My gift from hell
Tiffany Hall: 'I have moved house several times, never without my walrus bone.' Photo: Simon Schluter
Just because you're a Melbourne celebrity doesn't mean Santa's always on the money when it comes to picking the perfect little something. Has our local talent ever wanted to re-gift their presents? Hell, yes. Here they reminisce about the ones that stand out in their memories - for all the wrong reasons.
Rachel Griffiths, actor and patron for Hagar Australia
''The worst gifts are always expensive gifts I don't like. I look at them and think, 'How many children could be rescued from slavery for the price of that overpriced present?' I always tell people I don't want anything unless it's homemade, and then someone goes to some huge effort and gets you something you don't want to live with; it feels like a sad waste of time.
Natalie Bloom. Photo: Simon Schluter
''One gift that has kind of left some serious educational questions in my family was when we put a note from Santa in my stocking to let me know I was pregnant, that I had a baby coming. My children actually think Santa is involved in the reproduction process. They tell people, 'Mum once got a baby for Christmas!' It has caused a few issues and, of course, they do believe in Santa, so it's going to be a double whammy when they find out that not only isn't Santa real, but he doesn't have anything to do with the baby business.''
Stephen Cummings, musician
''There are souls in this world who have the gift of finding joy everywhere and leaving it behind them when they go. That's not me. Like an unseen fallen tree in the forest, I have flushed gift-giving from my life. Steve Waugh, great cricketer, loves literature. I was given his magnum opus one year, thousands of pages of diary minutiae and statistics. I tried re-gifting the thing-a-ma-bob, but there were no takers. Too heavy. I've found that by not giving presents, people soon catch on to what's happening.''
Natalie Bloom, Bloom Cosmetics
''Three years ago, my husband had his mind set on organising an 'original' present for me. He made us all pose for a photo, which unbeknownst to me was being emailed off to China to be turned into a family figurine. The end result: the worst present I've ever received. Worse still, I can't even re-gift it. Now that we've had [fourth son] Ben, it's no longer complete, so maybe I can justify binning it for good.''
Tiffiny Hall, author of White Ninja and health expert
''The worst Christmas gift I've ever received was an old walrus penis bone the size of a baseball bat, thoughtfully given to me by a family member. At the time I was 10 years old and it made wonderfully inappropriate show-and-tell at school. It was thought that this relic could be used as an effective weapon, similar to a crowbar, if ever I had to protect the household. I have moved house several times, never without my walrus bone. Now, along with my fifth Dan black belt, I feel confident that I could defend myself against any burglar. In fact, I dare someone to take on me and my ancient baseball bat.
Dave Hughes, Nova 100's Hughesy & Kate show
''A bottle of wine, as I haven't had a drink in 20 years.''
Catriona Rowntree. Photo: Getty Images
Natalie Barr, Channel 7 host of Carols in the Domain
''I've got presents I haven't used and are still sitting in the cupboard, some I haven't liked at all and I've had a few that have even ended up in the Salvos donation bin, but I really don't believe there's such a thing as a 'bad' gift. If it's given with love or excitement or pride, it means something and it's worth receiving for that reason alone, isn't it?''
Leah de Niese, House Husbands
Anthony Callea and Tim Campbell. Photo: Paul Rovere
''Many years ago, my sister bought me what she claimed was the best Christmas present ever. By Christmas Day, I was bursting to open it. I opened the gift to find a mini disco ball on a stand. I looked at my sister with a 'Is this it?' expression. 'I thought it was cute, and look, it spins,' she said. She flicked the switch and after a rather pathetic one-and-a-half spins, it fizzled to its ultimate demise. Not wanting to be ungrateful, I smiled and said, 'Thanks, it's really cool.' And then we both burst into hysterics.''
Catriona Rowntree, television presenter and author
''There's no nice way to share a story on re-gifting, for fear of hurting the feelings of the person who gave you the gift. So, let's pray my husband is out in the paddocks for a very long time this weekend. There can be no other pick for me than the pressie he offered, with so much pride a few years ago … a BMX bike.
Shane Jacobson. Photo: Julian Kingma
''Had he had too much sun? What was the man thinking? Albeit I loved to ride around the farm on a salvaged $14 bike from the local junkyard, but with the fisherman's basket I tied on the front it reeked French provincial, not Nicole Kidman's first starring role. I'd made it so easy for him when it came to gift ideas. 'Just get me anything in the Blue Box.'' 'What's that?' he replied, totally perplexed. 'Everyone knows the Blue Box, it's Tiffany's,' I said.
''When he asked me to shut my eyes before he gave me my gift, I had high hopes. Suddenly, he wheeled around the corner this sporty looking thingo, with mega gears and huge pink ribbons on the handlebars. I had no filter - I just said what I thought: 'But how will I wear that?'''
