Tales From A Hungry Life

December 14, 2011

Christmas Wrapping

By Maria Lagalante Schulz

There are some things about Christmas that I really love—in theory. For instance, I love the idea of going into Manhattan and seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center. I love the prospect of going on a carriage ride around Central Park. I love the idea of seeing all of the windows along 5th Avenue and maybe even seeing Santa Claus at Macy’s in Herald Square.

But here’s the reality: when I do go into Manhattan to see the tree, I’m overwhelmed by the crush of people walking aimlessly into me or running my feet over with strollers. The amount of time I actually spend looking at the tree dwarfs in comparison to the length of time it takes to get close to it.

I have played the tourist and taken a ride around Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage, but it was absolutely freezing and the

Mom, Dad, Maria & Santa

horse smelled. Likewise, I’ve stood in line with a million other people to gaze at the windows on 5th Avenue and I even got in to see Santa in Macy’s at Herald Square a few times. All of this was fun, especially when it was over.

Most of all, I think my favorite “theoretical” thing to do at Christmas time is wrap gifts. I can see what every gift is going to look like in my fantasy: a wonderland of ribbons, bows, perfectly straight seams and corners, and whimsical gift wrap chosen specifically for the person whose gift I’m wrapping.

But what really happens? I’m usually in a wrapping induced lather, lunging for any old roll of paper I can find (so what if it’s get well paper? Who cares? I have to finish!) Empty or broken tape dispensers lay around me like old tires in a dump, and it’s usually about 4 in the morning before I go to bed…for two hours.

When I was a kid, my mother would gather all of her gifts together about a week before Christmas, set them out on the dining room table, and ask for help. With nine people in the family, plus grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, there were about a million gifts sitting there, just waiting to get wrapped.

We’d put on some music and get started. Eventually, the pile would dwindle, but it took many days and man-hours before we made a dent in it. To this day, the sight of a pile of unwrapped gifts makes me think of my mother–and have a minor panic attack.

I spent many years working in a department store, and the one department that I despised more than any other was Gift Wrapping. I completely understood why people were mad at me when they handed over their beautiful gifts and I fumbled with the store paper, trying to make the gift look at least presentable. I’d curl the ribbons and tie the bows, but they always looked limp and sorry. The best part of all was when the customer would point up to the display area, at a box that was probably wrapped by Michelangelo, and say to me: “I want my gift to look like that.”

Cold beads of sweat would roll down my forehead while I prayed that the real gift wrap lady would get back from her break already, before I handed the customer my “masterpiece,” or at least before the screaming started.

There was nothing like working in a department store to make a person hate wrapping gifts. I never understood why the gift wrap ladies all chain smoked and drank gallons of coffee until I made the mistake of going over there, smokeless and under-caffeinated.

So, for those of you like me who are “wrapping challenged,” here are some tips and tricks to help you deal with the little-known Christmas malady, WIPTSS (Wrapping Induced Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).

22 Ways to Avoid WIPTSS:

  1. Meet The Dollar Store: your one true friend. Go there and stock up on the cheapest wrapping supplies you can lay your hands on
  2. Never forget: Gift Bags are God’s gift to the uncoordinated
  3. Remember: A.B.T. (Always Buy Tape)
  4. Curling ribbon is not a life skill. If you can do it—great! If not, join the club
  5. Aluminum foil is shiny and no scissors are required
  6. Should you chose not to go the aluminum foil route, make sure to place scissors strategically around the house
  7. Expect to be unable to find any scissors in any of your strategic locations at any time
  8. Patronize stores that say joyful things like, “Can I wrap that for you—for free?”
  9. Never do today what you can put off until December 24th.

10. Brush up on physics; it is usually not wise to buy large, oddly shaped boxes and only one roll of wrapping paper. For instance, the Barbie Town House requires at least 2 or 3 rolls

11. Just because it says you can wrap 1 robe and 3 dress shirt boxes with one roll of wrapping paper doesn’t mean that you actually can

12. Small children are much smarter than you. If you want to keep the Santa Claus illusion alive and kicking, buy different wrapping paper for any gifts that come from Santa.

13. Likewise, print out labels or use your non-writing hand when doing gift tags or your smart aleck kid will say, “Santa has the same handwriting as you!”

14. Stick with rectangular gifts, books, shirts in clothing boxes, gloves, picture frames, or games if you want your gifts to look halfway decent

15. Surrender gracefully when your gift refuses all attempts at being wrapped. That’s what bows are for.

16. Resist the urge to buy that fancy, thin, foil wrapping paper. Unlike aluminum foil, it costs way too much and it will definitely rip (probably just as you finish wrapping the gift). Expensive foil wrapping paper is known to cause the next stage after WIPTSS, which is WIPTP (Wrapping Induced Post Traumatic Psychosis)

17. Never compete with gift-wrapping goddesses. They are obviously just neat-freak zombies who do everything perfectly. Do you want to have your brains sucked out so you can wrap gifts perfectly? I don’t think so.

