A hostile gift (as opposed to a Host Gift) is a present meant for someone you don’t want to please.
It is not a gift for someone that is in fact intended for you (eg. Homer’s gift for Marge of a bowling ball with the name “Homer” inscribed) or a passive aggressive or mean-spirited gift that suggest the recipient needs to make changes in their life (eg. deodorant or a copy of The South Beach Diet). Rather a hostile gift is meant to intentionally inspire perplexity, confusion, and apoplexy.
A plastic poinsettia
Nothing says “crap” like a cheap plastic poinsettia.
Fruitcake, whether store bought or handmade, is a traditional hostile gift in American culture. You really can’t say “Happy holidays, I don’t really care about you” any better than with a dense, tooth-splitting, artificial-color-laden fruitcake.
Having said that, the Truman Capote short story A Christmas Memory, which centers on a young boy and his cousin making fruitcakes, is one of my favorite pieces of Christmas literature. Combining a copy of this book with a fruitcake turns a hostile gift into an ironic and lovely gift.
What would you say if you were given an off-color shoe polish, such a red mahogany or banana? What could you say? A friend of mine received this gift and, I have to say, combined with a pair of used shoe trees, you have an ideal hostile gift.
An incomplete set of dishes
If you really want to instill confusion in your gift recipient, consider purchasing of beautiful set of four wine glasses and only gifting them three. Or buying a very attractive salt and pepper set and give only the salt shaker. I recently received a set of three soup bowls for my family of four, so I can personally attest to this being an excellent hostile gift.
I sincerely hope you don’t have the need to purchase a hostile gift this season, and my heart goes out to you if you receive anything on this list. Please use the comments section for hostile gift ideas of your own, or to vent about gifts you may have received.
Read the rest of our gift guides here.