Anthony Callea, Carols by Candlelight performer
''To be honest, if I got a really bad gift, I couldn't re-gift it. I would either throw it out, throw it in the back of a cupboard, give it to my mum (she'll take anything … oops), or give it to St Vinnie's. I have re-gifted bottles of champagne before, but who hasn't? I can't give a gift to someone that I don't personally like, hence I have given things away that I have bought for myself a few times, mainly because I ran out of time in getting them a gift.''
Tim Campbell, House Husbands actor
''Not that I didn't appreciate the thought, but Christmas is all about giving, so I had no hesitation giving a 'beautiful' - by beautiful, I mean hideous - vase and photo frame combo to St Vinnie's after Christmas celebrations a few years ago. I want to thank that certain relative for giving joy to someone who now displays them proudly in their home - what home would they go in, I ask? - and for helping to provide much needed funds for St Vincent de Paul.''
Shane Jacobson, Carols by Candlelight performer
''Every year when I was young, a dear old lady who was a close family friend, would give me a hanky. At the time I remember thinking, 'Why on earth would she give me a hanky every year?' and then I would shove it in my top drawer. That dear old lady is no longer with us, but about 10 years ago, I started using those hankies whenever I had a cold. Four years ago, I opened my top drawer only to discover I had none left. I miss her and her gifts dearly, but love the fact that, in a way, they were re-gifted to myself later in life.''
Andi Lew, author of Eat Fat, Be Thin
''I once received a present that was definitely re-gifted. This was a box with exercise equipment and instructional matching exercise DVD, which looked opened. Inside, it was exercise bands with a non-matching yoga DVD. I still don't know how to use the exercise bands. Another time, I got a Tiffany ring. It was too big, so I made a trip to the Tiffany store to swap it. The store keeper took three steps backwards and said it wasn't from her store; it was a fake.''
Elliot Perlman, novelist
''I was six years old when my grandmother needed a rest in New Zealand. She returned with a gift - a large, jade-coloured plastic tiki. I thanked her and asked how one was meant to use it. Looking surprised, she thought for a moment before suggesting that I could use it as a ruler at school. I looked at it again. It shared with other tikis the fact that it wasn't straight or calibrated. I said nothing and tried to like it - I put it in different places in my room, including, at one stage, my mouth.
''Before my seventh birthday, it got put into a shoe box that housed sock puppets and wire coat-hanger dinosaurs, remnants of a previous era. Eventually the shoe box was set adrift on a sea of garbage in the dumpster. The tiki had gone the way of the dinosaur.''
The best of times
It's not all fake happiness when it comes to present opening; these stars reveal their most memorable or best gifts.
My first cassette Walkman. My mum gave it to me in the early '80s. I thought, 'I'm never leaving my room!' Technology had reached its peak!
This year, the best present is the royal commission into child abuse. It might make happier Christmases to come. For many who have suffered in silence, they go to church on Christmas and can't feel good. Maybe this year they can go back to church and feel good.
The best Christmas gift I ever received was a motorbike from my boyfriend at the time. We had only been seeing each other for a couple of weeks when he surprised me with the sleek vehicle, complete with personalised number plates. Our relationship wasn't as good as the gift, so I broke up with the guy and returned the gift.
I did buy my partner a sky-diving experience … the whole kit and caboodle, photos, video etc. However, after two false alarms after we arrived - due to the weather and my anxiety and nerve levels going through the roof - I asked him not to do it! Come to think of it, I never got him another gift to replace that one … oops!
When I was younger, the kids down the street tried to convince me that Santa wasn't real. But when I received a new BMX bike with Tuffs and Spokey Dokeys - look it up, kids! - I knew mum and dad wouldn't have given me that, for sure!
Leah de Niese
My two sisters gave me the best gift last Christmas. My eldest sister brought me back a T-shirt from Harry Potter World in Florida and, with my other sister, got us all tickets to the Harry Potter exhibition in Sydney.
It was from my husband. It was the mid-'90s and I was having a mosaic moment. He packaged up some gorgeous Italian tiles and all the mosaic tools (tile cutter, grout), plus a book on Gaudi.
Every gift given to me by my children, even if it is a drawing, is always memorable and better than anything else.
A really easy pick would have to be the recipe book my dearest friends and family put together for me just before I got married. Some handwritten, some illustrated, some photocopied from grandmothers' journals. I love each and every one.
The greatest gift I have received has been my two children; I would have pushed for more but there are things a chappie's mind absolutely refuses to picture.
My husband is an amazing pressie picker. I've had jewellery and clothes and shoes over the years - and they fit!