Why it’s a bad idea to peek at your presents

Thing 1 (the 10-year-old) was wrapping presents last night, and Thing 2 (the 4-year-old) kept trying to peek into the room to see what she’d gotten him.

“You better not do that,” I heard Thing 1 say. “Don’t you remember what happened to Uncle Joe?”

Clockwise from the back: Papaw, Mamaw, Joe and my dad.

Uncle Joe is Dad’s brother. Now, I don’t know whether Uncle Joe tells my cousins this story or whether he even remembers it (or remembers it the same way my dad does), but I grew up hearing about what happened to Uncle Joe, and I’ve told the story to my kids.

The story goes that when they were teenagers, Dad got Joe a watch for Christmas.

Dad will do anything he can to keep you from guessing what you’re getting for Christmas. He’ll take small presents and put them in big boxes — and throw something like a pencil in the box so it’ll rattle around and keep you guessing.

So, a couple days after Dad put Joe’s watch under the tree, he noticed that it been tampered with. Someone had obviously unwrapped it — and done a bad job of wrapping it back. Dad suspected Joe, so he decided to teach Joe a lesson.

Dad returned the watch, bought Joe some socks and underwear, put them in the watch box, wrapped it with the same paper and put it back under the tree.

When Joe unwrapped Dad’s present on Christmas morning, in front of their parents, Joe knew he’d been busted — and, as far as I know, he never got that watch.

One time, I asked Dad, “How do you know it was Joe who unwrapped the present?”

“I just do,” he said.

“Did he ever say anything to you about it?”


“How do you know Mamaw or Papaw didn’t open it to make sure you weren’t spending too much or something?” I asked.

“Joe did it,” Dad said.

So there you go. “The Story of Uncle Joe and the Watch,” as we’ve come to call it, was a good lesson for me growing up, and it’s been a good lesson for Things 1 and 2.

They’ll shake their presents and press the paper against the box to see if they can see through it, but they know what could happen if they go so far as to peek — although, sometimes, we still need to remind them.

127 thoughts on “Why it’s a bad idea to peek at your presents

  1. Love the family photo, Todd…reminds me of one I have of my dad and his family…would have been taken around the same time period, I think.

    I never wanted to know what people got me…I preferred to be surprised! Poor Joe…I wonder what he tells his kids?


  2. I love your story about Uncle Joe. I’m guilty of trying to disguise the contents of the packages. I never label the gift on the outside with a name for our kids. I always write a number on the bottom and I have a list that I keep with who the gift goes to that way the kids never knew who got what present until Christmas morning. Kept them guessing. I know…Cruel and unusual punishment…Guilty as charged.

    1. That is a brilliant idea! I was definitely guilty of some present-shaking when I was little, but obviously I wouldn’t touch my brother’s presents. Smart!
      Also, great post, Todd, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Hope you have a great holiday season! 🙂

  3. Great story, Todd.

    I’m all for surprises, too, as are my kids. My daughter recently found out who her Secret Santa was at school (before the final reveal), and well, crushed beyond belief about sums it up.

  4. Oh, you gotta love old photographs. That one is awesome.

    I may have to borrow your dad’s tactic. We have a few nosy fellas lurking around the house this year.

  5. Wow! I may have to borrow this legend from your family. My daughter is VERY good. My son is only one, but I can tell right now, personalitywise, he is probably going to need to hear this story at least once in his life!

  6. Wow! My kids are now 18 and 16… I asked them last week if they have ever peeked at their presents or looked in closets for hidden gifts. They each said they knew better that to do something like that and feared the repercussions if they were caught. lol


    1. Welcome, Diane. I don’t think I ever pulled off the tape, but I do remember lifting the flap on the ends of the present to see if I could see the writing on the package.

