## Monday, January 3, 2011

### Guide to opening Christmas presents with 10+ people

Christmas is a big and wonderful event at my family. This year we had 10 people joining us for Christmas morning. This means a bunch of presents. If you try to just hand them out without a system you will end up with people feeling left out.

If nothing else, you need to sort.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. First, Let’s do some math:

If 10 people buy 1 present for each of the other 9 people
Then
10 * 1* 9 = 90 presents

Which means, that you will have a minimum of 90 presents for a 10 person group.
For us, a big part of Christmas is enjoying seeing each other’s faces as they open their present. Which means that opening a present might take 3-4 minutes. So

90 presents *  4 minutes / present  = 360 minutes = 6 hours... minimum.

Which is a fair bit of time. However, just to complicate things not everyone is “equal” in the present receiving world. Some people might get 4-5 gifts from a loved one, which means you might have a few people with 30 presents instead of 9. This isn’t even a simple matter of “popularity”. You might get your father in law 4 small presents, while getting your sweetie only 1 Diamond bracelet.

If you don’t time things right, you can have people sitting around for 4-5 hours without receiving a single gift.

So the question falls to how do you manage opening the gifts. I have been in the “Santa” position quite a few times, and finally feel happy enough with my methodology to share it with you.

But first,

The Axioms:

Include everybody
The goal here is to distribute gifts so that everyone feels included, and no one feels left-out or feeling like “why am I still here”.

Memory is not accounting
How people remember the gift giving is not simple numbers. If it was, it wouldn’t matter in which order you handed out the gifts.

Equal Distribution
Ideally, if you had 4 people you would distribute to person 1, person 2, person 3, person 4. You can’t do that of course, because not everyone has the same number of presents. But this is the idea.

Not all boxes are equal
While the size of the box does not correlate to the goodness of the gift. It is generally assumed that bigger presents are more exciting. These should also be distributed to avoid clustering. For example if you 4 small presents & 3 large presents, you wouldn’t want to open 3 large presents followed by 4 small ones.

Related Presents
Presents can group both by a single person, or by multiple people. You might have given someone a Wii & Wii Fit. The Wii Fit should not be opened 1st, as it would give away the Wii.  Likewise, you might have gotten the same “group therapy”  T-Shirts for 3 different people, they should be opened together.

Continual Opening
No one wants to wait around for santa to figure out what gift should be opened next.

Now lets look at
The Methodology

Start Strong & End Strong
The most import parts are the start and the finish. You should try to give 1 present to everyone there both at the beginning and at the end of the gift giving. This should be done in a circular order so that it is a easy pattern that will stick in the memories everyone there and make them feel like everyone is included. Keep in mind that some people (last minute guests) might only have 2-3 presents. So be careful not to use up all of their presents in the first few rounds.

Sort into Piles
You need to have some idea of how many presents per person you are dealing with, otherwise all hope is lost. Also you need to be able to easily answer the question “Where is a gift for Mary?”.
To do this, start to create piles of gifts for each person there. Creating these will take some time (90 * 30 seconds = 45 minutes of sorting), so you’ll need to do it as you go. Create the piles of presents while people are open the gifts. I usually start by giving 1 gift to every person (only acceptable at the 1st and last round), and having them go 1 at a time after each other. Make sure to put some space between the piles, or they will quickly get confused.

If you give out 4 present at then you will end up with 2 being opened at the same time, or one being set down and forgotten. If you don’t hand out 1 while one is being opened, you’ll have a 1/2 minute pause in between. It doesn’t seem like much, but it will add an extra hour to the gift opening process.

You will not be able to know which presents are related. Sometimes you can guess “group” presents by package shape. But simply asking if “these should be opened together”, or “is this a good one to open now?” is useful. Having sorted piles will make it easy to swap out the present if you need to.

Sub Group
Once you’ve finally gotten the presents into piles, start making  “finishing” piles. The Idea here is to make it easy to finish strong. Take this scenario: