All right. I have a question to ask all of you, and before I ask it, I ask that you please refrain from throwing tomatoes, expired egg nog, and giant lumps of coal my direction.
How many of you are done your Christmas shopping? Or Hanukkah shopping? Or Kwanzaa shopping? Any sort of holiday shopping?
Okay, that was actually FOUR questions...my bad.
So, what's the answer? Myself, I've gotten mine finished already. I actually had it done the day after Black Friday.
I know, I know...I see some of you shooting daggers my way, but just hear me out. I used to be a December 23 shopper too. I used to postpone Christmas shopping until the very last possible minute too. Sometimes, it wasn't by choice. When I was Christmas shopping, especially during my teen years when money was quite tight, I'd have to wait until close to the end of the holiday rush before I could buy one gift. But after working years in retail and seeing how crazy some people can get in regards to getting everything on their list by whatever means necessary, it's made me realize that the earlier I get my shopping done, the happier holiday that I get to enjoy.
As of right now, my December is looking stress-free, which is exactly what my intention was this holiday season. Besides, it gives me more time to write in this blog, right?
But that's the shopping out of the way. Next comes one of the necessary evils of the holidays that is linked to the holiday shopping.
That necessary evil being the joy of gift wrapping.
Until a few years ago, I absolutely hated wrapping presents. I was by far one of the worst wrappers that ever existed. My presents always looked like they were wrapped by someone who didn't have any fingers. I'm saying that I made Slater from Saved By The Bell look good. When I was a teenager, I reckon that a two year old could have done a better job wrapping Christmas presents than I could.
Oh sure, I could have avoided the whole idea of wrapping presents by performing a few short cuts. I could have just put everything in convenient gift bags. I could have just not bothered to wrap them at all. I could have put them in decorative boxes that looked like they were wrapped. Heck, I could have just gotten the people at the gift wrapping booth at the mall to wrap them for me.
But I guess it was to my credit that I chose not to go that route. I was one determined little kid and I refused to let a roll of red and green wrapping paper and Scotch tape prevent me from learning how to wrap.
But that first year of wrapping my own presents was a bit of a disaster in the making right from the get-go.
If memory serves me, it was Christmas 1994. I was thirteen, and prior to 1994, my sisters used to help me with my wrapping jobs. But by '94, both of them were out of the house, and I realized that I had to step up to the plate, and attempt to wrap my gifts by myself. Had to learn how to do it sometime, right?
And what a disaster it was.
The above picture is a simulation of what some of my gifts looked like that first year I wrapped them. Maybe they didn't seem as bad as the one up above, but they were really bad. Some of the gifts were covered with either too much paper, or not enough. The gift tags that I used were the same colour as the paper, so they blended together. I think I may have ended up using an ENTIRE roll of Scotch tape to wrap one gift. I think the only thing I did right was sticking the bow on the gift, and that's only because I bought the stick-on bows with the adhesive backing on them. You wouldn't have wanted me near a spool of silk ribbon. I was liable to either tie my arms and legs together with it, or end up strangling myself with it.
Let's just say that my gift-wrapping skills needed work.
I even think that one Christmas I ended up running out of Scotch tape and ended up wrapping one of my dad's gifts with duct tape. While it is true that duct tape has a million and one uses, using it for wrapping presents is not the best choice.
All I really wanted was for my gifts to look as elaborately wrapped and beautifully done the same way that gifts were shown wrapped in television shows, commercials, and the Sears Wish Book. Because I was at the age where I was struggling to find out who I really was, and feeling as thought I was failing at everything new that I was trying out, and I really wanted to succeed at something.
And well...back in 1994, gift wrapping just wasn't working out.
Oh, certainly my family didn't really care too much about my sub-par wrapping job. And I suppose in the long run, it didn't matter how nicely wrapped a gift was as the paper would be ripped to shreds in a fifteen seconds flat. But, compared to the wonderful wrapping jobs that the other members of my family had done with their presents made mine kind of look like something a blind chimpanzee would have done. For whatever reason, the shoddy workmanship on my presents really stood out, and for whatever reason, it really bothered me.
I swore to myself that the following Christmas would be different, and that I would make up for my lack of gift-wrapping experience.
Unfortunately, it took several years for me to master the art of gift wrapping. The next year, Christmas 1995, was just as disasterous as 1994. That year, I didn't know where my family had hidden all of the gift wrap for Christmas present wrapping, so I ended up having to use some leftover birthday wrap...wrapping paper that looked as if it had been in our family before I was born. The paper was brittle, the tape refused to stick, I had to make gift tags out of loose leaf paper...yeah, that was a great Christmas.
Things didn't improve any during 1996 either. That was the year that I made the mistake of buying the El Cheapo Scotch tape from the local dollar store. Note to all of you out there, do not buy the El Cheapo tape. It doesn't stick, it doesn't hold, and I ended up having to rewrap the gifts on a couple of occasions because the tape didn't stick at all.
By 1998, I was beginning to get a little better at wrapping boxes, but wrapping up clothing items was a disaster, as my packages would usually resemble shiny red and green blobs of some unknown substance. But, hey, if I could offer up one hint of positivity in this, at least nobody could tell what was underneath the wrapping paper.
And then in 1999 (which was one of the last years my family had a real Christmas tree as opposed to artificial), I had to rewrap (and in one case, re-buy) gifts because the tree stand was overflowing with water, and all of my gifts that I had just put under the tree were soaking wet! It was a total disaster, and admittedly, I was so angry at the prospect of having to wrap my gifts over again that I just used tissue paper to wrap them up instead, and kept them far away from the tree until Christmas Eve.
But you know, over the years, my handiwork with wrapping gifts got a little better each year. I knew how to measure exactly how much paper I needed, I didn't have to spend a fortune on tape, and I even got better at penmanship for writing everyone's names on the tags. The more and more I did it, the better I got. Mind you, I'll never wrap as well as say, Martha Stewart, but I really am at the point where it doesn't really matter what I think of my wrapping abilities anymore because I know that the real judges wouldn't care.
I suppose you can say that the perfect lesson to learn from this is not to judge a book by its cover...or in this case, not to judge the gift (or the gift giver) by its wrapping job. And that's a good lesson to learn. Not the one that I really wanted to express in this entry, but just putting it out there.
No, the lesson that we can all learn from my mishaps in giftwrapping is persistence. Never giving up. Practice making near-perfect.
Because if one keeps at it, you never know what magic you can create. Case in point, here's a few of the gifts that I ended up wrapping for Christmas 2010.
And you may wonder why there's so many. Well, I don't have kids of my own yet, so I tend to spoil my nieces and nephews. That, plus I have ten people to buy for on my list. But as you can see, not one of these gifts look all that terrible. They may not be suitable for a holiday display at Macy's, but they're good enough for me.
Definitely a far cry from my misadventures in gift-wrapping during Christmas '94, at least.
Something else happened along the way. I went from loathing wrapping to LOVING wrapping. I now do the gift wrapping of my gifts, as well as volunteering my services to people who want their gifts wrapped too. If I was more confident in my ability, I'd add a fee.
But, then again, that wouldn't be very Christmasy, would it? Or, maybe it would, I don't know.