Magpie Gift Wrapping Night.

By: Jen Shoop
Making gift-giving and gift-wrapping brighter and more meaningful this year.

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One evening a few years ago, I was crouched beside my bed in NYC, frantically wrapping a stack of gifts before a few family members arrived for a Christmas cocktail hour. I’d gotten into the habit of “on-demand wrapping,” meaning I’d dig beneath my bed for my bin of gift wrap materials a few hours prior to crossing paths with the recipient, and then wait until the next convening to wrap the next gift for the next recipient. I sat back on my heels, annoyed, wondering whether slapping a bow on the top would suffice. The experience had become unpleasant, harried, and entirely devoid of meaning. I thought of my mother-in-law, who would never have permitted this to happen. My MIL is the type of person who makes everything magic by virtue of careful, artful presentation. An appetizer is never without the perfect plate and festive cocktail napkin. An activity for the children will materialize with a big bow or cello wrap on top. A small hand-made ornament will be equally as beautiful as the display case she’s designed for it. On birthdays, she festoons her dining room with garlands and pinwheels and beautifully arranged vases of flowers, transforming the space into a gift itself. The effect? Magic. A feeling of being held and loved. Head-on celebratoriness. Attention is a form of love.

I will never be able to replicate or even approach her talents in this category, but I sat there and thought: “I’m missing something here.” When did gift-giving and gift-wrapping become such a chore, so distant from its original intent, which is (I think) to say: “I see you and I love you and I wanted to give you something to show you how carefully I listen to you.”

The following year, I changed tack. I designated one evening in early December to enjoy the gift-wrapping process. I pulled out all the gift wrap accoutrements, put on a Christmas movie, mixed up a holiday cocktail, and enlisted Mr. Magpie’s company. I felt better tethered to the true meaning of gifting, as I found Mr. Magpie and I discussing each item, why it had been selected, and what the recipient would make of it. We also took our time, pausing to watch the movie, enjoy the cocktail, relax. I felt as though we’d reclaimed the gifting process. It had become something to savor and celebrate rather than “that thing we need to get done because it’s expected of us.” I should mention that this change in perspective (and process) arrived on the heels of a broader insight that I had been rushing through the parts of my daily life that felt like “interruptions to” rather than “the fabric of” my life. I’d realized, with some shock, that the chores, the errands, the meal prep, the gift wrapping were not “getting in the way of living” — they were part of living, its very architecture. It’s not that we always enjoy them, but we can at least attend to them with focus. Gift giving happens to be one of those areas that can, in fact, be pleasant and even profound if I make the space for it.

My suggestion is this: at some point in the next month, set aside a night to enjoy the gifting process. Put on a holiday playlist, mix up a cocktail (egg nog gets my vote — recipe following), spread out the gift wrap all over the living room floor, and make it a holiday ritual rather than crammed-in-where-it-can-be chore.

My email subscribers received a special edition this morning that includes my favorite holiday cookie and cocktail recipes, holiday playlists, gift wrapping inspo, gift tag prompts (printable, or you can just crib the prompt onto your own tag!), and more that are helping me get into the spirit this year round. I’m sharing Mr. Magpie’s Egg Nog recipe below (carefully refined over the years!), but if you want the full email, you can sign up here and I’ll send it over!

Mr. Magpie’s Egg Nog.


This post may contain affiliate linksIf you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+For the nog, we use these glasses, and order our nutmeg from here.

+I shared a detailed post on making excellent cocktails at home here. Most of our favorite cocktail-making gear can be found here.

+All of my gift wrap closet must-haves here. I also have a section of my favorite Amazon gift wrap finds here.

+Meaningful gifts for men, women, and children.

+Fun holiday finds from Amazon.

+It’s been really cold in DC this week (in the 20s! — in Chicago, this was “warm” for this time of year), and I’ve been wearing my Dudley Stephens fleece over tissue turtlenecks and beneath my heavy-duty winter parka. Perfect layering recipe.

+A cute and virtually unbreakable set of holiday trees for a little one’s room.

+I’m going to be “guest reader” in my son’s classroom today (he is going to FLIP), and I had fun picking out a book from our bookshelves to bring in. Curious: what would you bring in to read to your child’s class? (I feel like this is a good litmus for selecting an engaging, fun, beautiful book!). I’m currently debating between The Digger and the Flower and Grumpy Monkey, two of my favorite books to read to Hill. Both have beautiful messages, but are engaging to read with great illustrations.

+These shearling-lined trainers are so chic! Love!

+Yesterday, I mentioned a feathered, cropped jacket as a great topper for evening wear. I found the look for less here!


+J. McLaughlin is sending me this coat in the pale pink!!! Eek! So cute!

+MEEP — tiny NB 550s!

+Speaking of sneakers, love these rainbow APLs for me…

+Chanel earmuffs. So extra, so amazing.

+Pulled-together lounge outfit.

+Did you order your holiday cards already? These are SO cute!

+I added some holiday round-ups to my LTK feed here.

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18 thoughts on “Magpie Gift Wrapping Night.

  1. I so admire women like your MIL. I always have grand ambitions of lovely ribbons and tags, but at the end of the day I wrap exactly like my dad: with geometric precision and the recipient’s name written on in cursive.

    One thing I’m adding to my tradition this year is making a stocking for a friend! She’s just been through an acrimonious divorce and I realized she has no one to make her Christmas magic. I’ve gotten her some truffles, a sheet mask, a little black Penguin book of Kate Chopin short stories, and a Jo Malone Christmas cracker. If you know any single moms, I think they deserve a little holiday cheer.

    We live internationally, so I use Postable for my holiday cards! They address and mail them. This year ours was a double sided birth announcement-cum-Christmas card for our little Margot.

