NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It's the thought that counts, but it's hard to fake a smile when you receive the same unwanted holiday gifts year after year. From snow globes from Aunt Polly to reindeer ties from Grandpa John, some common Christmas presents tend to elicit more eye rolls than excitement. Read on for our round-up of seven tacky Christmas gifts that keep finding their way under your tree, plus suggestions on fresher gift ideas for your friends and family.

Snow Globes

Sure, they look kind of cool ... for about five seconds. After that, snow globes are simply mundane dust collectors that serve no useful function. O.K., we get it, they're a decoration, but how many do you really need? Too many snow globes scattered throughout your home can look like clutter, and these days there are better alternatives if you want to give your abode a cozy touch.

A better option:
"A fresh take on a snow globe would be mercury glass votives or ornaments," says Kathryn Drury Wagner, senior content manager for the gift recommendation site "Mercury glass is very trendy right now and gives a festive glow." One option is this set of four jeweled mercury glass votive cups featuring grooved and hobnail textures from Pottery Barn ($22.99).


Made of candied or dried fruit, nuts and spices and sometimes soaked in spirits, fruitcake is arguably one of the most re-gifted presents each Christmas. In fact, Johnny Carson once joked that there is only one fruitcake in the world and people keep sending it to each other. While there are still some die-hard fruitcake fans, the younger generations in particular tend to see this classic cake as unappetizing and dated.

"I think fruitcake is just currently out of vogue," says Drury Wagner. "Who knows, it may make a rebound—just look at all the Brooklyn hipsters sporting 1890s-style facial hair right now."

A better option:
A tasty alternative to fruitcake is babkas, a popular Eastern European yeast-leavened cake made of soft brioche-like dough. Drury Wagner suggests purchasing The Bread Project Tcho Chocolate Babkas from Williams-Sonoma ($49.95), which consist of five individual babkas filled with homemade candied orange zest, chocolate chunks, ganache made from locally sourced Tcho chocolate and a toasted-almond streusel topping. You can also feel good about buying this product: The babkas are made by The Bread Project in Emeryville, Calif., a nonprofit that trains people with limited resources in the art of baking.

Christmas Ties

Sure, a man might wear a suit to work each day, but that does not mean he enjoys receiving holiday ties adorned with reindeer, snowmen and candy canes. Not only are these ties corny, but they can only be enjoyed for a few weeks each year.

A better option:
You can still buy the man in your life ties that are unique and playful without being cheesy. For instance, the line of Jerry Garcia ties at includes a variety of vibrant silk ties in interesting patterns (think streaked lines, swooping brush strokes, stars and waves).

Cheap Gift Cards to Expensive Stores

Gift cards can make great gifts, but if you give someone a cheap gift card to a pricey store, it can sometimes be more of a hassle than an enjoyable shopping experience. After all, the recipient will either have to settle on something dinky or add some of their own hard-earned cash to the gift card in order to purchase something substantial.

Kyle James, owner and founder of, recalls receiving a $20 gift card for The Sharper Image from his uncle a few years ago. "Have you ever tried to buy something from The Sharper Image for $20 or less? It is not humanly possible," he says. "I think my only choice was like a couple of luggage locks for $19.99. I ended up buying a $50 foot massager that I really didn't need or want."


A Better Option:
"If you're going to give someone a gift card, make sure it is for enough money so the recipient can actually buy something useful," says James.

If you're on a budget and can't afford to buy a generous gift card to an expensive store, it's better to buy a smaller gift card to a store that sells moderate- or lower-priced items. For extra savings, you can purchase gift cards at discounted rates from sites such as, and

Cutesy Pajamas

Who could forget the hilarious scene in the 1983 film A Christmas Story when poor Ralphie receives pink bunny pajamas from his Aunt Clara? While this may be an extreme example of pajamas gone terribly wrong, many would agree that past the age of seven, cutesy pajamas are just not cool. In addition to bunny suits, we're also talking about those featuring dogs and cats, snowflakes, penguins and baseballs.

A better option:
Instead of buying pajamas with cutesy prints, you might want to stick to those with pinstripes, plaid or checkered patterns. Solid-colored pajamas are also a safe bet, such as this satin, plum-colored ladies' pair from PajamaGram ($59.99).

Candy Canes

Candy canes may be one of the quintessential symbols of Christmas, but does anyone really crave them? These sticky peppermint treats get old quickly, and boxes of them often pile up in the trash at the end of the holiday season.

A better option:
Consider giving your friends and family peppermint bark, a delicious treat that combines regular and white chocolate with peppermint candy bits. Williams-Sonoma offers a one-pound tin of handmade peppermint bark for $21.56.

Wall Calendars

From those depicting scenes of Italy to those featuring buff New York City firefighters and Sports Illustrated babes, wall calendars have been a popular Christmas gift throughout the years. These days, though, hanging a calendar on the wall seems a bit passé, especially with the popularity of computerized calendars and scheduling apps for smartphones.

A better option:
If you want your significant other, friend or family member to stay on schedule in 2014, consider foregoing the wall calendar and instead getting him or her a timepiece. Some interesting ideas include a personalized pocket watch from Things Remembered ($39.99), a personalized photo frame wall clock from Personal Creations ($29.99) and a colored iPhone alarm dock from UncommonGoods ($14.99) that cradles your iPhone and conceals USB wires to transform it into a mid-century modern timepiece.

--Written by Kristin Colella for MainStreet