  7. As the queen of pre-holiday present spying in my younger years, I am now the soup-nazi of gift giver’s! All those on my gift receiving list know that the gift is 10x better if left alone once taken out of the super secret santa closet (SSSC) which house the presents safely behind a deadbolt lock until the week before Christmas! Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. I have always liked surprises, and never even went looking for the presents in our house. But I had a friend who found the presents one year, and opened and then re-wrapped all of hers. She said it was the worst Christmas ever, since there were no surprises. It was so bad, she refused to learn the gender of her children before they were born, for that very reason!

    1. Hi, archiegrrl! I think it’s great that she refused to learn the gender of her baby because of the Christmas present fiasco. Sometimes, you have to learn things the hard way!

  9. Since I don’t celebrate Christmas, I’ve never had the peeking-in-the-box syndrome (Birthday presents, I feel, are different. That and the stress of exams birthday-time means I never peek.)
    But, since I’m at uni now, and my flatmate has purportedly bought me a present, I can’t help but go into her room and try figure out what she got me. Unfortunately, she’s always in her room…

  10. Great story Todd… I myself have been more of a shaker of presents. Love the photo as well. Reminds me a lot of photos I’ve seen of my dad and his brothers when they were younger.

      1. I know. My husband now does the same thing. First gift I ever got from him he tricked me by putting a package of tic-tacs on top….

  11. As far as I know, my kids have never tried to peek. But then again, I’m good at hiding. In fact, there’s been a couple of years where I hid stuff so well, I couldn’t find everything and didn’t discover a couple of things till after Christmas. Maybe I just have too much junk in my house and it just all blends in together!

    Love the pic. Mamaw means business, doesn’t she?!

    1. Hi, rtcrita! What’s funny is that Mamaw wasn’t tough at all, at least not by the time I got here. She was incredibly sweet. If I had to guess, I’d say she looked stern because the boys had been up to something!

  12. Just the other day my 15-year-old son said he doesn’t want to know what his gifts are because that would be no fun. The reason he’s so sure? My story of when I was 9 and I opened every one of my gifts when no one was home and carefully wrapped them back up. I don’t think anyone ever knew, but Christmas was just no fun that year because I already knew what was in every package. No one switched the thing I’d found for socks, but it was still a very good lesson on spoiling the fun of Christmas morning. Peace, Linda

  13. You’re Freshly Pressed! And what a great post to be pressed, too. That is an awesome story and a great lesson for your kids. I did peek once and it spoiled the surprise so much that I never did it again. I love surprises.

  14. wow. I was one of those kids that, you know, shook their gift, un-wrapped it, or peeked through the cracks to see what it was. Reading this post makes me grateful that my parents never returned my gift after finding out that I was a sneeky pete (and I never use the phrase sneaky pete; it just sounded right).


  15. My sister and I actually found our presents one year (not all of them but about half of them) before they were wrapped and under the tree. And as we spied our bounty we started dividing them up.

    “This one must be for you.”

    “Oh, this one is definitely mine.”

    It didn’t occur to us for a minute that we might be wrong about who was getting what. On Christmas day I got the presents my sister wanted and vice versa. Sadly, both of us were too stubborn (or felt too guilty) to swap so she wound up with She-Ra and I got the sidekick. And I got the purple toys and she got the pink ones — even though we always told mom and dad that my favorite color was pink and her favorite color was purple.

    It’s not good to snoop.


  16. Nothing like a good story from the past to teach your children well. Thanks for sharing! Now where was that cookie recipe I saw on another post…

  17. Wonderful story and one that brings back memories of my own peeking! One year I wanted a curling iron and finding a box under the tree with the right shape and size, I too opened it to take a look. Sure enough, it was a curling iron (box) and I couldn’t wait til Christmas morning. I was already gushing with “Thanks so much…it’s just what I wanted…” when I pulled out a pair of socks. Busted! I never got the curling iron, my mom kept it for herself and I had to see it every time I went into her room!

