Sunday, January 5, 2014

O. Henry: The Gift of the Magi



Have you read the short story "The Gift of the Magi" by the author O. Henry? It is one of my favorite short stories. O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter, born in 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina,  O. Henry wrote most of his works while living in New York City until his death in 1910.


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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36 comments:

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Oh, Pat! I am so sorry for your daughter and son in law. Please know I am thinking of them. xoxox

I am determined to read this story now. I can't believe I haven't ever read it. I have stories by O'Henry and one of my dad's distant cousins was in charge of the O'Henry Prize stories for years. I will put this on the list of "Must Reads".

xoxoxoxox

Sheila

podso said...

Pat I am so sorry to hear of another loss for your son in law's family, which affects you all too. And thank you for the recommendation --I've never read the book or seen the movie but now I know what it's about and I need to see it! Hope the weather where you are is calmer than here on the east coast! Have a good week!

ellen b. said...

Read this in high school and was so touched by this story. If I ever get to New York I'd love to have a meal in this tavern...

Linda said...

I would love to visit the tavern someday ! I HAVE read the book! Thanks for that video link ! LD and I will watch it tomorrow.
Continued prayers for you and yours....

Rajesh said...

This sure looks a great place, very colorful.

diane b said...

Yes you have motivated me to read this story. I will add it to my list of must read. The tavern looks a great place to visit. I remember being awe struck when sitting in the 'Three Cats" restaurant in Barcelona, where Picasso used to sketch on the serviettes. So sorry to hear about your families' loss. Thinking of your SIL.

AdriBarr said...

First, I am so terribly sorry to hear that your family has suffered anothe rloss. Tiem can be cruel, and as we all get older I just stop and gasp. Within two weeks we lost four friends. Sometiems it is just too much.

And about this story - well, I just adore it. I remember when I first read it, and I was so touched by it. Thanks for bringing back what was for me a very sweet school memory. Best to you and yours for a wonderful New Year!

Sheila said...

This is such an interesting post, Pat. i love the places we see through your eyes and I have always loved the story. I'm saddened to hear of your daughter and son -in-law's loss. Condolences to them and the whole family.

Sarah said...

Pat, you know that you and your family are close in my thoughts with this recent loss.
I enjoyed this post. I've never been to Pete's Tavern, but must the next time I'm in NYC. I did a post on The Gift of the Magi several years ago. O'Henry's home is here in Austin and is now a small museum. He was an interesting figure and talented author.
Thanks for sharing this interesting post.

Lorrie said...

Pat, I'm so sorry to read of the loss of your son-in-law's brother. Such heartache following close on another.

I do love the story of the Gift of the Magi. I re-read it every few years. I think I saw the movie years and years ago, I'll take a look at it again.

Lorrie said...

Pat, I'm so sorry to read of the loss of your son-in-law's brother. Such heartache following close on another.

I do love the story of the Gift of the Magi. I re-read it every few years. I think I saw the movie years and years ago, I'll take a look at it again.

Old Kitty said...

Awwww my deepest condolences to your son-in-law and family. They are in my prayers.

Awwww The Gift of the Magi! Confession time: LOVED the Marie Osmond version "The Gift of Love"! LOL! Oh but it was soooooooo sweet!! I've not seen this other version but now I shall! Thank you Pat!

The Christmas ceiling at Pete's Tavern is just fabulous! What a lovely pub! I can totally see how such a place inspired beautiful writing! Take care
x

Daniela said...

I'm so sorry that the new year begins for you and your family with a pain as great as that of loosing the love of a close and beloved relative ..

As for the book you mention, it is missing from my library, I think that I will try a copy quite soon, ... the enthusiastic words with which you describe it, the places that have inspired it, the video that you posted and I watched with so much pleasure make me feel quite curious .. I saw the movie years ago and I remember that impressed me a lot, yes, I've made up my mind, in a few days I will go to Genoa and will look for it in a book shop, thanks Pat. xo
Dany

eileeninmd said...

Pat, I am so sorry for your daughters family. Sending my prayers..

Pete's Tavern sounds like an interesting place to visit. I hope some day you will be able to get the special booth.
Have a happy day and week ahead!

Cathy Keller said...

I always enjoyed reading O. Henry. You bring him to life when you take us to visit one of his "old haunts." Enjoyed your pictures, too, of RMNP. We were there before the floods in June. It is a lovely place to visit and has a certain serenity about it! Wishing you well!!

I, too, offer my sincerest sympathy in your family's loss.

Cathy

Ciao Chow Linda said...

