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The Great Christmas Present Debate – Wrapped Gifts vs. Gift Bags

Should Christmas presents be given in wrapping paper or placed in a gift bag and covered with tissue paper? In our household – and perhaps in yours as well – we are caught up in a debate to answer that eternal question. Now, for some this should be an easy thing to discuss and reach a consensus, but for others this rises to the level of the Jedi verses the Sith in the Star Wars films.

In my opinion wrapping a gift in Christmas paper is the way to go. Wrapping a gift adds to its mystery, while also giving a tease as to size and shape. While guessing is half the fun, not being certain is even better. Sure, that large round object wrapped under the tree could a basketball, but it could also be something else.

The gift bag is a relatively new phenomenon – as a boy I never received one gift in a bag with wrapping paper. I am not sure when the trend started, but around the time I was in college I encountered my first gift bag. The bag was rather large, had poinsettias all over it, and green and red tissue paper sticking out of the top.

Well, someone might think this could be exciting, but not knowing the shape or size of the contents felt disappointing to me. This feeling became exacerbated when I actually delved into the bag and found several folded shirts, a winter hat, pair of gloves, and at the bottom found a box of slippers. While I liked all of these gifts from a dear relative, something was missing.

It would have been much better if each of these items had been wrapped separately. I would have been able to make an educated guess about each one, but possibly be surprised as I ripped open the paper to see my gifts. By plopping everything in one bag – while I know that was easier – I felt cheated in some way.

Yes, gift bags make things much simpler for the giver. I have been told – though I do not share this opinion – that the best part of gift bags is that there is less garbage after the opening frenzy. Another perk of the gift bag is that it is practical – the receiver gets to put the gift back inside the bag and has a handy way to carry it home. No mess and practical should be a good thing, right?

While all these things sound good, they are an illusion promoted by the sinister proponents of gift bags. The practicality of the gift bag is its greatest liability. Opening presents becomes a rushed affair, and seems to be over in a matter of minutes. Everyone can sit back comfortably in a relatively neat room, sip their hot cocoa, and listen to the Christmas music. It’s highly civilized and totally boring – just what those nefarious makers of gift bags no doubt intended.

Opening wrapped presents takes effort – especially when one auntie liked to use a whole role of tape on each box. Trying to open a present, and even having some difficulty in doing so, was almost as great a joy as actually discovering what was hidden underneath that paper. I definitely miss that heightened anticipation, as well as having the room look like a bomb hit it with paper hanging from everything – even the tree itself! All bets are off during present opening and pieces of paper are flung far and wide. This was great joy during my childhood and I want my kids to have the same experience.

So, this year my gifts are wrapped the traditional way – and other people in this house are going the gift bag route. Let it suffice to say that I believe the final arbiter of all things Christmas – old Santa Claus himself – is going to come down on my side of this thing because I have the inside scoop (the big guy actually texted me a photo of one present) that every gift from Santa Claus for my kids is wrapped in paper. Way to go, Santa!

Gift giving is part of what makes this season so joyous, but I believe that wrapping a gift in paper, putting a label with the person’s name on it, and even tying a little bow around it is as much a gift as what is inside. That special effort of wrapping each present tells the receiver that the giver has put time (and love) into giving by wrapping that present.

Perhaps, as my kids get older, I will come around to this gift bag idea, but for now I am certain that wrapped presents are the only way to go. Even Santa is on my side, so I feel that makes my case.

Whatever way you are choosing to give presents this year, I hope that you get as many wonderful things as you have given. I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. Enjoy and happy gifting!

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. His latest books 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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