Holiday Shopping Guide: The Art of Giving

Half of the excitement of the holidays is not in the actual gifts that you give or receive, but the mystery and suspense surrounding a wrapped box waiting to be opened. From the wrapping paper and ribbons to giving traditions, how you give is just as important as what you give.


Some say not to judge a book by its cover – or a gift by its wrapping – but ultimately presentation is key.

For traditional gift-wrapping products and stationary, visit Papyrus in Georgetown at 1300 Wisconsin Ave. Looking for something more original? Sites like and let you order custom wrapping paper featuring a phrase, name or photo of your choice.

Small budgets foster creativity, so your gift can look just as good wrapped in everyday things like comics, maps, sheet music or even copies of newspaper. Wrap boxes in white computer paper and decorate with fancy ribbons for a surprisingly chic presentation. For an earthy look, wrap gifts in brown paper and bundle with twine.

If you’re not a savvy wrapper, place presents in white gift boxes and decorate them with masking tapes in bright colors. You can also cover the gift in a variety of multi-colored plastic bags and tie with a bow. Or, instead of a conventional bow, top the gift with a fresh flower.

For packaging that is both useful and pretty, place presents inside decorative storage boxes, found at home goods stores, and wrap in ribbon. You can also wrap a present in fabric or a scarf, closed with a brooch.

When something is oddly shaped, put it in a gift bag or box. To wrap a tubular present, think Tootsie Roll: Roll the tube in wrapping paper, twist the ends and secure them with ribbons.

Instead of giving a gift card in a revealing envelope, try this: tape the card on the inside bottom of a box and fill it with something heavy – candy, coal, rocks – and wrap it. As long as the recipient has a sense of humor, he or she will be pleasantly surprised.

If you are sending a gift by mail, try a similar technique. Wrap the present in any way that you like and put it in a box for shipment. Instead of using packing peanuts, cushion the present with peppermint candies.


When you’re not sending a gift by mail, the act of handing it over is just as important as what it’s wrapped in.

If you want to give presents to friends and you know you won’t see them over winter break, plan a time to exchange gifts before the end of the semester. A good way to exchange gifts with a big group is with a game. Yankee Swaps, or White Elephants are fun alternatives to Secret Santas.

Establish a price range and have everyone bring a gift to the exchange. Participants draw a number to determine the order of gift picking.

The first person picks a gift from the pile and unwraps it. The next person can then choose either to unwrap a gift from the pile or to steal the first person’s present. If the second person opts to take the first person’s gift, the first person unwraps another present. Another fun option is waiting to unwrap all of the gifts at the end.

Exchanges like these usually involve ironic or re-gifted presents.

You can even have a gift-wrapping contest and give titles to the most bizarre or creative presentations. Create categories like “Scrooge” for gifts tossed into plastic bags and labeled with permanent marker or “Martha Stewart” for meticulously put-together packages.


After receiving all of your gifts, you might find that you either have no use for some of the presents or that you simply don’t like them. What are you supposed to do?

If you received a gift receipt, you can exchange the unwanted item. If you didn’t, you could tell the gift-giver that you need a different size and see if they will give you the receipt. Some stores will let you return or exchange items if the tags are attached, so ask for their policies.

No matter how you decide to give a gift this holiday season, remember to be creative and have fun.

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