The Gift of the Magi” is a short story by O. Henry first published in 1905. The story tells of a young husband and wife and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been popular for adaptation, especially for presentation at Christmas time. The plot and its twist ending are well-known, and the ending is generally considered an example of comic irony. It was allegedly written at Pete’s Tavern on Irving Place in New York City.
On Christmas Eve, Della Young discovers that she has only $1.87 to buy a present for her husband Jim. She visits the nearby shop of a hairdresser, Madame Sofronie, who buys Della’s long hair for $20. Della then uses the money to buy a platinum pocket watch chain for Jim. When Jim comes home from work that evening, Della admits to him that she sold her hair to buy him the chain. Jim gives Della her present– a set of ornamental combs, which she will be unable to use until her hair grows back out. Della gives Jim the watch chain, and he tells her that he sold the watch to buy the combs. While the gifts that Jim and Della gave each other can’t be used, they know how far they went to show each other their love and how invaluable their love truly is. The story ends with the narrator comparing these sacrificial gifts of love with those of the biblical Magi.