From The Writer’s Almanac, a publication of Prairie Home Productions, presented by American Public Media:
Literary and Historical Notes:
It’s Christmas Eve, the setting for many works of fiction including O. Henry’s (books by this author) “Gift of the Magi,” a short story about Jim and Della, the impoverished young couple, in which each one is trying to find the perfect gift for the other. They have just two prized possessions. Jim has a very valuable gold watch and Della has luxurious brown hair and she decides to sell it so she can get Jim a platinum watch chain and Jim sells his watch so that he can get her the beautiful tortoise shell combs for her hair.
“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
Scrooge is the famous bitter old miser who holds Christmas in contempt but on Christmas Eve he gives Bob Cratchit Christmas day off. He dines alone in his usual tavern, and returns to his lodgings, where on the door knocker her encounters an image of the face of Marley, his old business partner. Marley warns him that he will be visited by three spirits and if he does as they tell him, then he can escape Marley’s fate, which is to walk the earth bound in chains because he had no concern for mankind during his life. The ghosts come and Scrooge awakens “‘I don’t know what to do’ he cried, ‘laughing in the same breath…I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody!'” The boy stops under the window and he sends him down to the poulterer’s shop to buy the enormous turkey to send to Bob Cratchit’s family. Scrooge dressed himself all in his best and got out into the streets. The people were pouring forth and walking with his hands behind him Scrooge regarded everyone with a delighted smile. He looked so pleasant that three or four good humored fellows said, “Good morning, sir. A merry Christmas to you.’ And Scrooge said afterwards that they were the most delightful sounds he had ever heard in all his years. He went to church and walked up and down and found that everything could yield him pleasure.