The Reason We Wrap Presents At Christmas Is Actually Pretty Ingenious

It's an age-old tradition, but why do we do it?


Gift wrap, ribbons, bows, tags, large chunks of foliage… Christmas wrapping has become an art form in itself.

Gone are the days when you’d buy three rolls of red and green paper for a fiver in Tesco. These days you’re at nothing unless you have a pre-planned colour palette and some of the fancy-dan wrapping paper that you can only buy by the sheet.

A hape of time and effort goes into wrapping gifts, but why do we do it? After all, it’s just there to be ripped off, right? True, but the legacy and reasons behind gift wrap go back a long way, and they’re even backed up by science.

Here’s the lowdown on why we still can’t get enough of that sweet sweet gift wrap.

Our ancestors did it too
The idea of wrapping a gift has been around for hundreds of years, and it started in Asia. In Ancient China’s Southern Song dynasty, gifts like money and jewels were handed out to dignitaries in packages called “chih poh,” a sort of envelope made of hemp and bamboo. The Koreans used wrapping cloths made of silk as early as 57 BC, while the Japanese still use cloths called Furoshiki to wrap gifts, and have done so since the 1600s.

Closer to home, the upper class families of the Victoria era gave cards and gifts accompanied with decorative Christmas papers, with festive designs and lace adornments. By the late 1800s, stiff paper was available for covering gifts in.

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Patterned wrapping paper was a bit of a happy accident
For the most part, wrapping paper in the West was traditionally green and red, but for the owners of one stationary shop in Kansas, USA, low stock meant improvsation was needed. JC and Rolie Hall began selling patterned French envelope liners as wrapping paper, and customers couldn’t get enough. The brothers later went on to set up their own gifting company called – can you guess? – Hallmark.

Science says we should wrap our gifts, y’all.
A study back in the Nineties found that recipients respond better to wrapped or concealed gifts, and rate them higher than non-wrapped gifts. In one 1992 experiment, participants were asked to rate four products in exchange for a free gift. Reseachers didn’t want to know what they thought of the products, however. What they were really looking at was how the participants rated the free gift, which was presented in a different way depending on the group. The subjects who received a wrapped free gift gave it a higher overall rating than those who got an unwrapped one. Other studies have found that even plain brown paper is preferable to no gift wrap at all.

A photo posted by Anna Barota (@anna_barota_) on