Let’s Talk with Diane A.S. Stuckart

Christmas: It’s a Wrap!
by Diane A.S. Stuckart

When I was growing up, a big part of Christmas had to do with wrapping presents. While holiday music played, we started with the basics: bright colored paper with Christmas motifs, fancy bows made with satin, velvet, and glitter, and gift tags that said “To” and “From”. Once the initial wrapping of each gift was completed came even more festive trimmings to be added to the package. Snowmen made of glued-together cotton balls; fake clusters of autumn leaves hanging with miniature ornaments; silk poinsettias tied with still more ribbon. After only a few years’ practice, even we kids could turn out a finished product worthy of Neiman Marcus’ gift wrap department.

Many times the splendor of the wrappings far exceeded the humbleness of the gift within. But it was a fun way to make the season more festive. Though said gift wrap only encouraged folks like my mom and aunts who then took a good fifteen minutes to unwrap each elaborately wrapped gift. No child-like frantic ripping away paper and ribbons for these ladies. Instead, they’d slide a manicured fingernail under every strip of tape holding paper together and carefully extract every bow so that both could be reused for another occasion. And while we made jokes about their foibles, most of us (at least, the girls) eventually picked up that same habit.

Then, enter the GIFT BAG. (Cue dramatic offstage music!)

It was a phenomenon that started in the late 1980s and hasn’t let up since. Suddenly, all the fashionable folks were handing out presents in what were basically glorified lunch bags. The technique consisted of a said bag—color and/or holiday theme appropriate—along with clouds of crisp tissue paper of various colors stuffed into the bag so as to hide the present tucked within. With this technique, even the most bumbling of gift wrappers could produce a nicely packaged present in under a minute. The unwrapping of the gift bags was equally brief if anticlimactic. Pull out the tissue paper, lift out your gift, and voila. Even Mom and the aunts couldn’t drag out that process for more than a minute.

Of course, those of us who had package decorating down to an art outwardly scoffed at such wrapping shortcuts. Inwardly, however, we conceded that gift-bagging looked pretty fancy and was a heck of a lot faster/easier than an hour spent creasing wrapping paper edges and getting that ribbon to curl just right. And so, slowly, we—well, at least, I—transitioned from gift wrap to gift bags. Since most of my present-giving crew of family and friends is also on team gift bag, that also means I no longer worry about saving used wrapping paper and bows for the next festive occasion.

And that’s something of a relief, not having to hold back when time comes to tear open my gifts. I do, however, have quite the stellar pile of used gift bags and tissue paper that I have collected, instead. Like the wrapping paper used to be, my bags and tissue are neatly pressed and folded and stored in a box. And I unashamedly reuse said bags and paper when birthdays and holidays come around, meaning I haven’t had to buy gift wrap supplies in years.
Mom and the aunts would be proud.

So, are you a present wrapper or a present bagger…or both?

Also, our Booklover’s Bench December 1-18 book giveaway is open for entries now. Click over and enter the contest.

Comments

  1. I put presents in gift bags.

  2. Both. I like to wrap but if it’s an awkward shape or fragile I go with the gift bag.

  3. I do both. The Dollar Store is my best friend come Holiday Time! My She-Studio becomes a lair of closed-door secrets to hide the prezzies from DH who is not above peeking (for some renegade Ferrero Rochers mayhaps?) or I am Curious Weeble (our kitty) who never met a bag or a box she didn’t like.

    I do miss the expensive, waxy paper from the toney department stores and, long ago & far away in another galaxy, I actually BOUGHT some of the fancy stuff and gold foil seals (unicorns) to put on the corner of my presents so everyone knew they were from me. Yet, just as fine bone china and Waterford crystal goblets (all safely packed away) have no place at our casual SoFla Barbecues, the fancy-wrapped prezzies would get lost in our childlike abandon in opening our Dollar Store-wrapped booty and Weeble’s unbridled joy jumping through a field of paper, tissue, ribbons and bags strewn all over our living room on Christmas morning.

    Great column! Cheers!

  4. I do both. I will wrap a gift and place it in the gift bag with tissue paper. But I won’t wrap unwieldy or oddly shaped objects. Those go directly into the bag. And yes, I reuse whatever I can salvage for the next occasion.

    • Diane A.S. Stuckart says

      LOL, you and Brenda are both overachievers, wrapping the present and then putting it in a gift bag. But those handles sure are handy!

  5. Brenda Legg says

    I’m both! My husband hates gift bags and always wants me to wrap gifts, even the ones I am putting in a gift bag!

    • LOL, years ago my Dad kept talking about how he liked the way people opened presents on TV — the box and lid were always wrapped separately, so all you had to do was untie the bow and pull off the lid to reveal your gift. Obviously, that was a TV trick for expediency, but we all started wrapping his gifts that way just for fun.

  6. Bagger, but I still can’t get the tissue paper to look like I did more than shove it in. Hints?

    • I crumple a sheet at the bottom for the gift to rest on. Then, I take another sheet of tissue, pinch it in the middle with one hand, and then pull it thru the circled thumb and pointer finger of the other hand to smooth it into an inverted “cone” (easier to do than describe). You stick the pointed end down into the bag, add another 1-2 sheets the same way, and then “fluff”. Alternating colors of tissue makes it even nicer.

  7. I’m a member of both camps. I love to wrap presents in plain gold and silver foil decorated with hand-tied bows and do-dads. I don’t reuse the foil, but I gather up all the do-dads for next year. I like to reuse the bags, but its just not the same as they open up too quickly and then the suspense is over in a flash.

  8. Guilty of being team gift bag…unless I find super cute paper that “fits” the person I am getting the gift for…

  9. maggietoussaint says

    I love wrapping presents, but I’ve used plenty of gift bags. For me, it’s a matter of how much time I can spend getting the present ready.

  10. I am definitely Team Gift Bag. Not only are gift bags faster and easier (if you shop at the right places), they’re also cheaper than buying all that paper, ribbons and bows and usually come with their own attached gift tags. They’re also less wasteful (no small scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon left over that’s never the right size and eventually winds up in the trash), and they can be reused without looking like they’re being reused. No matter how carefully you unwrap and smooth out wrapping paper, you never get it back to its original pristine look. The one downside is that it’s very easy for the little ones to peek inside, so the gifts not from Santa can’t be put under the tree ahead of time.