"The Gift of the Magi" is the story of a young, rather poor, married couple. Jim and Della don't have very much money but they are very much in love. The most valuable items in their possession are Della's fabulous, below-the-knee-length hair and a pocket watch that is a family heirloom from Jim's father and grandfather.
The story takes place just before Christmas. Della has been secretly trying to save every penny to buy a Christmas present "just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim" but has only been able to save $1.87. She decides to sell her hair in order to get more money, and is paid $20.00 for it. Della buys a platinum watch chain that will perfectly compliment Jim's watch. She then curls her now very short hair and hopes Jim will understand why she had to sell her hair.
Jim comes home from work and is shocked to see Della's short hair. When he gives her the Christmas present he bought for her, she discovers a beautiful set of hair combs that she has longed to have - the combs that would have looked stunning in her long hair. Della reassures Jim and herself that her hair grows rapidly, then gives Jim his present.
Jim sold the pocket watch to get the money to buy the combs. He suggests they both save their presents for the time being. "They're too nice to use just at present."
O. Henry ends the story by commenting that the Magi, the rich and wise ones who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, didn't give gifts that had as much meaning and value and love as the wise and wonderful sacrifices Jim and Della gave to each other.