When the Reintgens went downstairs in their North Carolina home, their fears were confirmed: Their young son was so excited about what Santa Claus had brought him that he had opened all of his family’s gifts, hours before his two siblings would wake up.
“Yall,” Reintgen wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “My three year old came down at 3am and unwrapped EVERYONE’S presents.”
The photo posted to social media, which had been viewed more than 6 million times as of Tuesday morning, shows the destruction underneath the Christmas tree, with a pile of torn-up paper next to the family’s unwrapped gifts. The family’s Christmas had been ripped to shreds by their toddler in only a few minutes — and the parents now had to race against time to put it all back together.
“There was the cold realization that all the effort you put in the night before had suddenly been undone, but mostly, it was just such an unbelievable thing to see,” said Reintgen, a sci-fi and fantasy writer who is the author of “A Door in the Dark,” a New York Times bestseller. “There was not one thing that he left unscathed — it was all of it.”
The story has resonated on social media with parents who have had similar experiences and with others who wondered how the Reintgens were able to rewrap all of the gifts before their other two children woke at 6 a.m. to open the presents that the 3-year-old had already unwrapped.
Katie Reintgen rewrapped enough gifts in time to, in her husband’s words, “stop the villain origin story” from playing out between the 3-year-old and his 6-year-old brother, who still believes in Santa.
“Sure, we could have gotten angry at our kid unwrapping all the presents — or we could have fun with it,” Scott Reintgen said, describing it as “the best possible disaster.” “We will 100 percent be sharing this at his wedding. It’s one of those unbelievable stories.”
When the parents realized what happened, they sprang into action to try to save Christmas. As Scott Reintgen calmed down the couple’s adventurous middle child — he referred to the 3-year-old only as “T” — he asked his son for his version of events.
T had asked Santa for Spider-Man web shooters and a Sonic Lego set, so when Christmas finally came, he wanted to search for them. The boy told his family that he came downstairs to open up all the presents so “no one was confused and they all knew what they had gotten,” Reintgen said in a video posted to X.
“The Spider-Man web shooters was the gift he was looking for the most, and he found them,” Reintgen told The Post. “He just didn’t have the scissors.”
Katie Reintgen quickly got to work repackaging as many of the unwrapped gifts as possible, using a combination of new and ripped-up paper and a lot of tape. If the destroyed paper wasn’t sticking to a gift, she would wedge it against the floor in an attempt to cover the exposed present, her husband said.
Thirty minutes later, all of the presents had been hastily rewrapped as well as possible. It was a Christmas miracle.
“She was the hero of the night for the repackaging job she did,” Scott Reintgen said.
But there was no time for the parents to rest. It was 6 a.m., and the children were awake and ready to see what Santa had brought them.
When the family opened their presents for the first time — and T opened his gifts for the second time — the 6-year-old didn’t realize anything was amiss, except for how Santa got the names wrong on a couple of the gifts meant for him or his brother.
The 6-year-old, whose father described him as very much a rule-follower, was later surprised to learn what his 3-year-old brother had done.
“I think he was shocked that the 3-year-old undid Santa’s work,” the father said. “He thought what his brother did was against the rules.”
After Scott Reintgen shared a photo of the destruction on Christmas morning, many chimed in on social media with their own stories of how their children had been similarly eager to open their gifts. When one person on X brought up how some children go through “the TERRIBLE 3s,” the father replied, “He is so funny and fun and this is so unfortunately in his wheelhouse.”
The Reintgens later talked with their 3-year-old about how he feels when he opens a present. They also emphasized that they wanted other people to have that same choice and feeling on Christmas morning. The boy agreed that he wanted other people to experience what he had felt when he tore apart all of the gifts, and repeated that he had only been trying to help, Reintgen said.
The family spent most of Christmas taking care of one of their children who was sick, but they have been delighted to see so many people get the same joy out of the story that they got. The 3 a.m. wake-up call, the rushed rewrapping, the 6 a.m. opening of the presents and a day full of family fun has left Katie and Scott Reintgen exhausted.
But they know that each Christmas, they can remember the time their 3-year-old opened all the presents at 3 a.m. — and how the parents used ripped-up wrapping paper and tape to piece back together the magic of the holiday.
“Some people were like, ‘We’d be so furious,’” Reintgen said, “but this is the funniest thing that has happened this year.”