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Alex McFarland for The Christian Post: The Christmas story template from which all other stories are drawn

By Alex McFarland for The Christian Post | Image from CP

Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, my grade school education included learning about one of the town’s more famous past residents William Sydney Porter.  Does this name ring a bell?  Perhaps you’ve heard of his pseudonym, “O’ Henry.”  Porter (1862-1910) left employment in his family’s local drug store to establish himself as a writer.  He is remembered for crafting one of America’s best-loved short stories The Gift of the Magi.

The plotline of O’Henry’s Christmas story has captivated readers around the globe: a young couple, deeply in love but financially poor, sacrifices greatly in order to give gifts to each other.  The husband sells an heirloom pocket watch in order to buy his wife a set of combs and pins for her hair (a century ago such things were made of tortoise shell, pearl, or ivory, and were very expensive).  The wife—whose lovely hair was her pride and joy—sells it in order to buy the husband a gold chain for his beloved watch.

Though selfless love is certainly demonstrated in their actions, as a child this Catch-22 story frustrated me.  It took a few years of reading before I understood that the author was renowned for such surprise endings.  It would be even longer before I understood the ultimate act of sacrificial love on which O’Henry’s story was based. Continue reading…