I hated Christmas. Not, of course, when I was very young, and got giddily excited by getting free stuff. But later, when I began to vaguely understand that the gift I wanted most was never inside those colorfully wrapped packages. I also wanted to give something meaningful to my parents and siblings. I was given a small amount of money that I had not earned to buy gifts for others. I didn't really know what they wanted either.
By the time I was ten or so, I felt more like a criminal than an agent of Santa Claus, and I cringed in shame every time Christmas came around. And then I read this story that seemed to explain it all, in a way even a reluctant adolescent criminal could understand. And the story gave me the gift I most wanted... to know that I was not alone.
The first Christmas season I spent with my later to be wife, I described this story. I had long forgotten the title and author, but she instantly named both. She was right, as she is about so many things, and she has been that gift to me.
Katy Darby (Liar) writes:
I can't remember when I first came across this story, but I've taught it as part of my Structure & Plot class for years now, and as with some of the other stories I use again and again (Why Don't You Dance by Raymond Carver, The Kiss by Angela Carter) I never get sick of it - even though I know what happens in the end. In terms of plot, it uses a cunning double-twist ending and follows a perfect Rebirth arc (just like A Christmas Carol) which a lot of Christmas stories do.
What I really admire about this story is its structural cleverness and the lovely symmetry of the narrative: even though it's funny in places, moralising in others and sentimental throughout, it breathes new and truthful life into the old saw that expensive presents are not what love and giving are all about. O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) died back in 1910, but even in his day, people were obviously carping about the commercialisation of Christmas. And the author's address to the reader at the end, comparing the characters to the Wise Men, always moistens my eyes. Sniff.
You can read The Gift of the Magi at this link: http://www.online-literature.com/donne/1014/
About the authors:
Author Dean Kisling is a high school dropout who learned to type when he was 47. He has been a soldier, labourer, driver, welder, carpenter, musician, trailrunner and fool. He writes what happened and also makes stuff up. He lives in America and is very happily married. His website is http://pneumerology.com
Liar/Author Katy Darby studied English at Oxford University and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, where she received the David Higham Award. Her work has won prizes, been read on BBC Radio, and appeared in magazines and anthologies including Stand, Mslexia, The London Magazine and the Fish & Arvon anthologies. She teaches Short Story Writing, Writers' Workshop and Novel Writing at City University, London, and her first novel, The Whores' Asylum, (paperback title: The Unpierced Heart) was published by Penguin in 2012. Her personal website is www.katydarby.com.