What Was the Best Holiday Gift You Ever Received?

The editors who make up the Peninsula region of Patch share their best and worst holiday gifts and invite you to share yours with us.


It’s that time of year again where shoppers crowd downtown stores and the mall or even spend hours on their laptops hunting for online treasures for their families and friends.

Do you remember that one special holiday gift you received? Was it a Barbie Dream House or a train set when you were 5? Was it a diamond ring, a favorite sweater? Perhaps it wasn’t a thing at all and that’s what made it all the more memorable. Maybe it was meeting your new brother or sister for the very first time, or finding out that those test results meant you or someone close to you was going to have many more Decembers.

We here at Patch put our heads together to compile a list of our best and worst gifts to give you a glimpse into our lives, behind the scenes so to speak.

I feel very fortunate to have been born in Redwood City, having grown up in San Carlos, gone to school in Belmont and lived in San Mateo. My family and most of my friends live on the Peninsula and having covered these communities for 12 years, I feel I know them and the diverse, vibrant people that make each one unique.

I have the very fortunate job of being the regional editor for all of the San Mateo County Patch sites, so each day I get to work with your talented local editors.

And not that each of them hasn’t made this abundantly clear, these talented journalists are witty, silly, and the best colleagues I have ever worked with. They too get overwhelmed; as do I, frustrated and sad but we all get through it by working as a team and being there for one another.

We enjoy bringing you the latest news, information and events each day and we hope you continue to share your news tips, local knowledge and two cents with us. After all, Patch is your platform.

So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, everything or nothing at all, take the time to appreciate not only the little and big gifts and each other but the simple moments in your lives.

And as you wrap up or begin your holiday shopping this year, we ask you to take a minute and read our tidbits below and share yours in the comments.

We hope they make you smile. Happy holidays from all of the editors that make up the Peninsula region of Patch!

Jamie White, Regional Editor, San Mateo County Patch sites
BEST Christmas gift:
 A pink boombox, I proceeded to blast Madonna ‘Lucky Star’ and Cyndi Lauper and Laura Branigan [and yes they were all CASSETTE tapes] on that thing for months!
WORST Christmas gift:

Dave Colby, Associate Regional Editor, San Mateo County Patch sites
BEST holiday gift:
An Eldon road-race set. A simple figure-8 track, I watched those two cars go around for hours at a time. It was especially exciting when the little electric motors began to overheat and smell; just like the real thing!
WORST holiday gift:
Underwear with red hearts from a (previous) girlfriend.

Stacie Chan, editor of Redwood City Patch
BEST holiday gift: My giant toy house when I was 3 years old… I lived in that thing until I was about 10!
WORST holiday gift:
Cash, while my sister got a 42-inch flat screen TV. Who gets cash in their stocking???

David Carini, editor of Millbrae Patch
“I don't have any photos, I think my parents took like five photos total from 0-18.”

BEST holiday gift: Nintendo when I was 7. It was the first time my younger brother and I actually got along (sort of) and had something in common...finding the princess.
WORST holiday gift:
A Hugh Hefner type silk robe from my dad.

Drew Himmelstein, editor of South San Francisco Patch
BEST holiday gift: A Nintendo was my parents' favorite holiday gift that I ever received. My dad stayed up all night to get to level three.
WORST holiday gift
: A beanbag chair. I liked the chair, but it had been promised to me for my birthday, six months before.

Laura Dudnick, editor of San Mateo Patch
BEST holiday gift: A dollhouse
WORST holiday gift:
Pencil shavings (from my brother as a joke)

Miriam Finder, editor of Burlingame Patch
BEST holiday gift: Hamy the hamster, who my sisters and I got when I was 8 (we were really creative with names).
WORST holiday gift:
After my sisters and I all wrote letters to our parents explaining in full detail why we should get a dog, they gave us each a stuffed animal puppy. So clever.

Vanessa Castaneda, editor of Menlo Park Patch
The best holiday gift I ever got was a sushi set from my mom.  It wasn't that the minimalistic design and bold color scheme of the bowls and plates complemented the theme of my kitchen, although that did rock. The part that qualifies it as the best holiday gift is that it facilitated the creation of so many memories. Because I had this set, I could invite friends over to make hand made sushi rolls and have generously poured sake bombs. Cutting a sushi roll without shredding the seaweed is a great equalizer between the genders. Ha ha.  So while it's not traditionally Christmas-y, at its essence it enabled me to bring the people I love together for good food and fun times that I can tell stories about later.”

The worst holiday gift I ever got was an allergen-reducing pillow cover from my grandma.  I've always been allergic to everything, so I think she thought it would be good for me. But it made my head way too hot at night. I woke up sweating so many times that I had to discard it. Sorry, grandma!”

Kenny Porpora, editor of San Carlos Patch
BEST holiday gift: I didn’t get my puppy, Joy, on Christmas Day exactly, but she was a Christmas gift, and by far the best gift I have ever received. She was a 2-year-old beige terrier, and was my best friend for the next 11 years.
WORST holiday gift:
Many years ago, when I was maybe 5 or 6, I was living with my father, and it was his first attempt at a Christmas without my mother’s instincts to guide him. One present caught my eye. Wrapped in newspaper and lying all alone was this rectangular object. It was as heavy as a brick, and as I held it in my hand I remember being both amazed by its heft and totally confused as to what it could be. As I lay in bed, I tried to imagine what it could be. I had no idea. Even the overactive imagination of a child couldn’t fathom what was beneath the wrapping paper. What had my father done?

