As a man of standard, I believe the wrapping of gifts to be an impermanent art form. One that is being defunded by the lazy hands of today.
As Christmas rapidly approaches our minds, inevitably, turn to the annual dilemma of wrapping paper.
What is the best wrapping paper? What colours are popular this year? Is the traditional green, red and white colouration still in favour? Textured or non-textured? Plasticised paper or wood-pulp? What is the most desirable weight of paper for the fold ratio? If I save a little money buying cheaper paper who am I really hurting? How much glitter is appropriate? Are metallics safe for the environment?
And, isn’t it worth a little suffering from an already overburdened planet if it keeps my wrapping uniform and limited to a silver palette?
These questions will already be vexing wrappers like myself who wait patiently for the great wrapping time to arrive.
Over the course of the year, the advent of a birthday, anniversary or death may allow us a moment to shine but, if you are not a professional wrapper, Christmas is a godsend.
Wrapping has two simple rules: it must be subservient to form and obedient to function. That is not to say that within these constraints there are not enormous creative freedoms.
The true practitioner of the wrapping craft possesses enviable traits. They must have agile fingers. Fingers able to hold paper taut, tear tape, slice corners and trim excess with ease. And yet, dexterous digits are nothing without a mind capable of making instantaneous Tetris-like estimations of space in three-dimensions.
This is my concern, this erosion of tradition, this loss of standards. If the wrapping is lousy what’s inside can’t possibly be worthwhile. I apply this rule to all aspects of existence.
Not every angle on a box, or a present, will be constructed at a convenient 90 degrees. How you compensate for acute or obtuse angles, curves and other abnormalities in packaging is the true marker of creativity.
Wrapping, and I don’t believe I am exaggerating here, is the most thankless task of all the thankless tasks. A wrapper cannot be overprotective of their work and can never expect the piece to live beyond its allotted lifespan. It’s this disparity between the amount of time invested and the shelf life of the wrap that creates a Zen-like space for the true practitioner. A beautiful wrap is the sand Mandala of gifting season. Something born of immense patience and craft, but with an understanding that none of its finicky wonder will survive until Boxing Day.
We do this work in the full knowledge that come the day the hours spent toiling over a perfect hospital corner on a tricky shell pack of a feminine hygiene product will not be remembered. A wrapper must take pride in themselves and their work because few others will notice their enormous effort.
When an object, a present, a gift, is freed from its luxuriant bondage the new owner disappears to savour the wonder of that object. The discarded skin, regardless of its beauty, is left behind.
The final injustice is also a burden many devotees silently bear – the post-celebration realisation that the waist-high piles of discarded paper will be theirs to remove.
(Or in accordance with the matriarch of my family: collected, sorted, ironed flat, patched – where possible – and reconstituted for use in a years time)
Why stand up and champion the wrap? Because attitudes are changing.
I have (horror of horrors) witnessed a family who presented their gifts in plastic shopping bags. PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS!
The sad fake Christmas tree spread its plastic fronds over what looked like a waste dump. The only difference between this Christmas scene and a bin overflowing with rubbish was the presence of the bin.
Was this a cultural difference? A lack of care? Or a rejection of tradition?
These were not bags from top-end stores emblazoned with the names of famous outlets. These were plastic shopping bags suitable for carrying fish guts. Semi-opaque plastic shopping bags, banned in many parts of the world, allowing the present within to appear as engaging as, well, fish guts.
There was no sense of discovery, no thrill when the bag was torn open. The gifts still bore price tags.
This is my concern, this erosion of tradition, this loss of standards. If the wrapping is lousy what’s inside can’t possibly be worthwhile. I apply this rule to all aspects of existence. For the opposite also holds true (and we all know this from personal experience): good wrapping can often disguise a real turd.
We have to do better. As society crumbles let us invest ourselves in what truly separates us from the beasts. In this time of trials with our world in disarray, the one thing the children and the elderly need is a decent effort on the part of the wrapper.
Let’s keep up appearances. Wrap good, wrap well, wrap with pride.
In the next few weeks we’ll be on a roll, and when the big day comes – we’ll have you covered.