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One of my first Christmas gifts came earlier this week. After a lively lunch, a dear friend of mine handed me a long, cardboard tube.

“I had to give you your Christmas present today,” she said. “You’ll see why when you get home.”

And I did.

Christmas Books

Rolled up inside the tube were six sheets of paper, lined with the images of colorful, gilded book bindings—lovely antique visions from the Bodleian Library’s Christmas Book Collection. My friend was right, she had to give me my Christmas present early. As a librarian with a deep partiality for exquisite, old books, how could I wrap my Christmas presents for family and friends in anything else?

I delightedly texted my friend, thanking her for her thoughtfulness. As I hit send, I reflected on just how wonderful a gift it was. Gifts can be rather singular and rather private in nature. A gift passes from you to a friend. If your friend likes it, or even if she does not, your gift will spend the rest of its existence inside your friend’s home, visible to only those your friend permits over her dwelling’s threshold. But that is not how wrapping paper works. It longs to know not just one of your friends, but all of them, as well as your family and co-workers. It wants to chat with others, rather loudly, about the nature of your friendship with the friend who gave you the paper in the first place. For each object that you wrap with the jolly print, becomes an introduction to your other friend when the receiver exclaims: “What lovely paper!” You can then reply: “Thank you, my friend Sally got it for me. She’s also a librarian. You really must meet someday, I think you two would get on well.” 

The gift under the paper may be singular, but the wrapping paper wants to be everybody’s friend and happily wishes that everybody else also wants to be friends with each other. As I hope C.S. Lewis would quip, if he had written The Four Gifts rather than The Four Loves—wrapping paper is the least jealous of the gifts, always ready to extend its cheer and warmth to all.

What a fine way to introduce the wrapping paper giver to others I admire and love. And, what a fine way to start the Christmas season.