Advent calendar 19: the gift wrap

For the added touch that means so much… Hallmark gift wraps.”
1956 Hallmark Christmas Gift Wrap advertisement

Today’s image: the gift wrap

Or, to be more precise, the gift wrap as by archetype, perfectly wrapped present, a square, perfectly wrapped gifted, swathed in ribbon, a large and perky bow perched atop it.

It was going to be so different this year. I would set aside time. I would be patient. Not leave it to the last minute. Even enjoy the process. Armed with all that I needed about me, the paper, string, tape, tags, pens, gifts themselves… plus half a dozen gift-wrapping tips gleaned from YouTube, I sat.

Here are a few of the tips that failed upon encountering my ineptitude and lack of fortitude:

  1. Use doubled-sided tape to hid it: insufficient ‘stickage’ against the thick recyclable paper I was using.
  2. Wrap gifts placed on the diagonal your square of paper, thus using less wrap: soon abandoned as I still failed to make the square of paper large enough.
  3. Wrap it tight: however thick the paper, it tore when tightened.
  4. Use ribbon and ornaments to embellish: sorry, we’re trying to be more eco; jute twine will have to do (though undermined by ultimately using extraordinary quantities of tape).
  5. Use gift bags for awkward shapes: see above.
  6. Cut off the excess paper at either end: Easier said than done when you’re holding it closed; ended up irritably hacking off jagged lumps.
Wrestling with the wrapping

The end results are… Not terrible. If you don’t turn the packages upside-down. Or look too closely.

We haven’t always wrapped gifts, of course. In order to maintain an element of surprise, people simply had to hide them away until the last moment. Or perhaps wrap them in cloth – The Japanese furoshiki, or wrapping cloth, is still in use, and is a good re-usable alternative. The Chinese have evidently been at it for the longest, with the first documented use in ancient China, following the invention of paper in 2nd century BCE. Gifts of money were wrapped with paper, formed into an envelope called a chih pao – thus also inventing the envelope.

As so many things, it started in the west with 19th century wealthy types  concealing presents in paper, ribbons and lace, followed by stores offering wrapping services. Mass produced paper did not hit the shelve until 1917 – the innovation of a then simple card-sellers called Hall Brothers, later named Hallmark.

Thanks guys. Over one hundred years of frustration and bulgy gifts with the corners poking through.

But does it all matter?

Alas, in the 1990s, one Dr Daniel Howard conducted an experiment to test whether gift wrapping influences the recipients, i.e. if to provoke a more favourable attitude towards the gift item inside. The result? Yes. Wrapped gifts were rated more highly than those unwrapped, and the more ‘nicely’ wrapped, in pretty paper, ribbons and bows, the more favourable the response. A lot of it’s about the anticipation and experience, apparently, with nicer wrapping making the experience feel more special.

So. That’s any tentative plans for using old newspaper put on hold.

Megan Garner ‘ Wrappers’ Delight: A Brief History of Wrapping Paper’ in The Atlantic 12 December 2012.
History of Hallmark.
The Psychology Behind Wrapping Paper’ in GrrlScientist Hosted by The Guardian.
Image thanks
Main photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash
Small image by congerdesign from Pixabay


5 thoughts on “Advent calendar 19: the gift wrap

  1. I’m using black bin liners for one of mine. Jackie has found a little gadget she clips on the back of one hand which dispenses neat cuts of sellotape.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope that gadget finds its way into my stocking this year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So funny. A list of HOW NOT TO WRAP A PRESENT. Love it. Thank you for making me chuckle this morning. Hahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

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