Advent Thought For The Day: 21

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December 21st: It’s a Wrap

Being Mr Christmas, most people assume that my preparations for the big day run like clockwork. I can tell you they don’t. I have been known to be wrapping presents at midnight on Christmas Eve in a mad rush to beat Father Christmas. He has a choice of four chimneys at The Watch House so he could appear almost anywhere in my house, frowning at my tardiness. As I write, there’s a distinct possibility that I might be in the same position again this year, locked in a room until the last stocking-filler is deftly disguised.

On the whole I enjoy wrapping gifts, especially if I have all the right tools to hand. Sharp scissors and a large, flat cutting surface are essential. (I believe some homes in the USA even having gift wrapping rooms: a trifle excessive, but I suppose once you’ve upgraded to a walk-in wardrobe and home cinema, a gift wrapping room is a natural progression.) I always use double-sided sticky tape for neatness – the narrow sort if I can find it – and I like to seek out coordinating ribbons and tags. I tend to buy ribbon by the metre in my local haberdashers as it’s significantly cheaper than buying reels that are specifically sold for Christmas. I take pride in wrapping a gift, even if the recipient doesn’t show a great deal of interest in the effort I’ve made. It’s been proven that wrapping a gift nicely has a positive effect on how it’s regarded by the recipient.

The practice of wrapping gifts goes back thousands of years to China, Japan and Korea. The Japanese furoshiki, a reusable wrapping cloth, is still in use today, and may yet experience a resurgence in popularity as we become more conscious of how much paper we throw away. The Japanese are masters of wrapping and packaging, so much so that the way a gift is presented becomes almost as important as the gift itself.

The origins of printed paper as a wrapping material are somewhat blurred until the early 20th Century. Upper echelons of Victorian society used elaborately decorated papers tied with ribbon or lace to conceal presents, fashion later favouring lighter tissue in shades of green, red and white. Then, in 1917, a pair of brothers running a stationery store in Kansas City, Missouri, ran out of their standard tissue paper. Not wishing to disappoint their customers they found among their supplies a stack of ‘fancy French paper which was typically used to line envelopes. They put the paper in a showcase, setting its price at $0.10 a sheet. It sold out immediately.

The following year the brothers bought more French lining papers. Once again the sheets were a hit with customers, so in 1919 they started producing and selling their own printed paper designed specially for wrapping ‘Holiday’ gifts. The brothers were called Joyce and Rollie Hall, and we all know the brand they went on to create – Hallmark.

Now an established item on our Christmas shopping list, gift wrap has reached a cross-roads. We throw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each Christmas in the UK, enough to stretch nine times around the world. Whilst much of it could technically be recycled, the sellotape and ribbons we attach to it make it hard to process. Wrap with metallic foils and flitter (glitter) is harder still to recycle, so much so that some local authorities won’t touch it. It may not be long before we’re reappraising the Japanese furoshiki and the Korean bojagi

There are worse threats to our environment than used wrapping paper, but we can all do our bit by minimising how much we use, tearing off the areas that have been covered in sellotape before recycling and even reusing any areas that are not too creased. I’ve been known to iron old wrapping paper and store it away in a drawer for the following year, along with any gift bags I receive. Very little gets wasted at The Watch House. TFG

Categories: Christmas, history, Musings

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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9 comments On "Advent Thought For The Day: 21"

  1. Very interesting history and very enjoyable to learn. I’ve been wrapping gifts all day, giving extra effort this year to make them pretty. I usually don’t enjoy it, but you are right, given the right materials at hand and enough time, it can be fun to try and delight the recipient of the gift.

  2. I don’t have a special room for wrapping only the Upper 1% would have that. I have read an article about that very room. Where they even hire someone to do all the wrapping they need done. Of course those are executive host/hostess gifts etc. I am all over that Christmas wrapping though. I enjoy doing it. My Sister is like Helen, she doesn’t even attempt to wrap she uses those gift bags. Since the gift bags are reusable they are better than wrapping paper in the environmental sense but I sure like tearing off those wraps. OOps no recycling for me. Have fun no matter what you may be doing the next few days. Merry Christmas.

  3. I wish you could still buy that old fashioned really thin paper I remember were sold as assorted sheets, rolled up with a band round them back in the 1960’s (but you are too young to remember this!) they were so thin you could read through them to the present within! They had all sorts of images from robins and snowy scenes to traditional inns and snowmen and Santa too! I can instantly recall the smell of this paper! Those were the days of Xmas past!

    1. I am a little too young to recall this, but I do remember assorted sheets of flat wrap and the traditional designs that used to be commonplace at Christmas. I sometimes think we are a bit too clever and ought to go back to simpler times.

      Smells are the most evocative aren’t they? For me, it’s the smell of tinsel that really gets me. It’s not even nice, but it reminds me of Christmas.

  4. Thank you for a really interesting post – I love wrapping presents! I’ve not heard of furoshiki or bojagi before – but I have used leftover pieces of material to wrap presents. I’m sure the time is right for a resurgence in furoshiki – it’s a natural progression from ‘bags for life’ isn’t it?! I carefully keep and reuse as much as possible from the joyous chaotic aftermath of our family Christmas present-giving – and usually spend a quiet afternoon after Christmas happily going through the bin bags full of paper, removing all the tape, tags and glitter so that the paper can be recycled or reused.. . Whilst often also looking for that tiny vital piece of Lego or other game/toy that accidentally got thrown away with the wrapping! 😂

  5. Four years ago I decided to stop buying gift wrap. I now wrap in cloth and ribbon. The real ribbon makes it look really much better wrapped than it really is. It works well at Christmas when all the family are together for exchanging gifts, and they just give me the wrapping back. For some reason it doesn’t work so well with birthdays. I would love if people would reuse it themselves on the next gift they give, so we could keep circulating the wrap, and seeing different patterns.
    I imagine that I would need to reuse this for many many years before it’s more resource efficient than paper though.

    1. I am absolutely sure that’s the way we must go in future. Commercially of course I am glad of people buying wrapping paper, but I do feel its demise is overdue. I would love to receive a present wrapped in fabric. Sturdy, decorative boxes could also be a good option and a lot easier than individual wrapping.

      Wishing you a very Happy Christmas Hazie.

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