When I was growing up, I worked holiday season evenings in my father’s jewelry store, mostly gift-wrapping.  He bought huge commercial rolls of paper, the selection of which every year was a matter of family consultation, since we also used it for family gifts.  Every one of my 38 cousins got a gift from us, as did we did from their families.  Usually my mother made something, or there was a theme.  One year, she knit mittens for everyone (she started in July); another year, everyone got belts.  The dining table was gift-wrapping central early in the season, before it turned into the homemade-candy-packing center.

I went to college and out on my own in the early days of the environmental movement – when, amazingly, we thought the worst problems were DDT and cutting too many trees for paper pulp. Having little money, and a desire to save trees, I started wrapping gifts in newspaper or other creative odds and ends; my favorite for shower gifts was dish towels – or cloth diapers worked for baby showers.

As I have said, The Lion in Winter is my favorite Christmas movie. Eleanor of Aquitane Wraps GiftsIt was also the inspiration for our Christmas gift bags, yet another of my attempts to reduce, reuse, recycle. In several scenes, Eleanor is wrapping or writing labels for packages, or carrying her intriguing bundles about. As you can see, the gifts seem to be wrapped in cloth secured with ribbon, with labels tied on.  Once we had children, the idea of mounds of wrapping paper, used once and tossed, was appalling.  I bought cotton Christmas prints and plain red and green calico, and spent an afternoon making drawstring bags in various sizes.  Each member of the family has a different fabric, so we don’t even need labels.  Wrapping is a matter of popping the gift into the bag and tying the drawstring.  The kids and the bags are in their twenties now.

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