Don't do this! It is wrong and isn't in the "holiday spirit"

We all have been there before. For perhaps a week or so before December 25 the area under the tree is littered with bags and boxes and presents of the sort wrapped with cheerful holiday decorations. I know... IT'S HORRID! How can our family, friends, and coworkers treat us like this? Putting us through the agony of not knowing. I mean, isn't a natural human response to not knowing fear? It's the best time of year not a time to strike fear into those closest to you!

We, as self respecting human beings, must protect ourselves against such harsh action taken against us! Knowledge is power, and power over the unknown (AKA "Christmas Presents") is what we seek! So what are we going to do? Sneak a peak at what they got us!

There are three (3) simple ways to do this. All of these are sneaky, and only two (2) could be potentially dangerous. That is, unless you have no people skills and go to the wrong person for the other one. In that case all three (3) COULD be dangerous, but honestly I trust you. You won't hurt yourself. To the presents!

The first line of defense: Double Agents and spies
Talk is key here. If you have operatives or agents working with the enemy (please note pipe links), Keep lines of communication open. In many cases, Christmas shopping is not a solo mission. Debrief any allies that may have taken part in such a mission for details on what is inside the camouflaged boxes. Such people are not always available, and often they are not cooperative with your cause. Despite this, it still remains the first line of defense. (but honestly, don't be stupid you may get yourself slapped or yelled at if you go to the wrong source)

Recon: You know they have it somewhere. Find it!
When tensions are high, you know the enemy has a few secrets of their own. Find those secrets at all cost before they are employed/deployed. Closets are common hiding places for unconcealed units (typically under or behind clothing). Other places include under the bed, in the basement, and attic. There can't be too many places to hide stuff where you/they live, just look around for a while. They key here is not to disturb anything that is around the unit. If something is covering it, make sure you put it back or who ever it is you're spying on will be on to your tactics. (Always be smart when sneaking. Climbing up onto things, or even just moving around in the attic could be dangerous. You wouldn't want to fall or be attacked by guard dogs would you? Also keep in mind everyone's privacy. War might be harsh, but don't go into someone else's underwear drawer.)

Infiltration: All right, we're going in!
If you simply can't confirm enemy action it's time to move it to the front-line. Arm yourself with a razor blade and some tape (matching the tape your gifts are wrapped with) and head in. Make sure it's either late at night or no one's home. This is going to be a truly devious act, so let's keep casualties to a minimum. Grab the unit(s) encoded with you call signal and turn them upside-down. Take the blade and cut tape on the side of the box near to where the paper is folded as possible. This helps reduce visibility of your entry method. Odds are no one will bother to check for it anyway thought. Now that you have found your way in, carefully open the side and take a look. Most units have indicators on all sides (for consumers to easily identify them) so at this point you should have obtained the information needed. If the item is indeed unmarked or ambiguous for your point of view, slide it out gently (again to minimize evidence) until you see an identifying label. Place the unit back into it's camouflage. If the box is completely unlabeled, you're on your own. If you remove the entire piece from it's wrapping it will be hard to replace. I personally would surrender at this point, but do as you wish. Now knowing what lies within, refold the paper and retape over the existing tape. None shall know of your entry. You and millions across the country can sleep easy knowing that the boxes do not contain deadly ninjas to destroy you. That is, unless they do contain ninjas. In that case you'll most likely be KIA. (Razor blades can be dangerous, so don't get nervous and cut yourself. Above that, if someone walks in on you during this act you will either be shot or embarrassed to death. So don't get caught!)

Enjoy your holidays and don't ruin ALL your gifts!
As stated in CrAzE's writeup above, this goes against the spirit of Christmas. If you do glean enough information to figure out your presents, remember to act surprised/excited/happy even if you aren't! You don't want to be considered an ungrateful wretch and left off of everyone's list next year.

The following details methods for non-invasive gift determination.

Visual
Normally, the wrapping paper removes our sense of sight or at least dulls it to the point of not being of much use to us. If the wrapping paper happens to be somewhat translucent, it may be possible to view a brightly colored box under bright lights when you press the paper firmly against the box. This is usually a dead give-away as to the contents.

Tactile
The shape of the item can give much information. This is especially true in the case of books, calendars, modern media such as DVD's and CD's, video games and action figures (or anything in a blister pack.) All of these have fairly distinctive shapes and will allow you to match the potential gift to a requested gift on your wish list. This can even be applied to home electronics or other large toys if you are familiar with the dimensions of the box. Not too many toys come in boxes as large as some of the newer home video game consoles. Stuffed animals are also very distinctively packed and you should be warned of the danger of pressing too much into the open front, tearing the paper, and leaving evidence of tampering. Remember, being non-invasive is our goal.
By the time you have handled the item, you have an idea of its weight. This can confirm the identity of media or books. Each medium has a particular weight, complicated only by the existence of multi-disc sets. Books are very high density and will be quite heavy for their size. This is especially true for hardcovers.

Aural
Since you have the object in your hands, you can give it a shake. Be very gentle, especially with unknown lighter items. An extended relative may get you some small object d'art if they have no specific requests from you. This is a tried and true method for figuring out what has been so delicately wrapped. This can further verify media or, if you have done proper research, a particular toy. Be sure to learn the sounds the various items you are expecting will make. Most commercially produced toys are very well packaged, but many still make some sort of clatter. This is especially true of building toys. If you are a Lego fan over the age of 4 and can't recognize the sound of a Lego set being shaken, go to your nearest toy store and familiarize yourself immediately.

Thwarting
Many of theses methods can be made useless or less useful by procedures such as secondary packing, multi-packing, or repacking. Secondary packing involves placing the item in a larger, more uniform box, which removes information about its shape and can alter the weight slightly. An item is repacked by being removed from its original box and placed inside a different box. This can greatly complicate things, especially if the item came in a peculiar box. Also, the sounds produced when shaken can be changed quite significantly. Multi-packing is usually the easiest and most devestating technique; multiple items (usually related) are wrapped as one item. For example: CDs are placed inside a CD rack, then wrapped. Getting around this requires complete knowledge of the properties of likely gifts and a keen sense of how they will behave when combined.

I find these techniques more satisfying than the spies and razor blades method, since they require deduction rather than "seduction". They are much less dangerous since they (if done properly) will leave no evidence of tampering asides from fingerprints. Furthermore, many of these fall within the bounds of acceptable behavior. However, if parental units determine that you have become too skilled at these, you may be forbidden from handling presents before opening them. Therefore, keep your new knowledge secret from their suspicious ears.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!

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