Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Traditions: Wrap-Up

Sorry for the bad pun, but I couldn't help myself.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is the wrapping party C and I have on Christmas Eve Eve (that would be Dec. 23--tonight). We pile all of our respective purchases on the living room floor, along with our wrapping supplies, put It's A Wonderful Life on the DVD player and wrap away. (At some point, C sneaks down to the basement to wrap my presents and I take that opportunity to wrap his.) It's A Wonderful Life is a very long movie, and even though our pile of gifts may be huge, we usually finish around the honeymoon in the falling down house, and no matter how tired we are, we stick it out through Auld Lang Syne.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post that generated a lot of discussion about ecologically sound gift wrapping practices. I thought I'd share some of the commenters' thoughts and practices in terms of wrapping with you. But first I must make a confession--I love gift wrap. It really makes me happy to see a big pile of presents all wrapped up in shiny bright paper. I usually buy several rolls of it on sale at K-Mart right after Christmas. However, I did not buy any last year (it was still Buy Nothing Year) and it's possible I didn't buy any the year before, so I'm pretty sure I'm very short on wrapping paper. I'm not entirely sure how I'll handle this situation (I'm hoping to draw inspiration from George Bailey tomorrow night), but here are some ideas I might consider, if not this year, then next:


I just sent a box of gifts to my family in Colorado. Last year I packaged everything nicely in (recycled) gift bags, but they ended up taking up a lot of space and so I found myself in the post office the Saturday before Christmas, trying to cut my huge box down to something more reasonably sized (did you know the USPS charges for size in addition to weight?). This year I was determined to scrunch everything into a large flat-rate box, so there was no room for dead space. Many of the items I sent were made from fabric. These, I rolled up tightly, wound with festive red yarn and attached a gift tag (homemade and recycled, using blank mailing labels--rescued from the bottoms of mailing label sheets that didn't all get used--and my kids' artwork--idea found at the Crafty Crow). Perhaps not the prettiest presentation, but highly functional and low on waste. (As you can see, I also used tissue paper, held together with yarn, to wrap book-like objects).


One of the gifts I sent home was tinier than the others with some delicate bead work. To protect it a bit more, I wrapped a scrap of red fabric around it before tying on the yarn. I sent several small items to my mom and dad; these I placed in drawstring bags that we had received gifts in in the past (normally I just re-use those in-house so that I can use them again, but they seemed ideal for my purposes in mailing. However when Z saw me sending them away he got very upset for some reason and I had to promise to have his grandparents send them back!)

Sara wrote: "I was all keen on trying not to wrap any presents this year in wrapping paper. I had seen another blogger use all play silks. But I am struggling a bit with it all. The boys can understand that we are trying to use all recycled materials but I am trying, trying to keep the Santa magic alive still (schoolmates are undermining). Will "Santa's gifts" wrapped in recycled/reusable materials be a give-away (you know my sons)? Also, if we did the play silk thing could they enjoy the unwrapping part in the same way? I am picturing them getting frustrated struggling with the knots required. Give me some ideas about wrapping presents this year, keeping the fun & magic of the morning unwrapping, but still being environmentally conscious..."

I have to agree that part of the fun of unwrapping is the crackly crinkling of the paper. I do like the play silk idea, for at least some of the gifts, especially if the silks are part of the gift. (I ordered E and Z each a small silk, which I think I'll use to wrap something I'm giving them).

I suggested to Sara that they use drawstring bags and then make a big production of mailing them back to Santa after Christmas. Of course I have not done this. I do have at least one big piece of Christmasy fabric (that my sister-in-law wrapped a gift for us in several years ago), that I keep thinking of making into bags...just haven't gotten to it yet!

Deborah said: "so funny - i haven't encountered this problem yet! for years, i've only wrapped in leftover paper bags, newspaper or re-cycled gift bags but it didn't occur to me that at some point the kids are going to "recognize" my approach as being very similar to Santa's! I don't suppose you could convince them that Santa has gone "green" this year? you know, one thing i do is that i bring a giant bag down to M's family and as the kids and everyone tear the wrapping paper from their gifts (because the rest of the family thinks i'm cuckoo with the recycled stuff) i gather it up and take it home to be used throughout the year. but perhaps that sort of thing could be hidden away and only used for the following Xmas and the presents from you could be the plain old brown stuff?"

