In Japan where I grew up, the act of gift wrapping came from “Omoiyari” – having compassion, being considerate or caring of others.
It is sometimes more important to consider the purpose behind the wrapping, the “Who” and “Why” you are wrapping a gift, not just to hide the contents. The actual gift wrapping itself is also part of the gift in that sense.
The culture of gift wrapping in Japan goes back to at least the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The oldest published gift wrapping book was called “Tsutsumi no Kotowari” (Wrapping Etiquette) of “Houketsu Zusetsu” (An Illustrated Description of Wrapping & Tying) by Ise Sadatake, published in 1764. Sadatake was a governmental scholar, an advisor of etiquette and culture, to the Edo shogunate.
Here are a few examples of illustrated descriptions from “Tsutsumi no Kotowari” (Wrapping Etiquette) by Ise Sadatake.
The culture of gift wrapping in Japan has had a long history and its philosophy and techniques have been passed down generation to generation. I have a deep appreciation of the concepts and traditions and love to share that enthusiasm with others, passing it on to future generations around the world.
Reference: Classical Japanese Books from Waseda University Database http://www.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kotenseki/html/wa03/wa03_06651/index.html