  18. i suppose i was around 10yrs of age when i asked for a tape recorder for Christmas. i had poked around my folks room until i discovered the sweet little reel-to-real (prior to cassettes) under my folks bed. needless to say i opened the box, carefully removed the mic and proceeded to give it a shot. i recorded and replayed my silly comments for about a half-hour. i carefully packed the pieces back in the box as they were and returned the precious box under the bed. On Christmas morning, miracle of miracles, my voice was already immortalized in the iron oxide of the tape. the lesson President Nixon learned from this was: you can wipe off the fingerprints, put everything back as it was, but do not forget to erase the tape.

  19. A great story, well told, and will be remembered by me. The story reminded me of a recent poem I have just finished posting to my Blog site regarding a Christmas from my own youth. With time, these stories/poems become more precious in my memory. I can see why the blog and story made the “hit list” of “Freshly Pressed”

  20. I guess everybody has their own story about going too far in guessing what is in their gift boxes. I remember one year when my 3 brothers and sister decided to be really bold and sneak into my parents closet and check out what we were getting. My parents found out and my mother pretended to cry for what seemed like eternity saying that we had broken her heart by being a sneak. We all apoligized but my brother, Evan, wrote a note to my Mom, we found it among my Mother’s items when she died, it read. I am so sorry that I ruined your Christmas I will be a good boy. None of us ever peaked again and my Mom never had to worry about us peaking again.

  21. Ah! I always peeked at my presents. I knew all my Mom’s hiding places. And I was an expert at lifting corners of wrapped packages and retaping – never unwrapping the entire thing. Just go for a small peek and you can get a pretty good idea of what you’re getting. If given the chance, I’ll probably still snoop if presents are in my sight.

  22. Great blog … brought back childhood memories of Christmas in our household. My older brother would peek to see what my presents were and then take great delight in telling me … despite me running from him, with my fingers in my ears and screaming so I couldn’t hear him…!!? He could run faster.

  23. Great story! Reminds me of the time my parents wrapped up a special “GOLD” box and put it under the tree a week prior to Xmas. It was the only GOLD box and my dad kept saying NO ONE knows what’s in the GOLD box or who it is for. We stared and stared at it–boy was it heavy. Finally on Christmas Eve, my brother and I were finally allowed to open the mysterious heavy gold box….guess what it was…an electric toothbrush for the whole family to use….what a massive disappointment for a kid. Never forgot that Christmas.

  24. I remember when I developed the skill to tell what was in a box just by looking at it.

    I was 13. My father had bought me a new computer. I knew by the size and shape of the box what it was. I told him so. He tried to tell me it wasn’t but I knew it was. Sure enough, it was.

    Then later in life I do the same with the SO. He gets me a leather jacket. I look at the wrapped box and say “Oh, my leather jacket.”

    He gets so pissed that I can do that. But I tell him there’s a method to it. It’s simply asking for something and remembering what I asked for. Then you do the mental calisthenics and you know what’s in the box.

  25. OMG. I tell my kids a story with the same lesson. When I was around 12, I found all of my presents and since no one was home, I unwrapped every single one of them then re-wrapped them. That Christmas was miserable. No surprises. No magic. Nothing. I tell my kids, “If you want to ruin your Christmas like I did, go ahead and snoop.” My three boys have taken the story to heart and have never snooped. Congrats on Freshly Pressed, and Merry Christmas!

  26. Great story! Reminds of my mother at Christmas. She hated waiting worse than the kids – so, she found a unique way of finding out what was in her wrapped boxes without ever having to unwrap or re-wrap. She worked for a local doctor and so she would load all of her presents into the car, take them to the doctor’s office and x-ray them! No one ever knew that the presents had been tampered with!

  27. yeah i love the pic too! nice post and congrats for being freshly pressed! he he for me its bad to peek at your present because the thrill will never be as good as when your clueless about what kind of gift you would get…..happy holidays to you and your family 🙂

  28. cute story! i have an amazon wishlist, and it has a feature that will “hide” it if someone gets you something off your list (basically by leaving it on your list until after christmas), and i have been SOOOO tempted to look to see if my hubby got me what i wanted for christmas! i’ve been strong so far, though!

