Our family being Irish Catholic celebrates Christmas, but being a reader, I have my own little traditions that I cherish as well as midnight Mass or putting out the nativity figures in the old family crèche.
To me, like so much of my life, there are stories important to my Christmas.
There are the stories and storybooks of my childhood—The Night Before Christmas, Francis P. Church’s Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus, and Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. (The latter of which always reminded me of my dad, our family Grinch, a father, now a grandfather, who continues a love-hate relationship with the holiday as it has grown ever more commercial.)
And then there is the story that went on to influence not only every Christmas of my life but every day of my life … and especially how I came to believe what true love should look like. And that was O. Henry’s short story: The Gift of the Magi.
I read the story while still a grade-schooler, and maybe it touched me so because, like the young couple in the story, our family had little money to spare for gifts. I only know that watching Della and Jim go to such lengths to buy a Christmas gift worthy of the other, watching the sacrifice both make to do so, well, that Christmas lesson never left me.
Which, after all, is what books give us … isn’t it?