Once a passion,
now a vice

Old hobbies become unwanted collections


James Lange can crack a whole lot of nuts, and he's not exactly ecstatic about it. Since age 8, his aunts, grandmothers and other relatives have relied on the same Christmas gift: nutcrackers.

"When I was young, I thought they were awesome," Lange said. His second nutcracker was a football player. "I was really into football at the time. It was so cool."

Most people begin collections out of an obsession or passion for a certain item. However, sometimes that passion may fade, causing collectors to lose interest. Lange lost interest in his nutcracker collection as he progressed into his teen years. He began to second-guess his "awesome" collection. "When you're trying to be cool, it's really hard to have nutcrackers," he said.

Lange’s collection includes 26 nutcrackers ranging from traditional Danish dolls to the Easter bunny. "I have tons of horrible, horrible ones," he said.

Although he is not sure why his relatives continue to give him nutcrackers, he said he thinks it’s because his family doesn’t know what else to get him. Nonetheless, "I've been trying to plant the seed in my close relative’s heads that I don't want them, in hopes that it will spread to the rest of the family," Lange said.

While Lange has grown out of collecting nutcrackers, he said he still takes them out during the holidays for his younger relatives. Many of the items in his parent’s house are untouchable, so the children feel privileged to play with the breakable nutcrackers. "It definitely elevated my status during Christmas," he said.

Ashley DelaBarre, on the other hand, no longer displays her collection of more than 130 ladybug items. She began collecting ladybugs since her freshman year of high school when her friend gave her a pen decorated with ladybugs. "I was having a bad day, so she told me that ladybugs were a symbol of good luck and happiness, "I knew it was something she made up, but it brought a smile to my face." DelaBarre said.

Since then, both DelaBarre and her friend have collected ladybug items. Around her sophomore year of college, however, DelaBarre said she became sick of ladybugs.

"I just grew out of it," she said.

After telling her family she no longer wanted ladybug items, she continued to receive them anyway. She got them for her birthday, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

"I think people give me ladybugs as a fallback because they couldn't find me some other gift." DelaBarre said.

Both Lange and DelaBarre said that although they don't like receiving the items, they still act excited when they get them.

"The thing is, they buy me a gift,” Lange said. “It's not what it is.”