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Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Updated on November 15, 2013

O. Henry's Classic Christmas Story

"The Gift of the Magi" is a short story written by O. Henry. In the classic Christmas tale, a young couple who can barely afford their one-room apartment each sells a precious possession to buy a gift for the other one. The story beautifully illustrates how physical possessions have little value in the grand scheme of things and pale in comparison to the value of love.

(Image of Gift of the Magi book cover provided by amazon)

Gift of the Magi

A short Christmas story by O. Henry

You can get the complete text of O'Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi" on Project Gutenberg.

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....

Thus begins O. Henry's classic tale, "The Gift of the Magi." Published in 1905, the short story tells the tale of a young couple, Della and Jim, who live very modestly and don't have money to buy each other gifts for Christmas. Each has only one thing they cherish - Della's beautiful long hair and Jim's gold watch. With time and money both in short supply, Della sells her hair to buy a fob chain for Jim's watch and Jim sells his watch to buy combs for her hair. They end up with gifts neither can use, but realize just how priceless their love is.

"The Gift of the Magi" continues to be popular more than 100 years after its initial publication. It has been adapted into films, off-Broadway musicals, school plays, an opera, children's books and TV shows. Singer Joni Mitchell also turned it into a song in the 1960s. She would sometimes perform the song live, but it was never recorded on any of her albums.

It's likely this tale of love will continue to captivate readers and audiences for year to come.

"I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present."

The Gift of the Magi Book - Illustrated book retells O. Henry's classic Christmas tale

This is a great story to read on Christmas Eve. It's short, poignant and especially perfect for couples and families trying to focus on the importance of relationships over the importance of material goods.

The Gift of the Magi
The Gift of the Magi

From Amazon: In a shabby New York flat, Della sobs as she counts the few coins she has saved to buy a Christmas present for her husband, Jim. A gift worthy of her devotion will require a great sacrifice: selling her long, beautiful hair. Jim, meanwhile, has made a sacrifice for Della that is no less difficult. As they exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, the discovery of what each has done fills them with despair, until they realize that the true gifts of Christmas can be found more readily in their humble apartment than in any fine store. O. Henry paints a masterly portrait of unfaltering love, a haven from the harsh world outside. The poignancy of his story is captured in P.J. Lynch's eloquent art, wherein every glance, every gesture, tells a subtle truth.


Gift of the Magi DVD - Watch it at home

This adaptation of O. Henry's tale of love is wonderful to watch at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas.

The Gift of the Magi
The Gift of the Magi

From Amazon: "The Gift of the Magi" is O. Henry's best known and timeless story, which stands as a shining example of O. Henry's writing at its best. For in it we have the simplicity of concept, the irony of circumstance, and the charming surprise at the end...which we won't reveal here. It's a wonderful romantic tale of a young married couple who have little money to buy each other Christmas presents. The Gift of the Magi DVD is a great way to share this wonderful story with your family.


Listen to The Entire Story - "Gift of the Magi" read by Mrs. P.

This video has an odd little personal intro about taking a trip to Africa, but then Mrs. P. launches into O. Henry's story and does a great job reading it.

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    • JenaleeMortensen profile image

      JenaleeMortensen 7 years ago

      The Gift of the Magi is one of my favorite Christmas stories. Thanks for making a lens on it.

    • ChristopherScot1 profile image

      ChristopherScot1 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining the group for A Day of Hope!