This is how my Grandma Lani did things. She would literally cut the tape on any gift she received with scissors and fold away the paper for future wrapping (maybe she even ironed it?). Years later you'd get your present wrapped in crackly, yellowed paper. I used to save all the wrapping paper I got, until we got married and I was stuck using wedding paper for years and years (I think the wedding paper is finally all gone, but I quit saving paper!) I do still save gift bags, and one of my goals last Christmas was to make a dent in the huge stash of gift bags I have in the basement, but I'm afraid at least as many came in as went out.

Santa Doesn't Wrap

Lone Star Ma said: Here, presents from Ma and Dad are wrapped, but Santa presents are not - they are found out in the open in all their glory.

And Mary said: Growing up Santa NEVER wrapped our presents. I also thought it was funny that my friend's gifts were wrapped. Just another idea (Santa going "super green").

We have always wrapped Santa gifts around here (unless it's something large, like a sled or a play kitchen); C even goes to the extent of wrapping stocking stuffers! I only just started designating some gifts from Santa and some from us--up until M could read, we just put all the gifts out the night before Christmas and dove into them Christmas morning. Still most things come from Santa around here, unless it was quite obviously made by me (like the hats I've been knitting every second I get--even in front of their recipients). My mom always had certain Santa paper and certain Mom and Pop paper, but I remember one year she used the previous years' Santa paper and I totally called her out. She covered up quick, though, and said Santa had sent his leftover paper for her to use. I'm surprised M with his logic brain doesn't pay more attention to handwriting and wrapping styles and the like, but maybe his logic brain tells him that believing in Santa is the best route to take if you want to rake in the loot Christmas morning.

Other Kinds of Paper
For the boys' birthday presents, I used only that off-whitish packing paper that came in the gifts I ordered for them. I rubbed some crayon on it and used some clever origami moves to wrap it without tape (I ran out of tape sometime last spring and was determined to not buy any more. I finally gave in and bought a roll last week--I even paid three times more for a refill roll to avoid the plastic dispenser--mostly to fix ripped books and hang up some Christmas decorations on our windows. I must still be subconsciously opposed to using it, because I immediately lost both the tape and the old, somewhat broken dispenser I was going to put it in). The boys seemed perfectly happy to open presents wrapped in this manner.

When I wrote about that greenish paper we used to wrap up our book advent, I was mistaken about its use. It's for masking off areas of the floor when you paint and is available (or was eight years ago) at your average big box home improvement store. I don't know if it's environmentally preferable to wrapping paper (it looks and feels just like newsprint, only it has a light green hue) or how much it costs, but a roll of it lasts a long time.

Then there's always the funny papers.

I think the prize for most creative--and hilarious--wrapping idea goes to Mary, who wrote: "for YEARS we have used towels for almost all family gifts (hard to give a towel-wrapped gift at a kid birthday party and then ask for it back). Most of our bath towels are white or green and we use (and often re-use) ribbons to keep it together. At Christmas we do use some paper...but now even our parents/sisters/brothers expect us to arrive at their houses and wrap our Christmas gifts in their seasonally appropriate towels. Pillowcases also work and washclothes/teatowels for smaller items."

So perhaps, I'll be hitting the linen closet tonight, just as George launches himself off the bridge.


  1. Our upstairs neighbor gave the boys gifts wrapped in dish towels & insisted she didn't need them back. We are SO giving them back... And after all my fuss, turns out that we had a ton of leftover paper stashed in the back of the closet. Soooo I didn't buy any wrapping paper this year but all the gifts are wrapped. We'll see how creative I get next year!

  2. I think we used up most of our stash this year - just a little left over. LSP and I used to wrap everything in newspaper comics back in the day, but I got embarrassed at some point when the LSG started going to fancy birthday parties in her toddlerhood. It was nice, though.

  3. hilarious! i used all paper bags and yarn too, but papa's breakable gift got the bathroom towel treatment! i also re-used some of the pretty tissue paper you sent! : )

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