Door 20: Wrapping presents

Every time somebody in Wife’s family gets a present that is shaped like a box, just after s/he has torn the wrapping paper off it but before s/he opens the actual box, somebody will say, “oooh, did somebody pull a mormor?”

Mormor is Swedish for maternal grandmother, and pulling a mormor is a reference to the fact that Wife’s mormor often gave presents that were packed inside boxes that were just the right size for the purpose, but wasn’t the box in which the actual present came. For example, cookie cutter may have been in a razor box, creating confusion and hilarity.

Now, a lot of mormors around the world have done and do the same trick, and mine was one of them. And while she, too – just like Wife’s mormor – had the twinkle in her eye, she didn’t do that to pull a prank, it was mostly a demonstration of her, their, way of life, in which nothing is thrown away. Boxes are used and reused until they become just pieces of cardboard and then they’re used for something else.

My mormor even re-used ribbon, and if she didn’t have any, she’d still wrap a piece of string – brown or classic blue-and-white grocery store packing twine – around it to make it pretty.

The way we wrap our presents tells something about us. Brother-in-Law takes pride in how he wraps his presents in newspaper. (I’m not exactly sure what his message is). Godmother makes the most gorgeous presents, with stickers and glitter, and big ribbons and perfectly chosen wrapping paper. Mom is more of a mormor type, her presents may come in three different kind of wrapping paper if she happened to have three smaller instead of a big sheet of paper. Wife focuses on making a good-looking present, with a killer rhyme, which in the Swedish tradition, is a puzzle the recipient should solve to get a clue on what’s inside.


This may not come as a surprise to you, but I think of myself as quite the wrapper. I tell Son and Daughter that when I was in my teens, I wrapped hundreds of presents during Christmastime, “when I helped out at Grandpa’s store.”

I didn’t.

I only say that because when I was their age, Dad used to tell me that he was world-class in wrapping because he “used to be a Christmas temp at Stockmann’s”, the big department store in downtown Helsinki.

His presents are neat, but I don’t think he ever worked at Stockmann’s.

Anyway, I’m something of an overwrapper, so I use too much paper, too much ribbon and, granted, too much tape.

What does that tell you about me? Well, let me tell you. It means that I want to make the recipient work for the present. Even just a little bit.

The Police – Wrapped Around Your Finger (1983)

This is the From The Desk of Risto Pakarinen 2017 advent calendar. Behind every door, you’ll find something related to the 1980s

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