Holidays past and present: it’s all about presents

#596 in a series of true experiences in real estate
December 2009, Hills Newspapers

I love Christmas wrapping — the paper, also ribbons of all kinds, and holiday tags and stickers. Wrapping gifts in red and green and blue printed with Santa and reindeer, red and cream-colored poinsettias, Christmas trees, silvery snowflakes and snowmen I find very satisfying.

I hunt for boxes that gifts will fit well, line the boxes with white tissue paper, and carry the boxes into the kitchen to the long table. Materials are placed along the counter behind me, most space taken up with dozens of rolls of colorful paper, but also including tape and glue, ribbons, glitter and scissors. Variety of materials is key to happy wrapping, I think. I find it especially appealing to open new rolls of paper, and switching papers with every present keeps me going. I might choose red-and-white candy cane paper first, use trees of shimmering blue and silver, next use again this year the tree frog photo on a gift for my son. Everyone in the family knows not to toss ribbons, tags and most papers because I iron and de-tape many for next year.

Usually I get up early the day after Christmas Day and go to the Hallmark store to buy wrapping materials priced at half off. Not that I need more — I already have quite a collection of partly used rolls of papers and boxes and reels of ribbons and stickers. But I can’t resist more at bargain prices. $2 to $3 per roll of good paper is about my limit. I never pay the regular price of $6 to $8 a roll.

Many years I have wrapped more than a hundred packages. Small ones about the size of a paperback book or a wallet are my favorites. I can use scraps of paper that I’ve saved and shorter pieces of beautiful ribbon. Large packages are harder and sometimes require the creative use of cardboard flats taped together, or sometimes bubble wrap works for bumpy shapes under paper wrapping.

For me, there is nothing quite as pretty and exciting as a large pile of gaily wrapped gifts under a thickly decorated Christmas tree. Packages dressed and ready containing unknown, unguessable surprises are a splendid sight. When I was a kid, my best friend had the best tree and the biggest pile of presents I could possibly imagine. I loved visiting her house on Christmas Eve when her family which included 3 kids and her parents, aunts and uncles had all arrived for the day’s festivities.

Everyone gathered in the beautiful living room where they sat on an up-to-date upholstered sectional couch and matching chairs. In the large bay window was their tall and wide, beautifully decorated (some years, white-flocked) tree, and under it piles of wrapped gifts, huge, overflowing stacks of presents. It was fabulous.

Not that it was not exciting at my own house. I loved Christmas there too although it was not as extravagant, but just the thought that Santa would be visiting our house, hearing Christmas carols on the radio, my brother, sister and I hanging our stockings on the fireplace, these were plenty to thrill me. I loved too making paper chains for the tree in our classroom and going to the Christmas assembly and singing carols in the school auditorium. We made presents for our moms at school, things like lapel pins molded in the bowl of a spoon. For my dad we went to the dime store and shopped for a long time before picking a carpenter’s pencil or white hankerchief.

Years later but before I had my own kids, I was lucky to have a group of friends who also loved doing Christmas. We spent it together for a number of years, planning far ahead, making lists, talking often, keeping gift secrets. We bought tons of gifts for one another, not large or very expensive gifts, but we all loved opening presents for hours on end, and so that is what we did. I think the best part was at the beginning when everyone brought in their wrapped gifts and placed them under the tree. It was showy, wonderful.

And now, for the past 15 years or so, we have a family party just before Christmas to which my now-grown kids invite their friends and we invite some of ours. This is a gift party at which each guest is given a number. The person with the first number selects a gift from a large stack, followed by number 2, and so on. Everyone gets a chance to pick either a new gift or “steal” a previously opened gift. There is a lot of laughter and happy shouting. I love this party and I love wrapping presents for it. I try for a few tantalizingly big presents at the bottom with many medium and small stacked on top, so pretty.

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