A History of Gift Wrapping

posted in: Lifestyle and wellbeing | 0

01 November 2020

It’s the best thing isn’t it? Receiving a gift so beautifully wrapped that you can hardly bear to open it and destroy the perfectly presented package. And for the gift giver – the anticipation as they watch you open their gift – perhaps with some apprehension? Will they like it as much as you hope they will? One thing is for sure – the gift wrapping is almost as important as the gift itself. With Christmas approaching, gift wrapping is uppermost in our minds. So in this blog we have a look at the history of gift wrapping. And some alternatives to what we use now.

A History of Gift Wrapping- a present with pinecones and a hot drink.

There’s an art to great gift wrapping that’s for sure. And a history too. It won’t surprise you one bit to learn that the art of gift wrapping is centuries old. As this article from Bustle.Com, entitled Why do we wrap gifts – a brief history of wrapping paper, points out, gift wrapping has its roots in Asia. There the earliest pieces of wrapping paper date back to 2nd Century BC, China. It would seem that, in the Southern Song dynasty (960-1279) government officials received gifts of money in envelopes called chih poh. Chih poh comprised hemp, bamboo fibres and rice straws.

Turning Japanese

While in Japan, the same article states, the traditional reusable wrapping cloth called the Furoshiki has been around since the Edo period (1603-1867). Korea meanwhile, had its own version – the bojagi. That being a traditional silk wrapping cloth thought to have existed from the Three Kingdoms period – 57 BC to 688 AD. As we’ve said more than once: there’s nothing new under the sun.

Here in the West, we were rather slower to catch on to the whole elaborate gift-giving shebang. Cutting a long story short, we can thank, or not, depending how you feel about the whole commercialized gifts and cards industry – the Hall brothers of Hallmark fame, for modern gift wrap.  It appears that, during the 1917 holiday season, the owners of a Kansas City stationery story ran into a problem. They had a run on red, white and green tissue paper – the standard gift wrap of the day. To bridge the gap until they got new supplies, they brought in the decorative French paper usually used to line envelopes and sold it for 10 cents per sheet. It sold fast. So, the next year, they decided to try their luck with three sheets for 25 cents. Once more an overwhelming positive response ensued.

In 1919, in their first departure from greetings cards, Hallmark began to make decorative wrapping paper. The Hall brothers’ quick thinking created a billion-dollar industry. They also created an environmental monster – though no-one knew that at the time.

Wrapping Paper Problems

Plastic carrier bags and other single-use plastics are not alone in creating an environmental nightmare. It’s not possible to recycle the stuff. Indeed, as Wrag Wrap points out, recycling wrapping paper is problematic in several ways:

  • Fibres found in cheaper types of paper are too weak to recycle. Besides which, wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated and can contain non-paper additives such as gold and silver colouring, glitter and plastics. Compounding everything is the sticky tape that’s … well stuck to it. Thus, landfill or incineration are the only disposal options.

    In the UK we send FIVE MILLION TONNES of paper to landfill every year.
  • In 1995, UK citizens alone bought 11,000 tonnes of wrapping paper.
  • On average, it takes SIX mature trees to make a tonne of paper. That translates into something like 50,000 trees becoming the 8,250 tonnes of paper we use at Christmas.
 Forest with tree cut down

To give all this some context, the contentious Newbury bypass needed the chopping of 10,000 trees – and a national outcry ensued.

Yet we waste FIVE times this amount every Christmas without blinking. Wrag Wrap suggest you switch to their long-lasting fabric gift wrap.

A quick root round YouTube will show you gift wrapping tutorials and plastic-free alternatives to wrapping paper such as this one:

Pink & Green’s Contribution

Here at Pink & Green we’re trying to be part of the solution. For the Christmas 2020 season we’re offering a a choice of ways to have gift set purchases packaged:

1. Black gift box made from recycled materials
2. Draw string bag – like the one in the image below
3. A Kraft box
4. No packaging at all!

Pink and Green gifting set in a kraft box
Gift set in one of our Kraft boxes

And that folks, is a wrap …

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