’s really nice to have that and to meditate on being good to each other.”
There’s the Day of the Ninja on Dec. 5.
“You’re encouraged to get throwing stars and throw them at each other and speak in Kung-Fu movie voices,” Walton said.
Krampusnacht and more
Perhaps the eeriest holiday is Krampusnacht on Dec. 5.
Walton said Krampus is from Scandinavian folklore. He’s a demon that would follow Santa Claus around to punish naughty children.
“In a lot of older cultures, the Santa Claus myth had Santa who would give gifts to good children. But there wasn’t enough punishing going on,” he said.
“So they figured Santa needed a companion. Krampus is this hideous demon that carries a cage on its back and puts bad children in the cage and takes them somewhere,” Walton explained.
In countries such as Austria and Germany, there’s a Krampus parade where revelers invade the streets, dressed like Santa’s frightening sidekick.
Walton, who’s the host of the “Scary Little Christmas” podcast, said he has a tradition of watching the horror film “Krampus” to celebrate the holiday.
An ancient Roman festival in honor of the god Saturn, named Saturnalia, runs Dec. 17-23.
“It’s celebrated with a lot of food and candles,” he said.
Although he’s not Jewish, that hasn’t stopped Walton from loving Hanukkah, held this year from Dec. 22-30. He said he enjoys sinking his teeth into jelly donuts, a staple of the celebration.
After years of honoring various winter holidays from around the world, Walton has discovered a common thread between them all.
“You learn that all over the world how similar we really are,” he said. “Here we are facing a time of year when the nights are longer and the days are shorter. It’s colder; and seasonal depression is a reality.
“This is a very sad time for a lot of people,” he added. “This is a way to bring light into that. One way or another, every culture has a way to survive that dark period of time.”
Of the winter holidays Walton celebrates, his favorite is an interesting choice.
“I’m a big Christmas fan; and we visit with family,” he said. “This is going to be funny, because it’s more of a Hanukkah thing, but on Christmas we play dreidel.”