Whether you are counting all the pine needles on your Christmas tree, or eagerly anticipating watching the dancing lights of your Menorah or Kinera (if you celebrate Kwanzaa), we hope that your holidays are filled with family, friends, laughter and, well, books!
Although Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa all have different cultural origins, they speak the same language: the language of gift giving! All jokes aside, these holidays are less about the gifts themselves and more about what these gifts mean to us. For those of you who celebrate Kwanza, there is a word in Swahili, “Kawaida,” which translates as “tradition.” Although the act of exchanging gifts is practiced as a tradition, it is important not to lose sight of how and why we practice traditions in the first place.
The history of gift-giving is almost as old as the history of humankind. The earliest cultures shared presents to reinforce tribal loyalties, show reverence and respect for elders and, last but not least, as tokens of affection. Only in modern times have humans began sharing what anthropologists call “pure gifts,” or gifts given without any expectation of receiving something in return. For people all around the world, these “pure gifts” are the best emblems of what the the holiday season represents.
Few stories capture the true spirit of the holidays quite like O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Through his wit and firsthand observations of human warmth at its finest, O. Henry takes the timeless tropes of love and sacrifice and refashions them in a gift box for modern readers. For all you teachers out there, teach the holidays the right way with our brand new teacher guide for The Gift of the Magi!