Let’s be honest with ourselves: Christmas is about presents. Yeah yeah, spending time with your family and friends is important, and we all know the “true” meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jimmy Buffett. But when you get down to brass tacks, gifts are what keep the holidays chugging along. Nobody gets up early on Christmas morning to strengthen their familial bonds, get in touch with an old friend or, God forbid, go to church. You’ve got one goal in mind: tearing through wrapping paper like a pyjama-clad tornado to see if you got that iPad you kept hinting at with all the subtlety of Ralph Parker. And to see the looks of happiness on your loved ones’ faces as they unwrap their gifts too, I guess. Whatever.
But despite gift giving being the highlight of the holiday, most people make basic mistakes that lessen their potential Christmas cheer by up to 27%. How are you going to make up for that, huh? Going to cram a mass gay wedding’s worth of gingerbread men in your mouth? Forget it. You’ll just make yourself sick and be unable to confront Santa when he starts making out with your wife. If you don’t have a wife, he’ll molest your dog. If you don’t have a dog, you’re getting a molested dog for Christmas. Santa’s a weird guy.
“What am I doing wrong?” I assume you’re asking for the sake of this essay. Short answer: everything. Long answer: everything, and also you’re ugly. Even longer, more accurate answer: you’re not arranging the gifts under the tree properly, and your parents never loved you. Because of your ugliness.
The gift arrangement controls the order in which gifts are opened, and yet the average family just tosses them under the tree at random, like cavemen. Cavemen that celebrate Christmas. Cavemen that are smart enough to build a time machine and travel to an era where Christmas is celebrated, but too stupid to arrange their gifts. Idiot-savant, time travelling, Christmas celebrating cavemen. You’re doing it wrong, is my point here.
Poor arrangement leads to Christmas chaos. All the good gifts are opened first, leaving socks and Family Circus calendars as a disappointing dénouement. Kittens catch fire. One family member blows through their load early, leaving them nothing to do but watch as everyone else has a great time. Premature extractulation, you could call it. As in, the early extraction of gifts from their wrapping paper. I’m trying to make a premature ejaculation joke here, but it’s not coming together. Oh wait, BAM!
So let’s get down to business. First things first: you’re going to be making stacks. Big gifts on the bottom, small gifts on top. I shouldn’t even have to tell you that much. If you’re surprised by this tip you should take your menorah and leave. Go have fun doing… whatever people do on Kwanzaa. I don’t know, other holidays aren’t my problem.
Next, make sure recipients are alternating in the stacks. Don’t pile three video games for Junior on top of three sweaters for Grandma. That’s stupid. And who even calls their kid Junior? Don’t do that. Just don’t.
To add visual diversity to your layout and give yourself more arrangement options, put larger gifts on top of smaller ones in the upper half of some stacks. While you’re at it, make sure the stacks are all different sizes. Same sized stacks look dour and unnatural. That’s how they did it in the Soviet Union. Love Christmas and freedom by making your stacks all sorts of heights, like how they grow in the wild.
You also need to consider the contents of each gift. You can’t judge something by its size—that’s just like being racist, if all the black people you know happen to be really tall. Now, unless you’re a horrible family member, you should know what everyone is getting for Christmas. But unless you’re a horrible family member, you don’t know what you’re getting for Christmas. So you’ll have to make educated guesses based on size, shape, sounds made when shaken and the results of an x-ray scan. If you don’t own a holiday x-ray machine, I don’t even know why you’re here.
Your presents should be arranged like a James Bond movie: start with something fun to get everyone’s attention, put the boring stuff in the middle, and leave the cool things for the end so they come at you rapid fire, building the excitement until it explodes in a knee-knocking orgasm, like James Bond made love to Christmas itself. Make sure each family member gets this experience—you don’t want Bond making love to everyone but grandpa. The analogy kind of breaks down here, but you get the idea.
Unfortunately, there will always be a few gifts that don’t fit into your layout. Gift baskets, sports equipment, sex toys—their irregular shape makes them unstackable. At this point most people panic, throw these gifts out and deny they ever bought them, but you can do better. Your dragon dick sex toys can be a strength, not a weakness! Use them to plug holes (no pun intended) in your arrangement by slipping them in-between problem stacks. Do two stacks end and then start with grandma? A wine and cheese platter for other grandma will take care of that!
If your layout already looks good, arrange the irregulars around the outside like a rampart made of guitars and sex swings. Make sure to follow the same basic rules, while keeping the large items in the back and the smaller gifts up front. Just think of it as a horizontal stack. Tilt your head 90 degrees while you’re arranging them if it helps.
You’re almost done, but don’t forget about the big day itself. Going to open Christmas presents is like going to war, and you’re the general—you have to keep your troops safe and prevent screw-ups. “But no lives are on the line,” you say. Think again! A bad Christmas may not literally kill your children, but it will reduce them to an empty husk of the carefree innocents they once were. And is that not a fate worse than death? So put on your Napoleon hat! Literally—everyone will pay attention to you if you’re wearing a Napoleon hat.
It should go without saying that you’ll be in charge of distributing gifts. The last thing you need is one of your dumb kids being all, “hurr durr Christmas durr!!!” and destroying your carefully planned arrangement like Godzilla destroying a really big Christmas gift arrangement for other monsters. To avoid this disaster, get to the tree first and position yourself at its base. Lesser family members will bow to your clear show of dominance—just make sure you come prepared for the long haul with breakfast, coffee and a catheter, because the second you move the rats scurry in.
You should of course plan out the distribution order in advance, but be on your toes—the situation can change in an instant. Someone might be more or less enamoured with a gift than you anticipated, forcing you to recalculate their priorities. Your stupid brother-in-law might spill coffee all over himself like the mouth breathing product of incest he is, and remove himself from the proceedings while he cleans his disgusting body. Maybe your spouse has a heart attack and dies. You never know. Be alert, and plan ahead like you would for any other disaster. That’s right—opening gifts is like going to war, and then war catches fire.
Follow these instructions and you’ll turn Christmas into CANstmas. But be warned that your hours of slaving away will go underappreciated, if not entirely unnoticed. If you’re in this for recognition, then gift arranging isn’t for you. But if you’re in this for recognition you’re in it for the wrong reasons. You don’t arrange gifts for gold and glory—you arrange them because you want to give your family the best damn Christmas in the world. Trust me—the smile on your lover’s face when they open their final gift, the 12 inch velociraptor dildo you carefully hid at the back of the tree, will make it all worthwhile.