The idea of wrapping presents has been around since the time that paper was invented, during the 2nd Century BCE when the Chinese used it both for wrapping and padding. The Chinese were very secretive about the process of making paper, and considered it sacred. Sharing the methods of making paper might result in severe punishment, sometimes death.
Now jump forward 2000 years to Christmas in the Victorian Era, and everyone is giving presents but only the well-to-do are wrapping them.
Wrapping presents in expensive paper is too much for the lower class to bare, and is considered only a privilege for the wealthy. The paper was printed with elaborate pictures and decorations, and topped with all sorts of ribbons and laces. The printing press was advanced enough that, in a relatively short time, large amounts of durable paper could be produced. The paper was very sturdy, but this made it difficult to bend and wrap boxes with; but the end result was beautiful.
After the turn of the 20th century, gift wrapping was extremely popular everywhere in the US. Plain tissue paper in the colors of red, green and white was used the most. But this paper was too flimsy, and sometimes the colors would bleed. Wrapping paper was very often torn or ripped, all by accident, well before the gift was received.
In 1917 there was a happy accident in the Hall Brother’s store. They sold out of tissue paper too early in the holiday season, and started using decorative envelope liners imported from France. These liners were made of elaborate paper, and at ten cents a sheet were quickly snapped up by Christmas shoppers. The next year the Hall brothers displayed the same style of wrapping paper at three sheets for twenty-five cents. This was the start of a very successful business plan which they followed in the years to come. Today Hallmark is the industry leader in wrapping paper sales.
Now gifts for all occasions are wrapped not only with beautiful paper but self-adhesive bows, matching gift cards, and beautiful ribbons.
The wrapping paper business makes millions of dollars with most of their sales occurring in late November or the entire month of December. Nothing is prettier that a pile of beautifully wrapped boxes underneath a Christmas tree.
Originally published: http://albanykid.com/2010/12/20/why-do-we-wrap-gifts/