Your parents have finally given the go-ahead. The only thing that stands between you and packages full of fun and excitement is a bunch of bows, string and fancy paper.

But before you tear into that wrapping paper, take a few minutes to WONDER about why it’s even there!

The tradition of giving gifts didn’t start with the modern holidays we celebrate each winter. Many ancient cultures celebrated various holidays that involved the giving of gifts.

In fact, gift-giving is probably as old as love itself! Can you think of a time when you bought or made a really special gift for someone?

Giving truly can be more rewarding than receiving. People who love to give gifts often can’t wait until it’s time for the recipient to open their gift.

If you’ve ever given a gift, you know that part of the fun is the anticipation and curiosity that builds as the recipient wonders what the gift is.

If gifts weren’t wrapped, much of the fun would be gone. If the recipient could see what the gift was immediately, all of that anticipation and surprise would be lost.

The desire to hide the identity of a gift until just the right moment led people to wrap gifts long, long ago. Historians believe wrapping gifts in paper probably started not long after paper was invented thousands of years ago.

Wrapping paper like we use today, though, is a much more recent invention. More than 100 years ago, gifts were usually wrapped in simple tissue paper or heavy brown paper. Before that, cloth was often used, such as a handkerchief or a napkin.

The technology to mass-produce decorated, easily foldable wrapping paper didn’t come along until the early 1900s. The first American gift wrap company — Hy-Sill Manufacturing Inc. — was founded by Eli Hyman and Morris Silverman in 1903.

It wasn’t as easy to wrap presents back then as it is today, though. Because adhesive tape wasn’t invented until 1930, early gift wrappers had to skillfully secure wrapped packages with string and sealing wax.

Over the years, wrapping paper has evolved into the colorful varieties we see in stores each holiday season. Some people have started to worry, though, about the impact wrapping paper has on the environment.

Scientists estimate that the United States alone generates an extra 5 million tons of waste over the holidays, most of which is from wrapping paper and shopping bags.

To reduce this waste, some people carefully unwrap presents, so that the wrapping paper can be reused. Others have started to use reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper.


66 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (30 votes, avg. 4.20 out of 5)
    • You’re right, Faith! Wrapping presents helps to build the excitement for the person who received the gift AND for the person who gave it! :-)

    • Hello, Sierra! Opening presents is SUPER fun! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis today and sharing your comment with us! We hope you have a very happy New Year, too! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for letting us know you thought it was interesting, Laura! We hope you learned some new things about the history of wrapping presents and the spirit of giving! :-)

  1. I really like the Wonder of the day! It was awesome! Do you know how many varieties of wrapping paper their are? And, how many years have Americans used wrapping paper?


    • Hello, Emma! Those are GREAT questions! We’re not sure how many different varieties of wrapping paper there are, but we think people in America have wrapped presents for as long as anyone can remember! We think wrapping presents with paper probably became super popular with the invention of adhesive tape in 1930…tape makes wrapping MUCH easier! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you enjoyed this Wonder, Kamryn! We really appreciate your comment! The decorations on wrapping paper can be placed there by a variety of different methods. They can be painted on, stamped on, printed by machine, or even hand-drawn! :-)

  2. I love how they talk about wrapping paper in the old days. I thought it was going to be in the present (now). I just thought that was cool.

    • We think learning the history of things is really neat, Brianna! We’re so glad that you do, too! Thank you for exploring this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We appreciate you sharing that you liked visiting this Wonder, Alisa! Thank you so much for letting us know that by leaving us your comment! :-)

    • EVERY Wonder is our favorite Wonder, Katie! We love them all because we learn something new and different by exploring each one!

      Did you know that many of the ideas for our Wonders of the Day come from the WONDERing minds of awesome people just like you? It’s super easy to tell us what you think would make a great Wonder! Just click on the “nominate” button at the top of every page in Wonderopolis and answer the questions. It’s a lot of FUN! Plus, there’s a BIG chance that you will see your idea featured as a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  3. Wow, that’s a LOT of wrapping paper!! Eek!
    But we will never stop wrapping… and ripping open our presents! :)

    Some of us don’t like wrapping our presents in bags because you can see inside… peekers!

