Late in December many years ago, I was out shopping and had remembered I was out of Christmas wrapping paper. I had proudly purchased all my gifts with time to spare and was now ready to wrap everything up and put the gifts under the tree.

I had dropped by our local grocery store on my way home from work to pick up a few bottles of seltzer water, and as I walked into the store, I spotted a bargain. In a tall box stood gift-wrapping paper priced three rolls for a dollar. I thought the deal was too good to be true. So good in fact, I asked an employee walking by if the paper was priced correctly. He smiled and said it was. I promptly grabbed three rolls and headed to the checkout counter. I placed my water and wrapping paper on the turnstile and proceeded to the cashier. The cashier scanned the water and then the paper. He told me the price and took my cash. He placed the seltzer and paper in bags, gave me my receipt, smiled, and said, “Happy Hanukkah.” By habit I chimed back with a, “Happy Hanukkah to you, as well!” His response had left me bewildered.

Growing up, my best friend Rich had been raised in a home with one Christian parent and one Jewish parent. They had always celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, and on more than one occasion I had joined in on their religious celebrations. I grew accustomed to telling friends Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas and he had done the same with me. I was always very fond of this exchange and the rich, time honored tradition.

The very next night I carefully wrapped each present with my newly purchased decorative paper. After my wrapping session I walked downstairs and gently placed each item under our Christmas tree.

Several days passed and as Christmas approached, my wife and I attended Mass, did all of our traditional seasonal and religious events, and then finally settled in for our small family Christmas. The first gift I presented to my wife was one I had wrapped in the bargain paper. I thought the paper was wonderful and I couldn’t get over its immense beauty. She picked the present up, looked it over and began to gently laugh.

We were newly married, so I thought there was some kind of inside joke or family humor that I was missing. She continued to hold the present and when I asked if there was a problem, she looked at me and smiled. She then instructed me to look at the wrapping paper very carefully. I then picked up the package and examined the paper, and to my surprise realized the paper had dreidels beautifully printed in gold. I then smiled and realized why the paper had been on sale and why the cashier had greeted me with “Happy Hanukkah.”

Regardless of their tradition, I hope everyone had happy wrapping this year.

— Special to the Telegram

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