The Past and Present of Gift Wrap

Everyone has been there. You’re late to a birthday party and you fly thru Target, grabbing the first gift bag you see and an adhesive bow. Maybe some tissue paper if there’s time. 

Gift wrap has become a hallmark of American culture. The celebration of Christmas, birthdays, and Mother’s Day come with the expectation of gifts, and nobody wants to present a gift without adorning it for the occasion. But before we start curling ribbon, let’s take a look back. 

The art of gift wrapping dates back to Japan around 710 BC during the Nara Period. A cloth tsutsumi, meaning present or package, would be wrapped around important goods or treasures, usually found in Japanese temples.  

During the 2nd Century BC in China in the Southern Song Dynasty, when paper was invented, government officials began to wrap monetary gifts in a paper envelope known as a chih pao.

The Japanese later named their fabric wrapping a furoshiki, during the Muromachi period, which lasted from 1136 to 1573. It is believed a high society Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, built a large bathhouse to host feudal lords at his residence. His guests would wrap their kimonos in a custom adorned furoshiki cloth while they bathed to avoid confusion. They would also stand on these fabrics while drying, hence the translation of the word to “bath spread.” Soon these custom cloths became popular wraps for books, gifts, and merchandise.

In 1917 Joyce Clyde Hall and his brother Rollie, the men who would go on to develop the popular American gift brand Hallmark, accidentally invented modern gift-wrap in their Kansas City stationery store. When they ran out of the standard solid-colored tissue paper during the peak of the Christmas season, they found a stack of fancy French envelope liners and began to use them for wrapping presents. The trend became wildly popular and the fancy printed gift wrap quickly became an American standard. 

These days, you can find gift wrap just about anywhere. You can purchase paper with animated characters on it at the dollar store or you can special order a single roll of luxury wrapping paper online for $180. Some people choose the sustainable (and convenient) route of newspaper and grocery bags to wrap up their gifts. Others plan their wrapping themes weeks ahead of Christmas to match their holiday decor. 

Whatever your personal gift wrap preferences are, there is a gift wrap out there for everyone. Bigger Dot can even help you to customize and print your very own gift wrap for personal or professional purposes. While gift-giving can be special and rewarding, Kahlil Gibran said it best… “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

bigger dot is a global print project management company that provides custom, specialized and strategic print project solutions. We work with industries such as performing arts, tech, education, aerospace, and corporate culture changers.