The Gift of the Maji

The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry is one of my favorite Christmas stories. It begins:

“One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.”

The beginning is famous, not only for its portentious start, but also because of the mathematical impossibility of owning “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.”

The message of O’Henry’s short story is, of course, that of selflessness of true love. The two main characters of the story, Della and James “Jim” Dillingham Young, are newly married, poor, and in love. How they express their love at Christmas time is the subject of the story. How they react as they each learn of the other’s actions, teach the reader what true value is.

The story twists and turns. There is humor in the irony of Jim and Della’s situation. But, through it all is the constant of love and devotion that they share.

The story ends with the narrator’s explanation of the Gift of the Maji,

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. In a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.”

Read the full story online.

May our gifts this year be as thoughtful and meaningful as those of Della and Jim. May we appreciate the true meaning of Christmas. May we share this Christmas with someone we truly love.

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