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?

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