Sacrifice For Love: The Gift Of The Magi

Today in 1905 ‘The Gift Of The Magi’ was first published. The story of an impoverished couple’s sacrifice in the name of love has since been re-made for Sesame Street, The Honeymooners, Saturday Night Live, Futurama and more.



While it has been over 100 years since O. Henry’s short story, The Gift of the Magi, was first published, it continues to stand out as an unforgettable classic among the wide array of compelling Christmas tales. The story uniquely captures the power of love and self-sacrifice, bound together by a comedic and heartwarming twist, and inspires readers to reflect on the true meaning behind the ‘season of giving.’


The story begins on the day before Christmas. Della, a newlywed, longs to buy a present for her husband Jim. Della and Jim are a young couple who earn a measly $20 a week and live in a humble apartment, the kind furnished by a shabby couch. Though they don’t have much, to them, it is their loving home.


Della restlessly counts her change, “One dollar and eighty-seven cents, that was all”, she laments, before surrendering to her poverty and bursting into tears.


Desperately wishing to buy her husband a new fob chain for his gold watch — his most valuable and treasured possession — Della decides to sell her beautiful brunette hair — her most valuable and treasured possession.


Shedding but a “tear or two,” she goes through with it, trading her beautiful hair to secure the $20 needed to buy a present for Jim.

Later that evening, waiting anxiously for Jim to come home, Della tries to make her newly chopped hair look presentable. When Jim finally arrives, he looks at Della’s short hair and is stunned, proceeding to offer up the gift he himself had been busy purchasing for her.


Jim reveals how he afforded such a thing—by selling his prized gold watch.


“Dell,” he says, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.”


Both Della and Jim had unknowingly sacrificed their own greatest treasures to spoil their loved ones. These sacrifices show that their real greatest treasures were in fact something that they had with them all along, their endless love for one another. For their foolish yet selfless acts, O. Henry compares them to the “Magi”, a term used to describe wise men and kings.


We are often consumed materialistic items in our lives, counting our ‘treasures’ and comparing ourselves to others and wanting more. The meaning behind the holidays can be lost and forgotten—overshadowed by crowded malls, anxious shoppers and gifts measured by their quantity or price tag.


The Gift of the Magi, serves as a simple reminder, at any time of the year, of the way we should all be living—with love first, giving second and possession below all.

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