Top five foods you should NOT give as Christmas gifts

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We all know how the holiday gift-giving hierarchy works: Your best-effort gifts are given to people you like (or people whose asses you pucker up to the rest of the year); you give cost-effective, neutral gifts to those you pretend to like (bring on the Hickory Farms boxes of fossilized "sausages" and rank, gummy "cheese"). The lowest level on your shopping list usually consists of people you wish would die in a gingerbread-house fire, but have to deal with through either contractual or familial obligation. People like your probation officer, your sister's dipshit boyfriend, the dawdling mail carrier and your Craigslist bang-buddy with the neck tattoos.

But even these unworthy North pole-smokers don't deserve to be whapped in the jingle bells by these culinary dregs unfit for subhuman consumption: The top five foods you should NOT give as Christmas gifts.

5. Chocolate-covered cherries: Archeologists studying the 21st century a thousand years from now are probably going to stumble across the remains of an ancient Dollar Store, where they will find box after box of chocolate-covered cherries.They will study the waxy globules filled with tooth-shattering sugar stalactites and crunchy, mummified cherries and wonder how these could ever have been ingested. It would be better to let your undesirable gift recipients hoover reindeer droppings than give them the gift that will never be fully digested.

4. Boxed Panettone: There is bread, there is cake, and then there is the cardboard-cased monstrosity that is Panettone. I'm sure the Italian bakery masterminds behind the influx of these dehydrating, raisin-glutted sponges had good intentions, and Americans are insanely attracted to shiny packaging with foreign writing, but nobody deserves to get one of these as a gift -- no matter how much money they owe you or how many times they've wrecked your car.

3. Unshelled nuts: Really, nuts in any form make a lousy gift because the shelled ones in the holiday boxes are stale and chewy, and the ones in the shells require personal processing time involving a nutcracker and a pick. This is a problem, because inevitably whoever you gift these to (or their grubby, hyperactive offspring) will want to start cracking them on your coffee table, couch and chairs, leaving you with a house dusted with handfuls of shells and husks like a barnyard.

2. Popcorn tins: They can be bought for around $5, less if you get a dented can and negotiate a discount. But even that is far too much money to spend when you could opt to make your own popcorn and receptacle. Save a few cents and show the giftee your creative side. Dump a couple of bags of microwave corn in a Ziploc bag (leave the popcorn on the back porch uncovered for a few weeks to give it that authentic holiday-tin consistency) and use colored markers to decorate the bag with personalized pictures. Draw stick figures with little handcuffs for your probie, stick figures with genitals for your Craigslist buddy, and a sketch of a handgun on the one for your postal carrier. But don't get the bags mixed up.

1. Ribbon candy: It's odd that no matter which piece of ribbon candy you get, it tastes exactly like the last one -- so they are all officially stripe-flavored. And a terrible present to give anyone, because there is no warning label on the box to let the dummies on your dungeon-level gift list know that this candy is just plain dangerous. The pieces are so big they make eager eaters choke, so there go three or four people. You can bang the candy with a hammer, but then the shattered particles are sharp, so there go a couple more people. Before long, you will have a trail of dead idiots leading the cops right back to you.

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