In this day and age it is hard to believe of a person, on Christmas eve, having only $1.87 to buy a Christmas gift for the husband she loved. From this small insignificant fare, O. Henry wrote a story called "The Gift of the Magi" that has been read by millions ever since it was first written.
The story is a simple one. Its lessons are many. Della is married to Jim, and they are deeply in love. They live together in a "flat" for which they pay $8.00 a week. Jim only earns $20.00, so life is a long financial struggle. Della is attractive and has one physical quality that Jim loves -- her long beautiful, rippling, cascading hair. Not only Jim, but everyone admires her beautiful hair. Della knows that Jim has a beautiful gold watch handed down by his grandfather. And he seems to take it out of his vest pocket a hundred times a day just to look at it.
It is Christmas time, and the story goes on to find Jim going out to sell the watch he likes so much to buy a gift for the wife he loves so much. And what did he buy her? A magnificent set of combs for her beautiful hair. At almost the same time, Della has gone to the beauty salon of "Madame Sofronie" to have all her hair cut off and bought by the famous Madame Sofronie for a meager twenty dollars. But with this money she went to a store to buy a gold chain for Jim's watch.
The next part of the story finds Della in her home, her hair all cut and curled waiting for Jim to come home. Jim is rushing home faster to bring his gift to Della, anxious to see how beautiful she will look with the combs in her long and beautiful hair.
He puts the key in the lock, opens the door and looks at his wife -- stunned, almost speechless -- partially shocked. When Della's sees his look, she reassures him; her hair will grow back fast. She wanted to buy him a special gift so she sold her hair. And then she presents him with the gold chain for the watch that he liked so much. Each one then explains to the other how Della sold her hair to buy Jim a gold chain and Jim sold his watch to buy Della a set of combs.
Each person reading the story, "The Gift of the Magi", can draw individual lessons and morals for his or her way of life. The obvious lessons of unselfishness, caring about the other, generosity even at the price of personal sacrifice, all of these can be gleaned from reading this story. No matter who reads it, no matter how many times it is read, it is a story of two people who loved each other and were determined to sacrifice for each other no matter what the cost. That is what Christ taught us on that first Christmas 1900 years ago.