Bells and Whistles: Do We Really Need All the Trimmings?

Share[This originally appeared in Home Style in 2002. Or 2004. I can't really remember. But enjoy! -CH]


Gift wrapping is an art form. A beautifully wrapped gift is really two gifts: the item itself and the art and effort that went into wrapping the gift.

I am not a good gift wrapper. Come Christmastime (OK — come Christmas Eve), I invariably find myself bunkered in the guest room for hours, surrounded by rolls of wrapping paper, safety scissors, ribbon, Scotch tape carcasses (usually several beer carcasses as well) and other tools, wrapping several dozen presents so poorly that they would look better if I just stuffed the gifts into the middle of a huge ball of crumpled newspaper and bound it tight with 25 yards of tape.

When I’m finished, I’m proud — not proud of my work (because any lower-level primate could have done better and used less tape), but proud that I’ve survived another Christmas gift-wrapping session without using the safety scissors to commit hara-kiri.

My wife, Stacy, on the other hand, takes pride in her gift wrapping. Tight folds, perfect corners, beautiful bows, sometimes homemade wrapping paper — even a natural garnish or two from the garden (a technique I believe she learned from her mom). For Stacy, the wrapping is part of the gift.

And that’s fine. It’s the thought that counts — whether the thought went into the gift or into the gift and the wrapping. Gift wrapping in that context, as a famous ex-con would say, is a good thing.

But when it comes to Christmas, we take a good thing and beat ourselves senseless with it. Lights. Candles. Wreaths on the door. Wreaths on the windows. Wreaths on the grill of our car. Inflatable Santa on the roof. Neighborhood parties. Office parties. Office parties that involve inflatable Santas. Christmas specials on television (a Pokémon Christmas?). Parades. Neighborhood gift exchanges. Office gift exchanges. Christmas CDs (an AC/DC Christmas?). You get the idea.

Here’s the thing: It’s all wrapping and no gift or thought. The entire month of December and a pretty good chunk of November have become mindless wrapping. It’s touching to wrap a gift with love and attention. It’s disturbing to wrap the gift 35 more times after the first very nice wrapping job.



Do I sound like Scrooge? Well, think about this — Scrooge was humbugging Cratchit’s desire to sneak out of work early on Christmas Eve to buy a goose and a couple of simple wooden toys for his children. By today’s standards, Cratchit would be considered the Scrooge.

I don’t have a solution. But when it comes to Christmas, somehow, some way, one day … we need to put some serious thought into getting away from the mindless wrapping and getting back to the thought that counts.


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