I am happy to believe that Christmas is the time for giving, but the art of gift wrapping is not one at which I am particularly skilled.
As I sit amongst my welter of badly cut wrapping paper, recalcitrant sticky tape, inkless pens and toppling gift tags, surrounded by the strangest assortment of items considered to be the perfect presents for my dear family and friends, the three wise men and their three gifts for the Christ child seem a world away.
A more recent Christmas story, celebrating the art of giving, may provide a link between those ancient gift givers and this poor purveyor of presents.
New York in the late 19th century is the setting for a quirky, moving story told so beautifully and with great pathos by the American short story writer, O Henry (William Sidney Porter).
Della and Jim are a young couple who have fallen on hard times, but still feel the necessity to give each other a gift at Christmas. The trouble they take and the sacrifices they make, to ensure the happiness of the recipient, make for a heart warming tale filled with unselfish love.
The tale is charmingly told in quaint and lovely language “metricious ornamentation” sits alongside “appertaining hereunto” and we are greeted with the wonderful reflection “that life is made up of sobs, sniffles and smiles, with sniffles predominating” early on in the narrative.
O Henry keenly observes the material struggles of his characters, whilst underpinning the whole story with the rightness of their quests because they love each other and it is Christmas. The Wise Men travelled afar amid some personal danger not least from the wrath of Herod, to present the right gifts to the King of Kings to sustain his life on earth.
No pressure for me then. Back to the wrapping…