In the morning, I leapt from my bed and woke my father and brother. With their blessing, I grabbed the gift that had kept me up half the night and tore the paper open. Turns out, it was an actual brick, with my first-grade school photo taped on it. My father had given me a picture of myself for Christmas, and taped it to a brick so he would have something to wrap.

Kristine Wong, editor of Half Moon Bay Patch
BEST holiday gift: A Lite Brite -- I loved making my own designs and seeing them all lit up in different colors.

WORST holiday gift: Believe it or not, nothing really sticks out in my mind, and I've been thinking about this for a few days now. But the worst gift my family ever received (in my opinion, anyway) was a fruitcake. Actually, we got a series of them over the years, wrapped in cheesecloth.

Camden Swita, editor of Pacifica Patch
BEST holiday gift: A Super Nintendo. I must have been about 6 or 7 that Christmas. At that age, owning the console was a measure of status. Suddenly, I wasn’t just the kid with big glasses who wore sweatpants and a Snoopy sweatshirt every day; I was also a 16-bit hero. As Mario, I dropped on the heads of Goombas and Koopa Troopas like doom itself. In F-Zero, a futuristic racing game, I hugged those galactic turns like a true pro.

I remember calling my best friend, Addison, on the phone minutes after opening the present to share the news. He’d had a Super Nintendo for at least a year so to him it was peanuts. Still, we sat down with a case of Shasta soda and beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time over and over again until our thumbs ached and our eyes threatened to bleed.

Little did I know that the Super Nintendo would soon become a source of conflict between my older brother and myself as we competed for access and a political asset for my parents when they threatened to take it away if I misbehaved. But nothing could dampen my spirits that Christmas Day when I plugged that sweet piece of Japanese technology in for the first time and assured my new risen position in the society of kids.

WORST holiday gift: Old Navy zip-up fleeces. My grandma sent them every year when I was in middle school because my grandpa had been in the U.S. Navy. Despite numerous attempts to explain to her that Old Navy had nothing to do with the U.S. Navy, a soft, wrapped present would arrive in the mail again and again. Perhaps worst of all, the fleeces would often by gaily colored—bright yellow, orange, light blue—and emblazoned across the front, of course, was “OLD NAVY” in some complimentary but equally eye-catching hue.

The problem was that, as a preteen, I went to great lengths to make myself scarce at school. The thought of drawing the ire of early-bloomer boys or, even scarier, girls, set my armpits, just barely starting to sprout hair, gushing with sweat. When my mom commanded me to wear grandma’s sweater to school, applying a thin but potent layer of guilt to my young, confused mind, I knew for sure that day would be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (speaking of childhood memories…).

Joan Dentler, guest editor of Belmont Patch
BEST Christmas gift: A handmade recipe book my son made me in second grade.
WORST Christmas gift:
 “My mother would put personal hygiene items in our stockings--granted, there were five of us...but still----who wants deodorant and toothbrushes for Christmas?”


Gideon Rubin, guest editor of Foster City Patch
BEST holiday gift: The Bobby Hull table-top hockey game in the early 1970s (bidding for a similar model was up to $170 with four days left on an eBay auction last I checked).
WORST holiday gift:
A McDonald's gift certificate.

Butch Larroche December 13, 2011 at 04:50 PM
When my brother and I were about 7 & 10 we got Yamaha Moto Bikes for Christmas from Santa. these were bicycles that had suspension on the the front like a motorcycles. They were the first bikes that I remember that had suspension. I got a yellow one and my brother got an orange one. Very cool !!!
Troy December 13, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Hot Wheels Jack Rabbit Special. I don't know why, it's not like it was "expensive" like a bike or something. I just remember lighting up and hugging my mother's neck. She had told me I wasn't getting a Jack Rabbit Special that Christmas....brings back memories. Thanks!
Pretty Asian... December 14, 2011 at 01:54 AM
my family gave me a round trip ticket to spend Christmas in the Philippines. Actually, my home country has the longest Christmas ever cuz you hear Christmas Songs all over the country as early as September 01 and ends on three kings day, January 6. we have a tradition in the house that come Christmas Eve, we attend church service then when we're home, a family member sits in the middle (as we form a circle. Each of us gets the chance to express our love & concern for that member in the middle then hugs him, kisses him, and gives him a gift... then another member sits in the middle, & so on. after the whole thing, we pray then eat merrily altogether while Christmas songs are being played. Food is plenty ( rice cakes, ice cream, roasted pig, fruits, ham, queso de bola, and a whole lot more! ). This is also a time of family reunions (and each family presents a special number). This is the reason why all Filipinos across the globe want to spend Christmas in the Philippines.
Courtney Carreras December 24, 2011 at 02:47 AM
My best present was actually a "family" present. My father bought a 30's era Model-A car from a guy in our town who restored them, and that Christmas morning all 5 kids went to the window at my father's urging to gasp as we saw it parked in the driveway by the barn. The rumble seat had been replaced with a little wooden pick-up type bed, which the three older kids (of which I was one) climbed in to head into city to visit the grandparents, (these were the crazy days of no seat belts, etc). This was Massachusetts and it was snowing so we bundled up with wool blankets for the ride. I remember what fun that was and the appreciative looks we got from others on the road that morning.
Holidays in Goa May 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Your article seems to be very informative. Just like to add that, Goa also has got excellent opportunities for tourism. Beaches in Goa extends for hundreds of kilometers making it a perfect tourism destination.


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