18. Remember that your gift paper will be torn to shreds in approximately 10 seconds; 2 seconds if it’s a child opening it

19. Go green. Or appear to go green because it’s too late to use the non-green gift-wrap you really want and all the stores all closed. You can use newspapers, tissue paper, scraps of wrapping paper taped together, construction paper, even paper towels. Also see gift bags and aluminum foil, above

20. Put on some Christmas music. Everything seems better when “Christmas Wrapping” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” are on

21. Eat something. Christmas cookies are known to soothe the spirits of even the most delirious sufferers of WIPTSS.

22. Have a drink. It’s the magical way to see all of your gifts as a wonderland of ribbons, bows, perfectly straight seams and corners, and whimsical, personalized gift-wrap—even if all you used was butcher paper, duct tape and twine.


Wrapping gifts always makes me hungry, thirsty, and maybe just a little crazy. Here’s a little something to get you through the rough patches.

Amaretto Fudge Cappuccino Recipe


Biscotti Recipe


P.S. If you’re really stressed, you can just add a shot of Amaretto to your own coffee and open a box of your favorite cookies. Enjoy!

So, do you have a funny story to share about your own Christmas stressors? Please leave a comment and let us all in on the fun.



  1. Excellent tips! Too bad Reynolds Wrap is the only foil that works right, store brands are so much cheaper….

    Comment by Turafish — December 14, 2011 @ 10:52 am | Reply

  2. I am an advocate of Newspaper and Tin Foil! But when I run out of the foil, I have to gift wrap my lunch for work.

    Comment by Chris — December 14, 2011 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  3. I will confess now that it is safe to do so. I never wrapped any gifts. I had the store do it. BUT I once was the dutiful father who bought his oldest a bike. Little did I know I had to assemble it. Back in the day, WAY BACK, all gifts came assembled. Anyway, my wife was really bent on me putting this thing together so this particular Christmas Eve we were at home she reading instructions and me physically assembling, which by the way I wasn’t very good at and still am not. We started out laughing and having a good time, I even stole a few kisses. However when we went past midnight and the dam thing wasn’t even half assembled. Finally by two or three in the morning when all the giggles were gone and the only kisses I would get would be the ones giving me the kissoff. Finally I almost had it done but one piece wouldn’t fit so I pushed real hard and my hand was cut, blood was flowing, then I noticed my pants leg was ripped and blood was coming from that hole which I figured was coming from the hole that had to be in my leg. ANYHOW, the bike was put together and under the tree, but not wrapped, not even a bow. Finally I stopped bleeding and we went to bed sleeping not facing one another. Of course a few hours later we were woke by our screaming kids. Merry Christmas. I never bought anything that required assembly after that.

    Comment by Bglou — December 14, 2011 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  4. Hey mom! I loved reading it, and I promised I would, remember? So here I am in creative writing, writing a review creatively. Or at least that’s what I’m saying. Your tips for wrapping should include this: ‘Force daughter to become a labor slave so she can wrap presents.’ Miss you mom! Can’t wait to see you. And grandpa’s review scares me. Love you!

    Comment by Maddie — December 14, 2011 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

    • My comment scares me too that’s why I never assembled anything ever again!

      Comment by Bglou — December 14, 2011 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  5. Maria like you I too worked in a department store, B’Altman in Manhasset. I loved that place, especially at Christmas time. They taught me to make beautiful bows. It is my favorite relaxing thing to do. Next time I see you walking your dog I will show you my presents. My sister and I always compete on who’s presents look prettier. I usually see hers first and frantically run home to undo all of mine.So if you wanted me to wrap your presents with beautiful bows bring them over. I’ll have to put out my cigarettes and make an extra pot coffee. Btw it’s the only crafty thing I can do so I often brag about it.

    Comment by Suzanne — December 14, 2011 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

    • Wow–my Uncle Don worked at B. Altman’s forever. He was in Ladies’ Shoes. What department were you in?

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 14, 2011 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  6. Hello, Maria. Funny stuff. I just spent a heap on wrapping paper, bows and gift bags (fundraiser at school). Is it wrong to give THOSE items as gifts? Maybe put a bow in a bag? Or tie a ribbon around a roll?

    Comment by Lisa — December 14, 2011 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  7. I love all those “theoretical” Christmas doing things as well, mostly it amounts to my staying home comfy and cozy with a shot of Rum in my Egg Nog, which by the way, I’ve had a lot of this season. My eyes are crossing as I sip my Drambuie and wait for my Russian Tea Balls to come out of the oven. I… on the other hand… like to gift wrap…not terrific at it but I give it a good seasonal try. Chris hates – hates – hates to gift wrap so i always end up with horribly wrapped gifts. I’ve grown to like the brown bag, you save your brown bags and cut them for a gift, then; you can take markers and draw a design on it or anything… it’s neat.
    I am afraid to gift wrap any gift before Christmas because Honey will eat the paper off of them…so gifts for now remain in their store bought plastic bags and the tree is pretty enough without anything under it. I love number 15… it is soooo true. Some gifts will just not be wrapped – why force it? Russian Tea Balls need tending to. Love to read your blogs. It reminds me of all my own stories. What your mother did with gift wrapping my mother did with Cuccidates, a sicilian cookie that she made like no other, we all helped her bake and prep these wonderful gems of tradition, we all had a part in helping her put together these cookies and it was a real project to produce. Memories…

    Comment by Anne — December 17, 2011 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  8. […] some of you who have read my blog post, Christmas Wrapping, already know, wrapping presents was not one of my innate gifts. I think I would’ve had a better […]

    Pingback by Flying High | Tales From A Hungry Life — August 21, 2013 @ 6:59 am | Reply

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