To set up the gift tags, sort each deck putting all cards in order. I chose Bridge order — documented in any book on card games. Suits are ordered spades, hearts, diamonds, then clubs. The cards are ranked 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. This Mad Wrapper trick will work fine even if aces are accidentally placed at the wrong and of the sequence.
Once the deck of cards is sorted the way you like, write someone’s name along one edge. Then whenever the cards are put into the correct order, this is the name that will appear along the edge, and the person who gets the related gift.
Next, take a big red magic marker and draw a fat colored line on one and only one edge. This bold line marks the cards so no matter how often they are shuffled, they can be sorted and oriented properly so the name only appears on one edge of the deck.
Now shuffle the cards without rotating them, thus keeping the colored line continuously on one edge). Does the name disappear? Not quite, but it gets a bit scrambled. Now here comes the real magic of making the name disappear. Once the deck is good and shuffled, write another name on the cards (or even a couple of names). Now shuffle again. All the names begin to scramble together. They really begin to disappear. For good measure do this a couple more times, writing new names on top of the old ones between every few shuffles. By the time you have shuffled in a few more names, the edge with the writing becomes a big mess of scrambled specs of ink.
The original name is still there. If your not sure about this feel free to put the cards back in proper order. Yup. Still there.
Now, for the final touch. Reshuffle the cards into a new pattern and write the words “The Mad Wrapper” on the busy edge of scrambled letters. Without reshuffling, put this randomized deck into the original box and tie it to the right gift, ready for Christmas. These will be the first words people will see when they open the deck on Christmas morning.
Alternatively for that final step, instead of doing a last random shuffle, you can make the card sequence a strange but knowable pattern. This would allow you to get back to the Mad Wrapper name should you need to do so in the future. On Mad Wrapper Christmas at our house I simply shuffled the cards prior to writing the final “The Mad Wrapper” message that my family saw upon opening (as described previously). Had I considered it more thoroughly, I would have preferred a good non-random pattern, e.g: 2 of spades, 2 of hearts, 2 of diamonds, 2 of clubs, 3 of spades, … , ace of clubs.
Two people from our extended family were unable to attend Christmas with us while opening Mad Wrapper gifts. We sorted their decks into bridge order and, on seeing their names we simply reshuffled and set the gift aside without opening it. Because we had no way to get back to the words “The Mad Wrapper”, the absent gift getters never saw that message.
Instructions for the Guests
Be careful that your directions are not too cryptic for your guests. Consider using a simple explanation such as “Rank the cards into bridge order” and make sure to have a book handy that explains the rules of bridge. I added “Hoyle’s Rules of Games” to the package of directions for the full group, which proved helpful.
I wrote up some interesting directions that required some clever interpretation. Such directions work best when there is a large group of people to work together to come up with a good solution. Our unwrapping that year was made much more difficult without the participation of two unanticipated missing family members. The missing guests — especially well-versed in solving word problems — would have likely presented some great solutions to the puzzle. The Mad Wrapper (incognito) contributed heavily to the discussion that year by offering extra verbal help.
Here are the cryptic directions for that year:
To all players,
There are many gambits to play within your hands, but there is only one that really counts. First, each of you holds a double package. Your first opening deals first with the parcel most likely useful for completion of tasks below. There is only one opening that can follow.
First pitch a solo smudge of old sledge Oklahoma rum spit in the ocean. Wipe off, then, with great solitaire concentration, slap Jack with a knock and a tunk after he stops to samba at the Newmarket Russian Bank. Pounce on his red dog in the garbage pan and whist it around with a black jack war poker until forty thieves cinch the coon-can. Then you must go fish in the slough for the crazy eight hearts of the old maid’s ombre pig, Napoleon. (I doubt it!)
As soon as all these tasks have been accomplished in part or not at all, finish by ordering all your bicycles across the bridge. You should then look very edgy.