    Wrapping looked so easy in that video, but it’s really difficult!

    We LOVE Christmas, and we thank you for this wonder of the day!

    • Now, we KNOW there aren’t any “present peekers” in your class, are there, 5A in Gibbons? :-)

      Thanks for sharing your awesome comment with us today! We agree that wrapping presents is a bit tricky sometimes, but we still love to wrap, wrap, wrap! It makes us happy to give gifts to others! :-)

  4. I love Christmas, but I hate wrapping presents. I’m not good at it. I like getting and giving gifts, though. Especially to my friends, Katelyn and Kylie and Emmy! :)

    • You are a GREAT Wonder Friend, Kami! We’re sure Katelyn, Kylie and Emmy appreciate receiving gifts from you! We bet you are an AWESOME present-wrapper, too! :-)

  5. The video was awesome. It was fast, but I still loved the video so so so much. How does he wrap that fast? I gave my mommy bath and body works lotion, and she gave me bath and body works lotion and sponge and bracelets from bath and body works, and my mommy’s friend gave me stuff, oh, and a stocking. The end.

    • Happy Friday, Hailey! Thank you so much for sharing all the great gift giving that has been going on between you, your family and your friends this holiday season! Those gifts all sound AWESOME! :-)

  6. We wrap presents because if you want something for Christmas, you have to wrap it. I would like to help my mom wrap my little brother’s presents sometimes.

    • We think your mom would really appreciate your helpful attitude about wrapping presents, Nick! Thank you for leaving us this comment today! :-)

    • Well, WE love that YOU love Wonderopolis and all the Wonders of the Day, Nolan! What a super nice comment you left for us today! :-)

  7. I Like Christmas, because you get presents. I bought my sister shoes and pants. I gave my momma a glass for Valentines Day.

    • You sound like a very thoughtful Wonder Friend, Eric! We bet your mom and sister really appreciated the awesome gifts you gave them! :-)

    • Hi, Logan! Just like learning any new skill or sport, you get better at wrapping presents if you practice! We’re pretty sure the person in the video had LOTS of wrapping experience! Thank you so much for leaving us this great comment! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT way to think about how important wrapping paper is, Jackson…way to go! Thank you for visiting this Wonder today! :-)

    • Hello, Billy Bob Joe! Thanks for letting us know how you feel about wrapping presents! We think it’s AWESOME that you like to give presents around the holidays! :-)

    • We think you are absolutely right, PH! Thank you for sharing what you think about wrapping presents! We liked receiving your comment! :-)

  8. I think we wrap so we get excited and WONDER what it is. Unwrapping and wrapping presents is so FUN!
    Franklin(Frank) Micheal Deeters

    • We like the way you think, Franky! Wrapping and unwrapping gifts IS fun! We also like how you said people “WONDER” what a present is…so COOL! :-)

  9. Franky is by big brother. For Christmas I got him a new DSI game. It is ___________. I wrapped it all by myself!
    ;] Wait! how do you do a face?
    Jilly Catherine Deeters

    • Whew! That was a CLOSE one, Jilly! We took out the name of the video game you mentioned in case Franky reads the comments again! We wouldn’t want to ruin his surprise! We’re proud of you for wrapping Franky’s present all by yourself, too!

      To make a face, you put these characters together without any spaces (we used spaces here so you could see the characters we used): : – ) :-)

  10. That is soooooo cool!
    Instead of my art teacher having a baby on the 18th, she had it THIS morning!
    Two days early, it’s a boy!
    His name is Maxwell.
    I love it!
    If you could do a wonder of the day for me tomorrow or the 18th or the19th that would be awesome (on babies, of course)!