First of all Pat, my heartfelt sorrow to your daughter, your son-in-law, you, Vinny and the rest of the family upon the death of your son-in-law's brother. Not again.
Somehow, the gift of the magi post seems apropos. Let us always think of others, not just at this season, but all year round. The movie was recently on TCM and I watched all four of the O'Henry stories. I didn't know about the tavern where he wrote them, but now want to make a pilgrimage too.

Michelle said...

So sorry to hear of the death in the family.

I remember reading this O. Henry story in grade school. Our teacher did the best lesson with it. Great memories.

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

So sorry to hear of your son-in-law's brother, prayers of strength and comfort for the family.
Amazing that Pete's Tavern could inspire writers to produce great works. Perhaps you should sit in the booth next time and see if anything comes to you Pat. :-)
Judith

Vee said...

Oh, Pat, I am so sorry about this second shock for your daughter and her husband so soon after the first. Praying comfort for them.

I have always loved this story, but had no idea about the restaurant or the booth. You always teach me new things.

Cheryl @ TFD said...

I am so sorry to read of the loss in your family. I will say a prayer for them. It was so interesting to read about the tavern and see the photos! I do hope you get to sit in the booth the next visit!

Nellie said...

Prayers for your son-in-law and family!

Love the stories of O'Henry!

Wandering Wren said...

Pat
How awful to hear about your sad family loss, sending you all my very best wishes. Thinking of you all...

I'm virtually all packed for New York and we don't leave for months - will definitely have a meal at Pete's Tavern. Thanks so much for the tip!

Hugs to you all
Wren xx

Carol L McKenna said...

One of my favorite stories ~ What marvelous photos and information on your post ~ thanks, carol, xxx

The Gathering Place said...

I love O'Henry's tale., too. What a gift of selflessness. Prayers for your son in law. What a heartbreaking thing for your daughter and her husband.

ladyfi said...

I really must look up that story! So sorry to hear about your son-in-law's brother.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Pat, I am so sorry for your family's loss. So hard.

I love O Henry's short stories, especially this one and his so interesting history as well. Did not know about Pete's Tavern (maybe some day!)....nor about the movie (today or tomorrow). Thank you much.

I hope 2014 is a busy and healthy year (and healing for your daughter and sil).

Betsy Adams said...

Interesting post about Pete's Tavern. What a special place --with such great history!!

We follow the Christian Year --so are very familiar with Epiphany. In fact, did you realize that the 'real' Twelve Days of Christmas' are from Dec. 25-Jan. 6???? That's why we leave our decorations up --and keep celebrating until the 6th...

Hugs,
Betsy

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

My condolences to your son-in-law and his family, Pat. So sad.

I do remember this story and must have seen the movie years and years ago when I was a child. I remember how it impressed me then. What a wonderful background to the author and tavern.

Al said...

What a cool place and the story sounds interesting. I'll have to add it to my Nook.

My condolences on your loss.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I love the backstory on the story. And the bar, what a bar. I'm thinking about adding it to my bucket list.

So sorry about your loss. Our family lost two young men in their thirties last year. They were the children of two different cousins of mine in Idaho. Really sad.

Susan said...

Hi Pat, sorry about the loss in your family. I live in So Calif. about 30 minutes from Knotts Berry Farm. During the Christmas season they have a play called the Gift of the Magi telling the same story. We will be in Manhattan next fall so we will have to check it out. Thanks for the interesting information and Happy New Year!

Pamela Gordon said...

I must look for this book now. I remember hearing the story or perhaps seeing a movie of it? Beautiful. The tavern is such a great historical place. I love the atmosphere in it portrayed in the photos. I'm so sorry for the loss that your daughter and son-in-law have had. He must have been a young man. Blessings, Pamela

Bonnie said...

So sorry to hear about your SIL's brother's. I have been traveling and keeping grandchildren so I missed this post. So interesting and if I get back to Manhattan will look up Pete's Tavern.

Thanks for your reply about Picasa. Interesting that they added these effects. I experienced the twinkling lights in one of my photos but not the snow.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

Dear Pat,
I realize that I have not visited your blog since November (due to many life events at my end), and I wanted to simply extend my sincere sympathies toward the loss of your family. I remember this sadness when my father passed one year ago this week. It is difficult to lose a loved one. I also wanted to say that my family celebrates the Christmas season all the way until the Feast of the Epiphany and this year we Baptized our first grandchild exactly on the day! My husband have been to this bar on Manhattan per the recommendation of a friend and now I'm so glad that we've been there! I wish you a most beautify 2014!
Ciao,
Roz

lisa hermanson said...

Loves this post and all the info you share, although I live on Long Island I was not aware of Pete's Tavern, perhaps I shall go there sometime !

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your family loss, Pat. I will pray for you all. x