The Gift of the Magi is not the bible story about the three magi from Persia, who followed a bright star to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus, 2014 years ago on January 6th, and now celebrated as "The Feast of the Epiphany," but rather a sentimental story about a struggling young New York City couple in the early 1900's who gave up their greatest possessions in order to give each other a very special Christmas gifts.
You can read the entire short story here, or watch an adapted 1952 video version of the story on YouTube, in three parts, beginning with part one- here. This video version of the story, acted by Jeanne Crain and Farley Grange, is beautifully done. I think you would enjoy viewing it, as the simplicity of the era and heartfelt sacrifice of the couple is very touching to witness. This adaptation has become a true Christmas classic!
O. Henry penned The Gift of the Magi while sitting in his favorite booth in Pete's Tavern, located at 129 East 18th Street in Manhattan. Established in 1864, Pete's Tavern is New York City's oldest continually operating restaurant and bar. If you go to this link on their web site, you can see some of the beautiful original architectural features that still remain inside, such as the warm brick walls, all wood booths lined with memorabilia , tin ceilings and original gas lamp chandelier. My husband and I visited Pete's Tavern last December when we stilled lived in New York City, and I took these photos then.
As you can see on a plaque on the front of Pete's Tavern not only did O.Henry find inspiration here, but also Ludwig Bemelmans, who penned one of his famous children's books called "Madeline" here!
The inside of Pete's Tavern was lit with Christmas lights when we visited, and was fairly crowded with pre-holiday revelers.
My husband and I had dinner there and then went on enjoy some of the other sights of Christmas season in Manhattan.
On the way out I took this quick photo of the O. Henry booth, trying not to disturb the diners seated there. I hope someday, on a future visit, to be able to sit in this booth myself! Perhaps, if I am very lucky, some literary inspiration will seep into my mind as it did O. Henry's? Smile.
As O.Henry wrote at the end of his story The Gift of the Magi:
"The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."
I hope I've encouraged you to read this tale and perhaps some other of his many short stories, and perhaps make a visit to Pete's Tavern if you journey into Manhattan one day! I always enjoy finding the spots were literary geniuses wrote, or were inspired to write, and Pete's Tavern's rich history is truly a gem!
Post Script: If you are one of my personal friends on facebook, you might know that my daughter and son-in-law suffered another very sad loss on New Year's Day of the passing of my son-in-law's oldest brother. It has been such a terrible shock to lose another brother so soon from heart disease. Please keep them in your prayers as they grieve. Thank you all for your condolences and comforting words. We really appreciate it!
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