    My MIL is taking my toddler today so my husband and I will watch a TV comedy and gift wrap! We have some special barrel-aged beers reserved for the occasion. I love making an event of it.

    Something that’s important to me is that my son be involved in choosing/making a small gift each for his dad and I. I want him to see, participate in, and even glory in the emotional labor that goes into making the holidays special, which so often is the sole domain of women. I’m so glad I get to do the gifts, but some years there has been resentment tied up, especially if no one is celebrating me. My husband has luckily learned not only the art of a thoughtful gift for me, but actively participating in the gift giving for his whole side. It makes the lead up to Christmas much more fun for me! He’s even making the sugar cookie dough this year (his first time, so cross your fingers for him!) since I’m so busy with our newborn.

    1. I love everything you’ve mentioned here, right down to the barrel-aged beer for your gift wrapping occasion. I agree — it’s the “making an event of it!” That’s the thing! You can make so many “chores” or “must-dos” companionable, even enjoyable, if you make an event of it. FWIW, I love that you don’t do the lovely ribbons and tags and instead do things “exactly like your dad.” What a sweet observation! I love the way we become extensions of our parents gestures.


  2. How timely! I just volunteered in my daughter’s kindergarten class last Friday too — I read I Wish You Knew by Jackie Azua Kramer. I cried when I read it (privately) the first time! It was such a treat to be hugged so ecstatically by my daughter when I arrived in school. And I discovered some very interesting things about some of the kids in class, based on the discussion afterwards — particularly from some kids who I didn’t expect would share their insights.

    Gifting (and adjacent to that, gift wrapping) is my love language, second to food! I remember growing up, my mom would have us all around the kitchen table with all the gift wrap supplies. To simplify the process she’d have a “theme” for her gift wrapping each year. One year it was brown kraft paper with swirly hand-lettered messages, another year was the year of curling ribbon, etc. To this day I enjoy the entire process!

    1. Love this! And love the book you chose, too. I’m impressed with the vision of you leading discussion afterward! I wish I’d prepared more along those lines — I asked sort of silly follow up questions about when we feel grumpy, what we do, but that was the extent of it. It was really so special to see my son so excited :). He flew across the room and launched himself into my arms. I will never forget it!


  3. I love picture books and recently read Possum’s Harvest Moon to my son’s class. As we got started, I asked the children what animals they thought Possum would invite to his party, and they were so thrilled when their guess showed up on a page. 🙂 Will be watching this thread for other recs because I am looking for a good friendship themed one! Choosing a book for a class is trickier than for a one on one read snuggled on the couch.

    Loved the special edition wrapping email and looking forward to my party soon!

    1. I don’t have the Possum book! I can’t believe that I’ve read basically none of the ones you Magpies have recommended here! Thanks for the suggestion. Agree that you need to think about the classroom book a bit differently than you might “cuddle on the couch” type book. It has to be engaging, fun to read. I’m also always sensitive to number of words on each page. I feel like it’s important to keep a good pace with little kiddos who are often not THAT close to the page.


  4. How fun to be the guest reader! It always feels like such an honor to visit the classroom. Two I’ve brought that were well-received by preschoolers are Big Truck, Little Island by Chris Van Dusen (wonderful message about creative problem solving) and 100 Mighty Dragons All Named Broccoli by David LaRochelle (very silly and elicited many giggles, with some math thrown in). Grumpy Monkey is wonderful and a favorite in our home too!

    1. We don’t have the Dragons one — added to my cart immediately! Love the Van Dusen book, though — agree with you on the thoughtful message!

      It was really fun to be there. He was SO excited when I appeared at the door!


  5. My kids love “It Was You, Blue Kangaroo!” They have it memorized. They also love “Chez Bob,” which even to me is hilarious!

  6. It’s so wonderful that you get to be a guest reader for your son’s class!! I can still remember my mom coming to my first grade class to help with math. It was always fun to see her during the school day 🙂 Looking back, I think her taking an hour out of her work day to come to my school showed me how important education is, and how much she (and my dad) valued us receiving a good education.

    1. This is so sweet! I also remember my mom reading to my class — it always made me feel so incredibly special. I loved “showing my mom off.” xx

  7. This is my tradition as well and I look forward to it every year! I have four kids and there are two other things I do that seem to help with the Christmas craziness. Before we start wrapping, we take presents out of the packaging, assemble, put batteries in, etc. That way on Christmas morning my husband and I don’t have to deal with scissors, tiny screwdrivers or kids hovering while we put their toy together. Also, a few years ago I bought the extra large L.L. Bean totes for each kid and I stash most of their gifts there before Christmas. Then, on Christmas morning, they put their opened gifts in their tote so there aren’t toys strewn all over the floor and there’s no confusion over who got what. It also makes it easier to put the presents away!

    1. These are SUCH great tips! Especially love the idea of using the sack for Christmas morning madness. So smart!

      Thank you for sharing – will be borrowing these myself!


  8. Love the idea of a wrapping night! I wish I had more shopping done so I could do it this weekend. My mom usually sets up a card table in her basement with all the wrapping supplies and it stays up until the wrapping is done. It’s still more of a wrap-as-you-go situation, but at least the supplies are ready to go. Also – when I was the mystery reader in kindergarten last year, I read The Rabbit Listened. I mostly focused on picking something that’s not too long for their little attention spans! I like the idea of Grumpy Monkey 🙂

    1. I love “The Rabbit Listened”!!! One of my absolute favorites — great choice.

      Love your mom’s gift wrap station! Just having everything out and accessible is half the battle.


    2. Hi Stephanie, we love The Rabbit Listened in our family too! Such a great reminder, even for (especially for?) the adults, as I catch myself sometimes going into solution mode with my daughter when she’d really just prefer my presence in that moment.

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