Written By: Ben Cosgrove

In 1953 LIFE featured a number of gifts that, the magazine assured its readers, were far “better to give than to receive.” For our part, after spending a little time with these photos by Yale Joel, we’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that, with one or two exceptions (those velvet glasses acting as a hairnet are kind of cool), these items are preposterous whether one is giving or receiving.

As LIFE noted in its December 7, 1953 issue:

When a sequined $7.50 fly swatter turned out to be one of the best-selling gifts last Christmas (a time of year when flies are rare), department stores were quick to turn its success into a trend. This year the country’s gift counters abound in homely household objects which have been gilded, bedecked with pearls and rhinestones and upped in price. Holiday shoppers whose main object is to pamper the recipient may now choose jeweled back-scratchers which are almost too pretty to use, velvet eyeglasses which are designed to be worn instead of a hat, time-pieces for pets who can not tell time. Here is a selection of this year’s silly Christmas gifts.

Thank goodness we’ve evolved as a society and as individuals to the point where ridiculous and overpriced presents are no longer on anyone’s wish list. Right?

Sleep mask for light sleepers is satin-edged in gold braid, has gold eyelashes, brows and twinkling rhinestone stars.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Sleep mask for light sleepers is satin-edged in gold braid, has gold eyelashes, brows and twinkling rhinestone stars.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

A back-scratcher encrusted with gilt, pearls and sea shells is an expensive adaptation of a standard 39-cent model.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “A back-scratcher encrusted with gilt, pearls and sea shells is an expensive adaptation of a standard 39-cent model.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Work gloves with red felt fingernails and a big ring on the wedding finger.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Work gloves with red felt fingernails and a big ring on the wedding finger.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Velvet glasses with net lenses, based on the theory that there are women who wear spectacles to hold their hair back.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Velvet glasses with net lenses, based on the theory that there are women who wear spectacles to hold their hair back.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Spray gun is coated with gilt and trimmed with bee and flowers, might be used on household pests when company is around

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Spray gun is coated with gilt and trimmed with bee and flowers, might be used on household pests when company is around.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Swiss watch adorning gold collar, maker says, prompts wearer to bark to go out.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Swiss watch adorning gold collar, maker says, prompts wearer to bark to go out. Compass in place of watch costs $22.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Leopard print gives a frivolous look to knitted nylon pants and bra.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Leopard print gives a frivolous look to knitted nylon pants and bra. This is a useful notion of the season, being an economical substitute for the expensive fancy lingerie many men like to give as presents. The spots, which make fabric opaque, do not change with washing.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Glasses have no lenses, but feature what looks to be a costume jewelry tear-drop dangling from the frame.

Absurd Christmas Gifts 1953

Caption from LIFE: “Glasses have no lenses, but feature what looks to be a costume jewelry tear-drop dangling from the frame.” (Yale Joel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

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