Remember the joy you felt as a kid on Christmas morning ripping into the colorful gifts Santa left? I can recall my mother, a huge black trash bag in one hand, trying to keep up with the sea of discarded stick-on bows and wrapping paper my sisters and I tossed haphazardly to the side. In those days, we’d receive toys and games—most with small pieces.
“Don’t open any of those boxes yet, girls,” Mom would warn, her eagle eyes scanning the carpet for a rogue Barbie shoe or missing Lego brick. “I’m afraid something’s going to get thrown away!”
Of course, in our haste to inspect our new treasures, amidst all the debris, something always managed to get tossed. On more than one occasion, it was my retainer. Trust me, digging through the garbage with your siblings when we all wanted to play with our new stuff was not a whole lotta fa-la-la fun!
Want to know what else I find not fun? I really hate wrapping presents! In addition to being time-consuming, the task of gift wrapping requires skills I’ve never acquired. My friend Deb, on the other hand, is one of those people who excel at gift wrapping. In fact, over the years she’s presented me with such beautifully wrapped boxes, it’s almost a shame to open them! I’m talking about perfectly squared-off corners, the paper precision-measured and lined up on all sides with the folds meticulously flat and folded. And, of course, no visible signs of Scotch tape! Don’t even get me started on the crown jewel of every gift—the bow. A wrapping wizard like Deb never uses stick-on bows. Heavens no! She makes her own exquisite bows using only the finest wired ribbon in colors that complement the wrapping paper.
Personally, I’m a big fan of gift bags. Sure, they may not be as much fun as opening a gaily wrapped gift. And, okay, they’re probably the lazy gal’s solution to turbo wrapping presents, but bags have many advantages over traditional gift wrapping. In addition to being reusable, bags travel and store well. With bags, you don’t have to worry about oddly shaped items, just find the right size and cram that baby in there! Add a few pieces of tissue paper and voila! You’re bagging like a pro!
I’m sure gift bags were around when I was young, but I have no recollection of any being underneath our tree. My husband’s side of the family however are big baggers. In fact, my mother-in-law Elaine has what is very likely the largest used gift bag collection in Texas. I swear some of them date back to the 90’s—and I know this because I was the one who originally purchased many of them.
There is one piece of advice I’ll share about re-using gift bags and that is to remove or cover the tags before you store them each year. At least once every Christmas at my in-laws, a family member will be handed a bag bearing their name. When it’s their turn to open the gift, we’ll hear a sharp cry of alarm from Elaine.
“Wait! Hold on! That’s a mistake!” she’ll exclaim, rushing over to inspect the bag. “I’m sorry, this tag is from last year. Give this present to your brother.”
We’ve joked that you never want to get too attached to any gift Elaine gives you since it might not really be for you. Honestly, we’ve had a lot of good laughs over her recycled gift bags and it’s all in good fun.
Incidentally, Elaine’s mother (we all called her Bubba), was an “old-school wrapper”. Bubba loved Christmas and would spend a sizeable chunk of the money she earned from an oil well on gifts. She had a large family and enjoyed buying lots of presents for everyone. Each gift was wrapped, tagged, and decorated with an artful bow made with curling ribbon. In fact, the stacks of gifts grew so numerous that eventually in early December, some of the furniture had to be removed from her living room to accommodate the many packages.
Although Bubba wasn’t a bagger, she was clever enough to know when it simply wasn’t practical to box and wrap a gift. That’s why she invented, Go to The (specify) Closet. If the stack of presents in front of you appeared smaller than others, it was likely when your turned rolled around to open something, she’d tell you to go to a specific closet. There you’d find a gift Bubba deemed too large or bulky to wrap with your name on it.
I never used the Go to The Closet trick but last year I did a little gift wrap “cheat” of my own that my family found hilarious. It was Christmas Eve and a large, heavy box arrived containing a gift for my husband James. Ugh! I thought. It’s too big for a gift bag and I can’t just stick a bow on it because the box clearly says what’s inside.
About this time, inspiration struck!
The next morning, as we were opening gifts, our son Nick noticed a huge green box stashed in the corner near the tree. “Mom, what the heck is that? Is it someone’s present?”
“Yes, that big one’s for your dad,” I replied, trying to keep a straight face. “Be careful not to tear the expensive gift wrap. I worked really hard on that.”
Tickled to be receiving such a sizeable gift, my husband knelt to unwrap the box. Wearing a huge grin, he glanced back at me as he removed the green throw I’d carefully tucked around the bottom of the box.
“Nice wrapping job,” he teased, tossing me the blanket. “Save that, maybe I’ll use it to wrap one of your gifts next year.”
“No muss, no fuss,” I said, laughing as I folded the lightweight blanket and placed it in its regular spot on the sofa.
I thought for a moment. “I think you guys just witnessed the very first application of the best invention since gift bags. I’m going to call it The Christmas Gift Throw.”
James shook his head. “You know, you could have just stuck a bow on the box. I already knew what you were getting me.”
“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?” I asked. “Getting a gift is always better when you have the element of surprise!”
He came around and joined me on the sofa, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek. “Hmm, The Christmas Gift Throw . . . I like it. Plus, it’s reusable.”
I nodded happily, thinking, He is his mother’s son!
One last thought –
Today is a gift from God, that’s why it’s called The Present!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!