Holiday magic, a how to guide!
Well it’s the holiday season. Whether you’ve already celebrated, are about to celebrate, or don’t celebrate at all, one thing is certain. Things look a whole lot different than just a few years ago. I, of all people, understand feeling numb or helpless as we look around us and see all the suffering that is going on. I can also acknowledge that if we’re going to get through this then some self care is in order. For a lot of us, even if we’re not the religious type, the holidays are supposed to be magical. So it’s my annual reminder that with a little effort you can help bring a little magic, or maybe a bit of mischief to the season.
I meant to post this earlier this time around, but like every year I keep trying to remind myself that I just need to repost the previous year to help avoid this. In any case, some time back I came up with a way to make unwrapping gifts even more fun than they normally are. Since I celebrate a non-religious christmas, that will be the example I have for you today, but feel free to extrapolate to any holiday event or even any event with gifts! Have you ever looked at the typical christmas tree and noticed that all the gifts look… well uniform?
Well I say that’s boring. I mean you have this gift sitting there looking like a box and the only bit of magic is when you get to open it to figure out what it is. Bah! We can do better and I did. Now a bit of backstory first.
The first time I ever did this I ruined christmas. Literally I had friends, family, everyone telling me I ruined it. It was great, because I had sold them a lie and they bought it. Over the years I’ve gotten better at doing this and unfortunately my first year I didn’t think to get too many photos of it. The ones I did get were… well not great. So what is… it?
I call it stealth wrapping! The idea is simple you wrap your gift in the shape of another gift! You can get as creative and detailed as you want. A bit of warning, this will take a LOT of time depending on how detailed you want to get and you will need a LOT of tape, wrapping paper, building supplies (cardboard mostly), things of that nature. I explained how I came up with the idea last year I believe…. (here). Yep that’s the post, normally I have to dig to find them. I’ll make a list at the bottom with previous years examples so you can see how I do things.
The point is this though, you wrap the gift so the person getting it thinks it’s very obvious what it is. The year I ruined christmas? I had wrapped a gift to look close enough to a stand mixer that everyone was questioning why I was so bad at wrapping gifts. I’m not sure what that says about my intelligence that people would ask why I wrapped it so badly, I would play dumb, and they would just look at me with sad eyes. In any case, after the initial questions and me playing a big dumb idiot convincingly people stopped questioning and one person politely pretended they had no idea what some of my gifts were.
Of course, when it came time to open the gifts, the secret was revealed and I had a great laugh (so did everyone else). Since that day, it’s sort of become a tradition for me and every year I look for new
victims recipients to share my special holiday cheer with! With COVID putting a damper on things and the sad news that I MAY have been exposed (so far negative, so fingers crossed), I will be spending the holidays alone. That doesn’t mean I can’t torment surprise people though! So to give you some ideas about how to go about doing this, let’s look at two of this years examples.
One of the people getting a gift knows my… habit (?) of wrapping so I needed to come up with a different way to bring the
torture magic. Which means I’m pulling a double switch this time. I’m wrapping a gift in a shape very similar to the actual gift. It’s a risky move, but I think it will pay off. The fun here is that I will be wrapping it as the WRONG gift. The person who this is for asked for a dollhouse and I got the one they wanted, BUT I’m wrapping it as a much larger very obviously wrong version of a dollhouse. Yes, we’re going to inception levels of gift wrapping this year.
Every year I say that it is about the lines and it really is. You want to create the shape of the thing you want people to see, but don’t get caught up in the details or you’ll never be able to see what they are once you throw wrapping paper on. The basic shape is typically enough and even though I got a little fancy with the front of it, I wanted to give it a very specific look. Unfortunately it looks like a barn or a church and not quite the house I was going for, but it’s enough to throw people off at least and that’s all that really matters.
Over the years I’ve learned it’s important to wrap the gift like you have no idea what you’re doing so it purposefully looks like crap, but not so bad that the person couldn’t tell what it is. It’s very tightly wrapped, but not well wrapped (lines are all wrong) if that makes sense. It screams, well at least you tried! Which is about the level you’re aiming for here.
I have a lot of go-to shapes I use for stuff now that I’m on year eight or nine of doing this (I’ve lost track at this point honestly!). Dollhouses are the easy way out (in my mind) and if it weren’t for the actual contents of the gift I would’ve done something a little different. The hard ones are gifts that are squishy. Those are tough, one year I wrapped fuzzy socks as a bear (one of the links below) and this year I am giving a soft gift and I don’t like boxing gifts, I rather incorporate them into the design. It just feels more correct to me.
The person getting the gift asked for a new laptop case, which is what the gift is. They also mentioned wanting a beanbag chair or one of those low chairs they can use to basically sit on the floor (they make “gamer” chairs like that now). Since this person has no previous knowledge of how I give gifts, this one is the one I hope to zoom in for to watch them open.
The joke is that the “chair” is obviously too small, so once again I’m playing the hapless idiot. This is more “child size” than adult size, which will make it funny when they get it and even funnier when they open it. The really great part is that I used packing materials to “fluff” the arms with. They are made using some cardboard I cut and rounded and given volume with the packing materials. So when they go to pick it up it really will feel and act like a child sized chair. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but I find it’s hard to get good photos of my gifts. Probably because it’s hard to gauge depth since it’s all the same wrapping paper.
The best part is that I’m going to be really screwing with the person getting this because I also have a second gift. The second gift is wrapped very normally and very well. The trick with that one is that it’s tiny, so think box, inside box, inside box… etc. I’m hoping to leave them very confused up until the big reveal.
I mean I can wrap gifts normally, I swear. I just opt not to because it makes the holidays a bit more magical or maybe less predictable. Either way, while I’ve gotten a lot of reactions before the opening, ranging from sad, laughing because I’m obviously an idiot, to outright anger, the reaction to opening is always the same. You know that feeling when you were a kid and opened a gift? The feeling that probably is pretty dulled now that you’re an adult? Well it’s that, all over again. The realization that there really is a bit of magic left in the world and you got to witness it.
It makes the extra effort of wrapping (which let me reiterate, it is a lot of work) and the dealing with people’s reactions seeing the wrapped gifts for the first time well worth that moment. It’s a chance to see full grown adults be kids again and if that isn’t some holiday magic I don’t know what is.
Yes, COVID is here and it probably will be even worse next year. We can hope and work to make sure that isn’t the case and we really should. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t take a little extra effort to make the holidays special for those we care about. I think this is now the third year or so I’m sharing my wrapping tradition, which means there could very well be others out there doing the same thing. I really hope so, because it is a lot of fun.
Like I promised some of my previous years, as a bonus I found the stand mixer story! Granted this was retelling from memory so the details may be a bit off, but the reactions were certainly not!
- The year I ruined Christmas (the stand mixer story)
- I wrap better than you, a how to guide
- Stealth wrapping part 2 (follow up to the the I wrap better… post)
- Stealth wrapping part 3
Huh, I just realized I didn’t get to show off last years gifts since I was afraid one (or more) of the people getting gifts would come across my blog since they knew about it (or maybe I just can’t find those posts). In any case, hopefully this little guide has given you some ideas about how you can make the holidays (or any gift giving time) a lot more fun for the people you care about. Oh wait before I end this, just a fair bit of warning, birthdays are a good time for this, sure. However, I don’t know that I would do this for wedding gifts. Well, unless you’re feeling brave…