The Gift Guessing Game

“Guess what i got you,” a common phrase thrown around this time of year to keep the unsuspecting recipients in suspense. How is this game received when it crosses a cultural barrier?

Afew weeks ago, my husband John told me, with excitement, “I’ve got the perfect Christmas gift for Jaden. He has never seen it before, but I am sure he will love it.” Before I could roll my eyes to show my contempt, he continued, “And… I know you will like it too.”

The truth is that I have been bothered by this little game he plays for many years, no matter what the gift might be: the gift guessing game.

John knows that I don’t like suspense, which he leverages to tease me. Who would think to follow more than 10 clues for a simple gift? I had an even worse experience.

On Chinese Valentine’s Day, he put a huge box on my desk along with a bouquet of red roses. Almost by instinct, I shook the box before opening it. Judging from the rustling sound inside, “chocolates,” I uttered. I felt somewhat disappointed because I was expecting more than just sweets. I forced a smile at John then I noticed a piece of paper with John’s handwriting on it. I should have known better. His game was still on, with another riddle to untangle.

It doesn’t really matter what the gift turns out to be. For John, waiting and not knowing in advance are parts of the gift. He has been trying so hard, for so many years, to make me appreciate what he does.

Well, I do appreciate his efforts.

“Basically, by looking at what is broken or what needs replacing in my closet, I can pretty much figure out what your gift for me would be,” John once bragged.

So, isn’t it nice? On one hand, you get what you need; on the other hand, you don’t have to transform into a working detective to crack a case. More importantly, after our son was born, my parents now live with us and we, John and I, should be the ones responsible for making this gift giving process as simple as possible.

But, no.

He even told my mom to prepare Christmas gifts nicely wrapped in the festive paper and nobody should reveal what the gifts are.

“Is it necessary?” My mom asked me.

I explained to her that opening gifts with family members all together on Christmas Day is a huge deal for Westerners.

“Just the same as the red packets on Chinese New Year. Telling people how much money you put in it would not be appropriate, right?”

Who would think to follow more than 10 clues for a simple gift?

We had a great gift opening day. Even mom enjoyed tearing apart all the beautiful wrappers and laughed like a child. It was really touching to feel the love from the people you love. Without you noticing, they pay attention to what you said throughout the year, what you expect or what you would never expect.

Two years ago, on John’s birthday, we went to a big party for Canada Day held by the Canadian Consulate in Guangzhou. I walked up to the Consul-General and asked her if she could take a photo with my husband. She said yes. John never would have guessed that would be his present.

At the same time, I am at my wits’ end, still wondering what John’s Christmas gift for Jaden is this year. He already has all sorts of cars, trains, planes, stuffed toys, blocks and books.

If you think you know the answer, send me an email at I will personally buy you a coffee if you can guess the gift!