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Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Art of Wrappng Christmas

Wrapping gifts is almost as old as Christmas
itself, dating from the second century AD.
Merry Christmas all you creative types and...okay, everyone else too! I know, December 25th is hardly the best time to run an item on wrapping Christmas gifts. This is the day you unwrap stuff (save the bows). But, there's always next year and it's my hope for the new year that you and I and this blog will still be around the latter part of 2015 when these many pretty pictures might be of some inspirational use. I tend to love wrapping gifts and have mine all done shortly after the tree goes up around the middle of December (earlier if my wife cooperates). My wife, on the other hand, who is really better at it than I am, is in fact, not too fond of the chore. She's been known to still be wrapping stuff Christmas eve.

An incredible variety of styles have evolved over the years,
from tastefully simple, to earthy, to elegantly grand.
Remember when Scotch tape came in cans?
(Hint: until the early 1950s.)
So, who first came up with the idea of wrapping Christmas gifts? Well, like so many other things we take for granted today, it's said the Chinese in the 2nd-century A.D., who invented paper as we know it today, also were the first to use it to wrap gifts, though they weren't too big on Christmas at the time. The first Christmas gift wrapping was probably the plain brown paper (above) used in Charles Dickens' London shops before an American, Francis Wolle, invented a machine for making paper bags around 1852. Ribbon has been around since women chose to wear their hair long. Bows came along shortly thereafter. Though they probably didn't invent it, modern day gift wrap was first popularized by the Hall Brothers (of Hallmark fame) around 1900. And of course, I'd be remiss in not mentioning the stuff that holds it all together from a Scottish company in Minnesota who first invented those long, sticky strips of cellophane about 1925.
The "less is more" style with colors coordinated to match the tree decor.
Subtle contrasts

When it comes to creative gift wrappings, there are probably as many styles as their are stylists. However most can be broken down into about five categories--less is more (above), subtle contrasts (right), country classic, urban sophisticate, and extravagantly elegant (below, left). There are subtle variations in these and often they are artfully combined. Moreover, there are also the personalized gift wrappings designed to reflect the age, tastes, and personality of the recipient--tots and toddlers, children (boys and girls are different), teen boys and girls, and men.
Extravagantly elegant. 

A bright and shiny Christmas.
My own tastes run toward the bright and shiny--foils (above, right). We, at our house, vary the decor of the tree from year to year--gold and green, blue and green, red or gold and white (tree), etc. Then we wrap all the packages to coordinate with the tree colors. Of course, we're not above trying out new stuff. One of my oldest frustrations in the art of creating attractive gifts is the odd-shaped item (usually a child's toy or something packaged to hang on a store display rack). Usually they came out looking like a loaf of bread or far worse (below, left). Then, along came the greatest boon to gift wrapping since Scotch tape--the Christmas bag (below, right). If all else fails, simply bag it. It's quick, easy, and unlike horribly wasteful wrapping paper, they're recyclable (for a few years anyway). That's quite logical, bags have been around since...well, 1852.
The odd-sized nightmare.
Sam Henderson's Christmas mod gift bags.

I have a friend named Donald who
highly recommends this stuff.
However, the newest thing in gift wrapping to come down the pike might startle traditionalists a little--duck tape (originally called duct tape, and only used to wrap gifts by 250-pound heating and air-conditioning guys). Our granddaughter introduced us to the decorative stuff, now available in hundreds of colors and patterns, used year around to create craft items. And finally, don't shy away from unconventional colors and outside-the-box thinking. For the right man, black and baby blue might be just the right touch (below, left). And who ever said gift wrap had to hide the contents (below, right)? It is, after all, merely decorative (bottom).

Who cares if it's only after shave?
When the gift looks this good, who
needs wrapping paper?
What could it possibly be?


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