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Christmas A to Z

Learn interesting, unusual, unique and useful facts and tips about Christmas and the winter holiday season, in America and around the world.

The Gifts of the Three Kings

T

he Gospel of St. Matthew is the only book in the Bible that tells of them specifically and it’s only by inference that we assume three gifts equated to three Kings – or Wise Men or Astrologers – and not the 12 thought to be the case by Eastern Christianity.

Matthew says in the King James version 2:11 "…they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

The gold was a natural, having been prized as the only metal that retained its visual properties and did not lose its golden brilliance over time. With a color and radiance that evokes the sun itself, gold is thought to represent the divine spirit in the material world -- kingship.

Frankincense is the solidified resin of a very interesting tree that appears to grow out of solid rock. Slashes are cut in the bark of the tree, usually twice a year, and when the resin oozes out it is called tears. While other trees in other parts of the Middle East will produce frankincense that which is produced by the rock growers is the most prized. The early Egyptians used it as eye-liner but its use back in Jesus’ day was primarily for incense and medical purposes. Its white powder produces a lovely, sweet fragrance with no residue left behind after burning, thus symbolizing spiritual purity -- priesthood.

Myrrh is not just a rarity in Scrabble, with its double "r", it is also the solidified resin of a Middle Eastern tree. Myrrh was at times so rare that it was equal to gold in value, even occasionally eclipsing it when growing conditions for the trees made it scarce. With a bitter aroma, myrrh was used as an embalming fluid in ancient times, and symbolizes death or suffering -- sacrifice.

Written by Dianne Weller
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