It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s time to reconnect with our family and friends, share holiday meals, and maybe even give a gift or two. Presents are hardly the most important part of the holiday season, but there is undeniably something special about unwrapping a box with a big bow. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite gifts given in literature. Did we miss your favorite? Share it in the comments!
Reader, beware: Spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk.
A Weasley sweater
Harry Potter receives a lot of great gifts over the course of the series. The Firebolt from his godfather is very cool, and getting his father’s Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder’s Map is touching. Still, Molly’s Christmas present to Harry stands out. After growing up in an abusive home (where the idea of an appropriate gift ranged from a single tissue to dog biscuits), this is Harry’s first taste of what is it like to be a part of a loving family. Molly becomes a surrogate mother to Harry, and this gift represents the moment when Harry is first welcomed into the Weasley family.
Oh, Boo Radley. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem’s reclusive neighbor leaves gifts for the children in the knothole of a tree. The gifts include gum, figurines carved out of soap, and a watch, among others. The gifts are beyond sweet, and show a more human side of Boo, as opposed to the monster Scout and Jem assume him to be. This literary gift makes us want to feel around inside the knothole of every tree we encounter.
It’s a tale as old as time. “Beauty and the Beast” has been retold and reimagined countless times, but our favorite versions always include the Beast presenting Beauty with a library of her own in his castle. It’s seen as the turning point for the pair: a moment when the Beast thinks about what would make Beauty happy. He gives her a place of her own that is filled with her favorite things in the world, books. Beast sets the bar for gift giving pretty high.
All aboard! In The Polar Express, a young boy gets to board a special train to the North Pole, see the elves at work, and even meet Santa. As if that isn’t enough, when he chats with Santa he is allowed to ask for any gift in the world. The boy asks for a bell from a reindeer’s harness, and Santa grants his wish. When the boy then loses the bell, it winds up in a small box under his family’s Christmas tree the next morning. Did we mention it’s a special bell? Only those who believe in Santa are able to hear it ring.
The Word Shaker
Is there anything truly better than the gift of a book? Perhaps the gift of friendship. Max Vandenburg is a Jewish fist-fighter hiding in the home of Liesel Meminger during the Holocaust. Max helps to grow Liesel’s love of stories and encourages her to write. Liesel gives Max hope and reminds him of the good there is in the world. Max’s gift to her is a hand-made book called The World Shaker, a fable about their friendship and the power of words.
There are some great (dragon eggs!) and deadly (see: all wedding presents) gifts given in the Song of Ice and Fire series, but our favorite has to be Needle. Arya Stark is given the slight sword by her half-brother Jon Snow before he leaves for the Wall, never to see her again. Arya rejects the idea of being a lady and longs to prove that she is as skilled, strong, and talented as any of her brothers. The sword’s name is even a nod to her reluctance to do needlework, something her sister Sansa excels at. Jon gave her the gift to encourage her scrappy spirit, never knowing just how handy it would be for her.
Hair combs and watch chain
In O. Henry’s classic short story The Gift of the Magi, Della and Jim are short on money and are worried that they won’t be able to get nice Christmas presents for each other. Della cuts off and sells her long, beautiful hair in order to buy a chain for Jim’s gold watch–his most prized possession. Jim sells his gold watch in order to buy Della a set of hair combs. This story is perfect for reminding readers what really matters: love, not stuff.
Though her dad passed away two years ago, Macy has never opened the last gift he ever bought for her. It sits tucked away, out of sight but never out of mind. In a desperate moment when she’s feeling lost and hopes for guidance, she opens the gift. It’s a sculpture of a heart held in a hand. She knows the artist, too—it’s Wes, the boy she has been too afraid to give her own heart too. This is a powerful moment for Macy, who feels as though the gift is a sign from her father. He’s telling her to stop being afraid and start living again.