illustration of two people, a woman and a man, looking at one another in profile with an ornate hair comb between them

The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry
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In the story, "The Gift of the Magi," how are Della and Jim said to be the Magi who started the trend of exchanging gifts?

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The Magi, or 3 Wise Men, brought gifts to the infant Jesus.  They traveled long distances to bring what were considered very precious gifts of exotic oils and spices.  These were things that only the very wealthy could afford and Mary and Joseph certainly were not wealthy.  Their gifts were meant to honor the baby who was called the Messiah.  In the short story by O'Henry, Della and Jim each sacrifice their prized possession to give a precious gift to the other.  Jim bought beautiful combs for Della to put in her crowning glory, her splendid hair.  To get the money for the combs, Jim sold his most valuable possession - his pocket watch.  Della bought Jim a beautiful chain on which Jim could put his pocket watch because she knew how much that watch meant to Jim.  To get the money to buy the watch chain as a Christmas gift for her husband, she cut off her hair and sold it.  The gifts showed self-sacrifice and thoughtfulness, just as the gifts the Magi brought Jesus showed the same.  To go even further with the comparison - the gifts brought by the Magi to the baby Jesus weren't gifts that were necessities, they were luxuries meant to show honor.  The gifts exchanged by Jim and Della were also not necessities but luxuries meant to show Jim and Della how much love each one had for the other.

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