An efficient solution to the Christmas gift distribution problem.

My family has two methods for identifying which Christmas present is for and from whom. My mother's method is to affix little name tags to each gift, using either specially-produced cards or convenient flaps of leftover wrapping paper. My father's is to leave the brightly-coloured boxes unidentifiable, thereby issuing a December 25th challenge to figure out what goes where.

My mom's plan reduces confusion while my dad's is very efficient (from the perspective of the wrapper). But my dad's scheme does heighten the risk of a young boy unwrapping a delightful assortment of scented bath salts, and my mom's makes it far too easy to discover that the largest present under the tree is designated for your younger -- and therefore undeserving -- sibling.

A system I devised benefits from all of these advantages while sidestepping the disadvantages: no confusion, quick to wrap, and no pre-Christmas rivalry-inspiring clues.

What you'll need is bows. Lots of 'em, and in a few different colours. Usually you can get a whopping bag of these at Shoppers. Assign each recipient a colour of bow (you might want to jot this down). Slap the correct colour bow on to each gift and you're done wrapping in an instant. If a gift is meant for two people, slap two bows.

Until you break out the code on Christmas morn, no one will know who gets what, and there won't be any misgifted bath salts to speak of.

In programming-speak, we'd call this a double indirection, but I find it's best not to speak programming between Christmas Eve and New Years.

Archived Comments

  1. Dar on 20071224.Monday: could then use encryption on the key to ensure that there is no pre-christmas peeking of the key if its secret location is discovered. The encryption could be simple character substitution like b-l-u-e could be c-m-v-f (make each letter the next one higher in the alphabet). Of course this could pose a small problem with colours such as "zirconium-zinger"... Merry Chirstmas!
  2. Dave on 20071224.Monday:
    Don't get me started. What about encoding an orange bow via the combination of a red and yellow bow? Even sneakier, use additive colour mixing to encode orange using red and a smidgen of green.
  3. Dar on 20071224.Monday:
    But what if your colour blind?
  4. Dave on 20071226.Wednesday:
    The fallback position is Dad's method: squeeze, shake, and guess who it's for.
  5. james on 20080213.Wednesday:
    One way is to assign a color for the wrapper to the person who will receive the gift. Another way is to wrap the gifts in different sizes so that confusion will be avoided. That little boy unwrapping an asortment of bath salts really got me :D