I remember running down the stairs (we had to stay on the top stair until everyone was ready to come down Christmas morning) to find our “pile” of gifts from Santa. We immediately knew which pile belonged to which child because Santa’s gifts weren’t wrapped. Games, art supplies, sushi making kits — my pile. Soccer balls, pogo sticks, Nerf anything — my brothers pile… and so it went down the line. There was never confusion, just bliss and glow from little faces diving into the bounty.
The rest of Christmas gift giving reflected a more orderly affair. We would sit in the family room and hand out wrapped presents one at a time (usually in some age order) while we watched each person open and pass around their gift. Thank yous and compliments could be heard as every gift was shared. These were the gifts we had purchased for each other.
It is different in my husband’s family, all gifts (Santa’s included) get wrapping paper (though Santa’s paper is different from Mom and Dad’s). The passing of gifts is somewhat similar, but the process also includes rounds from Santa and his elves. On the whole it isn’t that much different, except that there isn’t that initial rush of joy seeing the gifts — but rather a contained joy that is shared one gift at a time.
The truth is I don’t think one way is significantly better than the other. What is really comes down to is traditions, expectations and how much wrapping the “elves” are willing to do each year. As for us… Santa visits our house with unwrapped gifts at Christmas (but we still plan on passing each of those gifts around).