  29. amazing. my dad would do the same thing with me. he gave me a laptop and speakers but put a different card on it, then he wrapped the cord’s adapter separately and put my name on it. it was one hell of a funny christmas eve.

  30. As a teenager I wanted to know if my parents had gotten me the ring I had asked for. So I opened the present and put the ring on. It was the wrong size and I got it stuck. There was a lot of panicking and soaping the finger. I am amazed that I did not just rip my finger right off. I do remember a lot of pain. I did manage to get it back in the box but you could tell that it had been tampered with.

  31. haha that is too funny.
    poor Uncle Joe and the watch though.

    thankfully I’ve always refused to open presents before Christmas Day

  32. Nice Story! I don´t really remember if I´ve ever peeked, but I did much present shaking and tried to watch through the paper.
    Just waited till my mom left home for shopping – she kept the wardrobe containing the gifts locked, but another key also fits. 😉

  33. I should try throwing a pencil in my sister’s gift to stop her from guessing. Many a times I’ve caught her red-handed trying to open her gift, and she once succeeded without me catching her.

  34. freshly pressed again! I am surrounded by amazing bloggers! Congrats.
    Cute story. I never try to peek, but I do shake and poke at presents to see if I can figure them out.

    As a kid I did, it just ruined the surprise.

  35. Good post thanks for sharing. I can’t believe he never got his watch. When I was little, my older brother was enough older than me that he was working and had his own money to buy me all the things that I wanted for Christmas this one year. I knew where he was hiding my presents, and I went up and peeked at all my presents, I opened the tape on all the wrapped presents. He must have known it was me as only my presents were unwrapping, but he never said any thing, but I had to live with the guilt. It has been terrible. Just as bad! I learned my lesson, and never did it again.


  36. I think every family MUST have a “Mamaw.” And, call me crazy, but even when I could have peaked at gifts, I didn’t want to…I liked being surprised come Christmas morning.

    What a story to tell your kids! I’m sure you’ll never have any ungrateful children on Christmas morning!

    Congrats on being FP!

  37. Your story remind me of my childhood, it was dull days that I dream of becoming an adult, now when I grown up with a family I cherish that memory although it was not so nice as I imagined when I was a little girl.

  38. GREAT post! Poor Joe… I certainly hope Thing 1 & Thing 2 were paying close attention 😉

    Congratulations on FP – it’s a wild ride, eh? I got one the other day & am such a newbie, I didn’t know what it meant. And no, I’m not blonde ~~

  39. omgosh ROTFL!!! this is the best pressed I’ve read yet! and I LOVE that you call your kids thing 1 and thing 2- your house must be fun;) Merry christmas!

  40. I think that is maybe a reason why we never had Christmas presents under the tree until Christmas morning. IN fact, i remember many years without a tree (sad family i had!!!). We all use to come out on CHristmas morning, and then scurry to go and get everything we had hidden away. Voiding the temptation was clearly the best plan.

    This Christams my little princess (she is 4) has put a present under the tree for me, and well she is trying to convince me that i can open it now!!!!HAHA. I have said a million times- it is for Christmas morning. I am very surprized that she hasnt actually told me what it is yet!!!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, enjoyed it!!!


  41. Brilliant story, i might have to try the pencil idea this year :o)

    Reminds me of when i went looking all round my parents room for what i hoped was a computer but found something in a similar size box and i was sure that was it, yet when i opened it it was a VHS cassete holder/unit!


    I got the computer later that day though

  42. Great story! Although she wasn’t featured too much, Mamaw is my favorite! Her look in that photo is priceless! Congratulations on Freshly Pressed. Merry Christmas!

  43. Fantastic family story, reminds me of what happened to my brother and I when we were younger, only we were less discrete than Joe come Christmas day. “This isn’t what you got me! What happened to all the books and toys?!”

  44. Chistmas is a time for giving and recieving not to open your gifts before christmas day. Some people don’t want the gift without a little persuation Open presents before christmas is better than a courage on the reciever as long as its rewrapped.

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