When I was a kid, I remember being startled by the realization that Santa Claus treated every family differently. In my family, we woke up on Christmas mornings to find unwrapped gifts neatly arranged on four sofas, with little signs in front of them saying who each "section" of gifts was for. I didn't know until I was an adult that this actually isn't the norm, and that many families wrap their "Santa" gifts. Now, as a parent myself, I'm beginning to experiment with how Santa can give presents in our family.
Unwrapped gifts, arranged under the tree or in the living room, are not an uncommon tradition. I'm partial to this technique because it's how Santa Claus made Christmas happen for me. For some children, the thrill of seeing all your presents at once can be greater than the excitement of opening them one at a time. Unwrapped presents are also better for the environment and save a lot of time and money for Santa and his elves.
There are disadvantages to this tradition, though. If you have more than one child, it can be difficult to make it clear which gift is for whom, and many a fight has erupted on Christmas morning over whether Santa meant for that train to go to Johnny or Jack. Many kids and parents also get more enjoyment out of the anticipation and joy of opening gifts one at a time.
In other families, wrapped gifts are a preferable option. Wrapped presents can be placed under the tree and easily labeled to be given to their intended recipients. Many kids also find Christmas more magical when it includes the excitement of opening presents from Santa.
Ritual itself can affect whether or not Santa uses wrapping paper. In my significant other's family, gifts from parents were in a specific wrapping paper, but Santa wrapped his presents in a specially chosen paper that had Santa Claus on it. Over the years, the family collected snips of all the "Santa" papers and compiled them into a scrap book. Other families leave wrapping paper out for Santa along with milk and cookies. These ritual eventually became important family traditions.
Unfortunately, the tradition of wrapping Santa's gifts comes with some degree of stress and expense. Gift wrapping supplies can be very expensive, especially if you use bows, gift bags, ribbons, and high-quality wrapping paper. It also takes a toll on the environment, which Santa has become increasingly conscious of over the last few years, and can often represent an unreasonable time investment.
Whether you decide to have Santa wrap presents for your family or not, your Christmas-related rituals will become an important part of your family culture and your holiday memories. By making the choice that is most appropriate for your family, you help to foster a long-term tradition of happy Christmas memories.