The last few years have been wonderful for me and my family in a very specific and special way: new babies keep being born! My husband and I are both the oldest of multiple siblings, so we started having kids well before anyone else in our generation. But a few of our other sibs decided that they were ready to catch up, and boy, have they been busy! I am now a very happy auntie to a whole gaggle of gorgeous nieces and nephews. With each birth, I have tried to think of a special gift-giving experience to mark the occasion. Since I’m an artist, I often add some drawn or artistic embellishment. This year, with the birth of our second niece, was no exception.
Before I tell you what I did, I should add that there was a very fun twist to this gift. It was not just to recognize a new baby… it was also to recognize a new big brother! This particular big brother was just over 1 year old, and welcoming a new baby into the home was going to herald major changes for him. Having a special treat to acknowledge a new sibling is always a good idea and I settled pretty quickly on what to get these special kiddos: a set of clothes for the baby and a new wooden train set for the big brother. The thing that I was most excited about however, was how I was going to wrap these gifts.
I have a deep, passionate history with gift wrapping. When I was growing up, my American grandma had a gorgeous gift shop in the heart of the Catskills. It was called “The Shop In The Valley” and had a bell on the door that tinkled every time a customer wandered in. My grandma traveled all over Europe nosing out unique and charming objects to put on her shelves. My favorites were the Christmas decorations she would bring home from Germany: nutcrackers with golden lapels and shining, white teeth; wooden Santas with pipes that real smoke would billow out of; and minutely decorated advent calendars with tiny chocolates hidden behind cardboard doors.
To say that I loved that roll of wrapping paper doesn’t do the matter justice. I aspired to it.
But my favorite spot in my grandma’s shop was the counter. That’s where she kept her behemoth, antique cash register. Despite all of its tempting buttons and analogue calculators, the register was functionally little more than a fancy money box. And behind the counter, was my favorite thing in the entire shop: a massive roll of wrapping paper.
To say that I loved that roll of wrapping paper doesn’t do the matter justice. I aspired to it. To me, that roll of printed paper symbolized adulthood, of having enough money to select and purchase gifts. The moment of careful thought that my grandma took to select the pattern for each season—gentle bursts of watercolor roses in summer or repeated red cardinals in deep winter—was the first step in a larger pattern of the care that gift-giving writ large represents. And wrapping presents for customers? There could be no greater thrill. In fact, one of the most wonderful times during my childhood was a stretch of days one summer when my grandma had me work at her store’s counter. I checked out customers and gave them change for their cotton napkins and greeting cards. If one of their purchases happened to be a gift, I boxed it up and wrapped it just like my grandma showed me: perfectly cut paper, tight corners, curled ribbon.
My love for wrapping gifts has not dimmed one iota since that summer. While Christmas shopping often sends me into a low grade existential crisis, I almost always take the time in November to strategize how I will wrap my gifts. I buy blue gift wrap for Hanukkah and always keep rolls of paper and ribbon on hand in case a special occasion pops up. One always does! So when I started planning these gifts for our new niece and her big brother, I was scheming ways to make them look extra special from the beginning.
Sometimes when I want a gift to really stand out, I’ll rely on some design element, like a large bow on a tiny package or selecting ribbon in a surprising color (coral orange is my favorite!). This time I decided that it would be all about the gift tags. Drawing babies and toddlers is one of my favorite pastimes, so I thought it would be fun to make gift tags that resembled their recipients. I started doodling around in my sketchbook and pretty quickly found myself drawing that quintessential big sibling pose: the toddler holding the baby in their lap. Then I thought, “wouldn’t it be fun if the gift tags did this? What if they hugged?!”And that was it! After making that choice, I was off to the races!
Of course, I was not expecting a little baby and a rowdy toddler to appreciate the care that I put into this, but I was certainly excited for their mom and dad to enjoy the cuteness. Gift wrapping can be a very creative way to extend the joy of the gift exchange process and add that little something extra to let your loved one know just how much you care. And in the case of a new baby, what a special way to demonstrate the joy you feel at their arrival!
I made a YouTube video of my entire process making these gift tags which you can see HERE.
I would love to hear what gift wrapping means to you. Do you love it and go whole hog? Do you wish you did but don’t have the time or the skills to make it happen? Or do you think it’s an annoying hassle that you would rather do without?! Share your thoughts!
Thanks for taking the time to read all about my gift wrapping obsession and our family’s sweet new addition.
See you at the drawing board,