Tinselitis Tinselitis: Uh Oh, the Present Guessing Game! Jennifer Still

I know it’s a bad idea. It’s backfired before – surprise Katy Perry tickets became Katy Perry tickets that the recipient found out about 2 months before Christmas. I was devastated, as I thought in my pea-sized little mind that there was no way she’d ever figure it out. In the end, it almost seemed too easy and there was one of my biggest gifts ruined. Has that deterred us this year? Of course not. And the shoe is already on the other foot – last night, I named one of my best gifts within three minutes of questioning. Oops!

The Present Guessing Game can be treacherous territory (I refer to it as “The Danger Zone”), but it’s also damn addicting. It builds excitement for the coming holiday and also increases adrenaline, which is apparently a good thing (she says from a reclined position, under a blanket in bed).

Feel like living on the edge and want to play? It goes a little something like this:

1. Player 1 initiates: Whoever wants to play (it’s generally me) will broach the subject with a seemingly innocuous opener, which becomes fairly obvious to Player 2 after the first few occasions. You can start with something like, “Oh my God, I just saw the best thing I’m going to have to get you!” or one of my personal favourites, “Aw, one of the things I ordered for you for Christmas just arrived. You’re going to love it!” This will likely automatically lead into the next phase.

2. Player 2 inquires: After this initiation, the door is now open for the game to begin. Generally, your initiation will invite Player 2 to ask follow-up questions, such as, “Ooh, what is it?” or “Can I have a hint?” Why yes, you can!

3. Give Player 2 a hint: Only you know your guesser. If he or she is freakishly good at connecting the dots, you’ll want to keep your clues vague and non-specific. I also enjoy employing hints which seemingly have nothing to do with the gift (and in fact probably lead the guesser further from the correct path) but will come to light upon actually being received. For instance, last week I sent this clue about the big gift I bought the yin to my yang:

An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, despite the time, the place, despite the circumstances. The thread can be tightened or tangle, but never be broken.

BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN? She’ll never know… until she opens the gift and puts 2 and 2 together, ya feel me?

4. Allow Player 2 to launch further investigation: Player 2 will likely have more questions which you can choose whether or not to answer. Mind your responses, though! It only takes one ill-thought out exchange to drop yourself in it. Be prepared for a particularly deft and clever opponent who may ask such good questions (“Is it something I can wear?”, “Do I need to go elsewhere to redeem it?”, “Will it break if I drop it?”, etc.) that you’re forced to shut it down and move on to the next phase.

5. Lie your pants off:When you love to live in the Danger Zone, chances are you’ll skirt a bit too close for comfort when the guesser seems to be on the right track. Luckily, I was an X-Files fan and learned early on to Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate. To put it in English: LIE! It’s Christmas, so it’s excusable, of course. Master your poker face if playing this game in person – especially if your opponent knows you well – in order to veil which questions you’re being less than truthful about.

Tip: You may allow Player 2 to know that you are lying on some of your responses without revealing which. However, this move is risky and should be reserved for experienced players only.

6. Know when to stop: Sure, the Danger Zone provides a massive buzz, but get out before you regret it. If your opponent even makes it to the right genre of presents or starts sussing particular lies you may have told, make a hasty exit from the game and declare it over until you can regroup. Player 2 should be okay with this since any Christmas lover doesn’t really want their present surprises to be ruined.

7. Be prepared for disaster: Sometimes, weird things happen and despite your best efforts and Player 2′s lack thereof, your gifts may be figured out. The present I named last night was so random and so far off course that I never would have gotten it in a million years… had I not been looking at something nearly identical for her just last week. Ah, the risks of being so in tune!

In any case, don’t panic. Should your opponent successfully determine the gift to which you are alluding, you can refer back to #5 and lie about it – outright deny that they’ve guessed correctly. If you’re lucky (rarely), they’ll believe you. If not, concede defeat, accept that the DZ got the better of you and vow to do better next year. Christmas won’t be ruined, don’t worry.

Have any of you entered the Christmas Danger Zone, and with what results? Have you ever totally ruined a surprise, whether for yourself or others? Share your stories in the comments below.

58 days until the big day, guys! CHRISTMASSSSSSSSSSS!!

Image via On Wings of Pigs

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  1. This is my sister and I. Every single year. And it’s started already.

  2. My wife, my girlfriend at the time, got me a flatscreen TV for Christmas last year and I guessed it. She got so upset because she had a planned a really fun scavenger hunt and I felt pretty bad too for guessing.

    So now, she completely refuses to play because I’m a notoriously good guesser. Although, she’s the one that gave me a link to this post so maybe she changed her mind?

  3. My Dad is a notorious package shaker. I once wrapped a baseball cap for him in a box with half a brick and a handful of BBs to rattle around.

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