At the beginning of the story, Della and Jim have only two prized possessions—Della’s hair and Jim’s watch. In order to overcome their poverty and to give a good Christmas present to the other, each sacrifices the item that they value the most. The sacrifices turn out to have been made rather uselessly, since the gifts they buy can’t be used. One could argue that they ended the story in the same place they started out—minus Della’s hair and Jim’s gold watch—but the narrator suggests that they’ve added value to their relationship through generosity and sacrifice.
The significance of the magi is summed up in the last paragraph, as the narrator compares Della and Jim to the magi who invented the art of gift giving, suggesting that the value of a gift lies in the intent, the level of generosity, and the sacrifice behind it, rather than its material value.
Sacrifice Quotes in The Gift of the Magi
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.