In Spain the traditional giving of Christmas presents is done on January 6th. The morning after the night of January 5th – aka twelfth night. This is the date that the three kings (or Magi, or even the three wise men) arrived bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Oro, incienso y mirra in Spanish. So based on the religious significance of Christmas – and specifically the giving of presents – this makes more sense than giving them out on Christmas day. Rather than the kids here going on about what they want from santa on Christmas day, they talk about what they want the three kings (los Reyes Magos) to bring them when they wake up on January 6th. This is a perfect example of Dani getting the best of both worlds. We will let him open some presents on Christmas morning and some on January 6th.
The kids’ Christmas Party…
When a Spanish workplace organises a Christmas party for the kids there is no fat bloke dressed as Santa Claus to speak to the them. Instead they get three blokes to play the three different kings. Their names are Melchior, Balthassar and Gaspar in case you didn’t know. At least it shares the workload of a solitary Santa.
Usually the older kids choose their favourite “king”. Dani “chose” Melchior. In reality he was ushered toward him by the “helpers” who were more or less acting as crowd control; although they too dressed up for the role. Now, Dani has obviously been told the story of The Three Kings, aka the Magi, in school. He has also been told about them often enough by his Spanish grandmother.
A Conversation with a “King”…
So, Dani sat on Melchior’s knee and the conversation went basically like this:
Melchior: What would you like for Christmas?
Melchior: Oh. That’s interesting. Anything else? (His face was a picture!)
Melchior: Well, we normally give those for baby Jesus.
(Then sensing Dani was going to list all three traditional gifts he tried to head him off.)
Melchior: Do you want any toys?
Dani: Myrrh is not a toy.
Melchior: No myrrh is not a toy. Do you want one of the presents we have here?
At this particular kids’ Christmas party all of the kids get the same present regardless of age. It makes life easy let’s face it! The presents were all wrapped in shiny, metallic, plain paper; half in silver half in gold. The king’s helper passed Dani one of those wrapped in gold paper. He was so happy. He had his gold. Dreams can come true especially if you ask one of the three kings in person. He didn’t even want to open it so there it sits under the tree till Christmas morning. Or maybe January 6th.
Myrrh? What is that anyway?
OK. We all know what gold is. Much less what frankincense is and hardly anyone seems to know what myrrh is, right? It’s one of those well versed jokes by unfunny “comedians” who don’t actually tell jokes but rather shout idiotic questions at their audience. “Myrrh!? What the hell is myrrh!!!”. (Cue phoney laughter.)
So here goes a quick old dad’s guide to both:
Frankincense is a milky white resin from the Boswellia tree that grow in the dry areas of the Arabian peninsula. It is especially known for its aromatic fragrance.
Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from a species of small tree called Commiphora, which are native to northeast Africa and adjacent areas on the Arabian Peninsula. It has been used to make embalming oil.
Both were prized for their aromatic properties when daily bathing was unheard of.
Medicinal Use for Frankincense?
Back in the day both these oils were thought to have medicinal benefits. This could still be true today. Apparently, researchers at a University have demonstrated that frankincense has an active ingredient that can help relieve arthritis by inhibiting the inflammation that breaks down cartilage tissue and causes arthritic pain. It seems that this study validates traditional uses of frankincense as an herbal remedy for the treatment of arthritis in communities of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where the trees that produce it grow. Researchers have also discovered possible benefits of myrrh in the treatment of gastric ulcers, tumours and parasites.
So, would the magi (supposedly from that part of the world) have known of frankincense’s healing properties when they presented it to the baby Jesus? If so, why would they think that such an important new born baby would be cursed with arthritis? Some food for thought there…. and something for Dani’s Auntie (my sister) who suffers from arthritis.