Childhood memories about the Feast of the Epiphany

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star

Did you celebrate the Three Kings when you were a child? When I was a little girl several decades back, my papa told my siblings and I to put our shoes under the Christmas tree on Jan. 5, the night before Three KingsDay on Jan. 6.

Coming exactly 12 days after Christmas, Jan. 6th is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. Back in the good old days, we would shine our school shoes and place them under the tree, as papa instructed. The following morning, our shoes would be overflowing with candies and coins. If memory serves, Catholic schools resumed classes after Jan. 6th in observance of the Church holiday.

But what is the story behind the three kings or Magi? According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three wise menGaspar, Melchor, and Balthasartraveled 12 days following a star that led them to the manger, where the baby Jesus was, and then gifted Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Though I knew even as a child what gold was, I always wondered what frankincense and myrrh were. It turns out that frankincense is a hardened, gum-like material that comes from the trunk of the Boswellia tree, and is commonly used as a fragrance in soap, lotion, and perfume.

Myrrh, on the other hand, is a gum-resin extracted from the thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora. It was used as perfume, incense, and medicine. It was believed that the sacred trees that produce frankincense and myrrh are impossible to grow outside the Arabian Peninsula. And because frankincense and myrrh were always in demand and thought to be more valuable than gold in Jesustime, those who sold them were among the richest people on Earth.

The gifts the three Magi brought with them were thought to have a spiritual meaning: Gold as a symbol of kingship on Earth, frankincense as a symbol of deity, and myrrh as a sacred anointment oil due to its powerful, healing essence. It was also believed that Mary and Joseph used the gold to pay for the use of the stable, the frankincense to perfume it, and the myrrh as an ointment for the newborn baby. This makes the three wise men truly wise in my book for bringing practical gifts for the baby. Had there been a wise woman with them, I am sure she would have brought newborn clothes for the infant Jesus.

Sadly, we rarely hear about people celebrating the three kings nowadays, or of kids putting their shoes under the Christmas tree on the night of Jan. 5. I myself am guilty of not practicing this tradition with my kids. I also remember that it was only after Three KingsDay that we would remove our Christmas decorations and put them back in storage.

Perhaps its not too late to revive our celebration of the three Magi. There are still three more days until Jan. 6 to remind your children or grandchildren of the beautiful story of the journey of the three wise men, and of how the King of Kings was born in a manger minus the trappings and trimmings fit for royalty. Lets begin the year with humble and generous hearts. Happy Three KingsDay!


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