Warning Labels and Dirty Guesses

Perhaps you find yourself in need of a new holiday tradition? 

My kids outgrew Santa awhile ago—and they didn’t care that I hadn’t yet. They just imperiously announced, with a touch of sarcasm, that of course they knew Santa wasn’t “real”. Duh.

In retaliation I announced that they would’ve made the naughty list for the last six consecutive years—had there actually been one—therefore I wasn’t feeling inspired to buy gifts. Much eye-rolling ensued and they huffed a time or two and then offered to do a tiny chore. Nothing too helpful of course. Things like, “I guess I could pet the dog for you.” Or “Look mom, I’m hanging my jacket up!”

So Santa doesn’t pretend-visit our house anymore and we don’t have any cute little elf-on-the-shelf or gingerbread house, or tree-cutting-in-the-forest traditions to fill the Santa-sized void. 

Yet I wanted to instill some sort of memories they can look back on. Something I can point to and say “See? I am too an above-average mother and look, this unforgettable tradition proves it!” 

So, I made up the Gift-Guessing Tradition. 

Full Disclosure: I bribed them to participate in my tradition the first year, with a batch of their favorite cookies—which was a big deal. We’re more of a hummus and kale household if you know what I mean.

They actually loved the new tradition despite being sullen little (Santa-doubting) middle-schoolers at the time. 

One year when I sort of forgot about the tradition and incorrectly wrapped all the gifts, my fifteen and seventeen year old, too-cool-for-school, sons pitched a fit. In contrition, I stayed up hours past my nine p.m. bedtime, re-wrapping. You’ll see why in a minute.

Here’s how the Gift-Guessing Tradition works.

First, put some effort into foolin’ ‘em good. 

Put little stuff like gift cards or jewelry in giant boxes. Wrap odd-sized things together. Make hard stuff soft with socks or toilet paper. Add bricks or rocks to make light stuff heavy, and otherwise jack with the natural shapes and sizes and feels and sounds of the gifts. 

I once wrapped some highly desired, designer t-shirts around large bottles of Blood Orange Soda just to make it slosh. Special tip: I highly recommend using non-carbonated substances if you decide to do this. The sloshing was good though.

Next, wrap all the gifts in plain white wrapping paper. 

This can be accomplished by turning regular wrapping paper inside out—which has the added perk of being cheap because you can buy that ugly 80% off, leftover stuff after Dec 26th and use it for next year. Or, use up your ancient stock of wedding, baby shower or birthday paper that’s been sitting around since 1992 before the gift bag was invented and we all got too lazy to actually wrap a gift ever again. My ancient stock was used up two years ago but the dollar store always has plenty; 180 square feet for a buck. 

Label who it’s to and from, then pile all these blank, snowy, deceptive gifts, along with several colors of sharpies, under the tree. 

Encourage everyone to write improbable guesses on the packages as to what’s inside. If they still balk at participating—even after a batch of your best Christmas cookies—turn it into a competition, like so; “(Uproarious laughter at your own written guesses) Holy gobblers, this proves it! I am the wittiest person in this family!” 

This will at least get them reading it out of curiosity—which will most likely lead to a droll idea of their own. Of course, once they do sneak in a written guess, read it aloud and giggle with all you got. Everybody wants to be funny.

Tailor the guesses to the recipient. For instance, the packages to my 17 year old son sported these guesses in a pretty rainbow of sharpie colors—often with poorly done, accompanying drawings;

-an ”all you need to know about ditching girls” manual.

25 lbs of circus peanuts.

a Walking Dead snowglobe/music box. 

-cameo brooches of Rex and Thor (our dogs). (Added bonus; my sons had to google what a cameo brooch is, so they learned something.)

-ice carving tools with online ice carving course.

gift card for an “I love Mom” tattoo.

a guide for using profanity correctly.

every movie ever made before 1940.

set of bobble-heads of all your ex-girlfriends.

a Grimm arsenal that expands bigger than Aunt Marie’s trailer.

Those are the clean ones. I didn’t want to offend anybody here, but the reality with two older boys is much more graphic. Sometimes, I don’t even know what their guesses mean, but I’ve learned (the hard way) not to google them. I repeat, Do Not Google Them.

We manage to somehow work in each person’s worst fears, secret dreams, most embarrassing moments and things they truly love or detest. When we’re done, the packages are covered in very humorous, creative writing. And poorly done art.

We find ourselves super hilarious and we get funnier as the season goes along. 

It’s highly recommended to have the presents under the tree for a couple of weeks before Christmas; enough time to gather everyone’s wittiest guesses. This little tip has the added benefit of forcing you to complete your gift shopping way in advance, doubling as a holiday stress reducer. 

You’re welcome.

This year I wrote official warning labels on the gifts. Things like;

Warning: Keep right side up. No jiggling, squashing or smelling.

Warning: Rex peed on this a little, but no worries, I added a fresh layer of wrapping paper. (true story)

Warning: Ensure all air holes remain open.

Warning: Wear eye, hand and nose protection when opening.

I’m finding the warning labels really throw them off.

So there, you’ve a new holiday tradition for your Santa-free home. Enjoy and don’t forget to to tell us how it all works out. 

Warning: Grandma doesn’t find this tradition at all funny.  Just use a gift bag for hers.  

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