    • Hi, Mak! That is WONDERful news about your art teacher! We bet baby Maxwell is as cute as can be! We don’t have any Wonders coming up in the very near future that are specifically about babies, but you might really like the one coming up on 12/19! It has to do with people of ALL ages—from very young to very old! :-)

    • Your comment makes us super happy, Rebecca! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis and for letting us know you enjoy learning new things here! :-)

  11. I love wrapping presents. That is my favorite part of Christmas, besides seeing the person I gave the gift to opening it. I know this might sound odd for a kid to be saying this, but I have found that I enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore opening presents, too. Overall wrapping, opening, and definitely giving gifts are some of my favorite parts of the holidays.

    • We don’t think it’s odd that you are a kid who likes giving gifts more than receiving them, Yo Yo, we think it’s WONDERful! We can tell from your comment that you have a super big heart and really love put others before yourself. That is an AWESOME way to be! :-)

  12. I love the feeling of receiving something and opening a present, it gets everyone into the holiday spirit, and why can’t anyone keep their holiday spirit?

    • Hi there, Lucie! Thanks so much for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and leaving us this great comment! We know LOTS of Wonder Friends who help keep their holiday spirit once the new year begins by helping others, having a positive attitude and being extra nice. Even though some people are only this way during the holiday season, we can all help to make the world a better place by trying to be this way throughout the year! :-)

  13. Why I think presents should be wrapped is because it could be a secret because if they did not get what you wanted because they did not have that much money than they do not want you to get mad and not want what they got you, so that’s why they wrap our presents.

    • That’s a really awesome way to think about why we wrap presents, Jocelyn! It’s nice of you to think about other people’s feelings, too! We’re super proud of you for that! :-)

  14. You’re welcome. I couldn’t think of anything at first, but when I really realized that many people don’t think of to say thank you because they’re just too excited.

    • Well, we like Wonder Friends like YOU, Jocelyn, because they share how much they like learning in Wonderopolis! Thank you for sharing YOUR comment with us today! :-)

  15. I love the question! I had never really thought about why the presents were wrapped (I was too busy being excited to open them!), but when I saw the wonder I instantly thought about it. It’s kind of weird , if you think about it, that people have to put your present in a big wad of paper with a bow on top before you can open it, but it will always be a present, so if I were you, I wouldn’t take much time to think about it. Open it!

    • We like that idea, Lauren! Just open it! It’s really fun to get presents, but we think it’s even more fun to GIVE them! Thank you for leaving us this SUPER comment! :-)

  16. My parents wrap some and don’t wrap others because my dad never had his wraped when he was little and my mom always did so they compromise and wrap some and don’t wrap others.

    • Hi there, Maya! We think it’s cool that your parents compromise and share their own traditions of giving gifts! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

    • Hi Alexis! We <3 you too! There’s lots of different ways to wrap a gift! The most traditional way to cut a piece of wrapping paper to the shape of the item and then using tape to secure it! We’re sure there’s lots of wrapping going on now with Christmas! :)

  17. What is the author of this articles first and last name? Im doing research for class and this is the best answer i have gotten to the question, “Why do we wrap presents?” But I wont get credit if I don’t have the proper citation. To achieve a proper citation i need the authors first and last name.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do we wrap presents?
  • Can wrapping paper be recycled?
  • When did modern wrapping paper become popular?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to get crafty? If you want to save money, do some recycling or just make the coolest personalized wrapping paper ever, then we’ve got the activity for you.

It’s time to make homemade wrapping paper! Read the directions and look at the pictures.

What fun ideas do you have to make wrapping paper that’s uniquely from you? Whether you include personal artwork, your fingerprints or ideas that come straight from the heart, you’re sure to create wrapping paper that will be treasured as much as the gift itself.

When you’re finished, email us a picture of your wrapping paper, or post a picture on Facebook. We’d love to see what you create!


Still Wondering

Gifts aren’t the only things we wrap. Use ReadWriteThink’s Three Ways To Bind a Handmade Book worksheet to learn three techniques for bookbinding to make children’s books easier to keep, share and display.


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