Christmas Packaging Contest

For years, my sister and I have been having a Christmas Packaging Contest. I'm not even sure how long, at least 10 years. And it didn't start out as a contest. You know, we're Spence kids, so we don't tend to do traditional and easy. I don't know which one started it, but either my sister or I got a little crafty one year, and soon we were slightly competing, until we finally declared it an out-right contest.

I remember starting with blank newspaper print (got a roll for free from the downtown paper; they throw rolls out at the end when there's not a lot of paper left on the roll; it was a lot to me, I used it for years...). I wrapped the packages in the white print, and stamped gold stars all over it and had red and green plaid ribbon.

No big deal, you're right. Then the next year, I bought cookie tins at yard sales, spray painted them red, green and blue and stamped gold stars once again. I even designed a logo..."JenTins" and drew it on the bottom of every tin. And that's right, what ever I was buying that year for everyone, had to fit in the tin.

And the competition went up a notch that year.

Eventually, it exploded into a whole different level. One year my sister's packaging was papier-mâché, all in the form of zoo animals. What kid would not want to get his present out of a giraffe or lion figure instead of a box? I know...nuts. We're competitive.

I have a thing for turning trash to treasure, for not being wasteful, and recycling. I was eco-friendly before it was cool. So my packaging often used scrap lumber from my home remodels (one year made birdhouses, another year wooden boxes). Sometimes, it even used Coke bottles...and bottles, and involved Christmas lights in would have had to see it to understand. I wish I would have taken photos every year, I too often did not.

I had a neighbor that was a retired carpenter, Mr. Shaw, who loved the contest almost as much as my sister and I did. I had an unfair advantage when he was alive and helped me build massive scrap projects. Miss him often, especially at contest time.

At this point, my sister-in-law who always had Martha Stewart packaging, rebelled one year and put all the gifts in black trash bags, stating my sister and I had gotten completely out of hand. It was funny.

My sister always waits until the last minute and pulls out some sentimental contraption that basically wins no matter how many hours I spent on my project. One year, she made photo collages for our family, went to Kinkos and had them printed on 11" x 17" paper, and then made gift bags out of the paper. Ugh...why didn't I think of that? One year her packaging was simple, but each one of us had a letter that said exactly how much we meant to her. Dang it, got me again!

Now I know most of you will say that you don't have time for a crazy contest like this, you barely have time to shop and wrap for your presents. Trust me, I know what you mean.

But this contest makes me slow down a bit at the holidays. And in years of gift cards and gift receipts, it brings some genuine thought and sentiment to the exchange that can always use some boosting.
Plus, I enjoy the task of challenging myself. It's the process that is a stress reliever; it's exercise for the creative side of you. For those who say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body" - I disagree. Creativity needs to be exercised and stimulated, and with my family, we simply engaged that skill often; no choice of it getting unused and dusty.

I'm posting the gifts that I made last year...theme for me was "travel" (of course, I'm in the tourism business) and my gifts were mini-suitcases. That's right, you too can save laundry detergent boxes all year, get some fabric on clearance, spray mount it on box, trim with brown duct tape and create a look of luggage. Gift tags were of course designed to look like luggage tags, with play on words like "Late Arrival" (my sister is always late), "First Class" and something else that was funny, but I've forgotten now.

Stay tuned for this year's packaging (almost finished). Theme for this year is "recycle" (shocker). I'll show you how to make a bow out of a Diet Coke can...and more.

My niece and nephew helped me one year, which was fun. With all of my nieces and nephews, I hope a couple of them take up the tradition as they grow up. I know it may never get as crazy as I do with it, but it's a unique family tradition. One that I'm glad that we started, and one that I wish my grandparents would have been alive to see, because this is right up my grandfather's alley. I would have definitely lost if he was competing.

Merry Christmas. Hope your enjoy this crazy and fantastic family tradition.


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