The birth of Christ is a story that most of us who are Christians have heard numerous times. We remember Jesus being born in a manger because there were no rooms in the inn. We remember the Christmas star that led the shepherds and magi to Bethlehem. We remember the wise men that came bearing gifts…and not just any old gifts. These guys brought the good stuff. (The men that we can thank for giving retails stores the idea that to spread Christmas cheer we have to give everyone we know a gift at Christmas! ) Gee thanks “wise” guys!
Gold, frankincense and myrrh…I’m sure we all remember the gifts, but do we know what the gifts actually are? Of course we all know what gold is…that one item that we women really like especially if it’s topped with a sparkly little diamond that goes BLING!
But, frankincense and myrrh…that’s a whole different story. Frankincense, according to the dictionary, is an aromatic gum resin obtained from African and Asian trees and used chiefly as incense and in perfumes. It was used, according to Herodotus, by the Ancient Egyptians in their religious rites, but specifically not in embalming. Its other uses seem to have been few. In more modern times it has been used in folk and herbal medicine as an expectorant, antiseptic, and antidepressant. (After reading this description, I think if I had been Mary I would have just handed this one back and asked for more gold.) Sounds a little ho hum to me.
Myrrh is also an aromatic gum resin obtained from several trees and shrubs of India, Arabia, and eastern Africa, used in perfume and incense. It is also called balm of Gilead. According to another source, myrrh was also used to anoint corpses. The Romans burned it at funerals to disguise the smell of the corpse. Greek soldiers took it into battle, valuing its antiseptic properties. The Ancient Egyptians used it, along with cassia and other spices, in embalming, and in ancient times it was used as an analgesic. (In other words, a room spray, deodorant, and neosporin all rolled into one.)
So there you have it. If during the holidays, you are playing a game of trivia and you are asked what frankincense and myrrh are… you will have an answer. You will amaze your family, you will impress your kids, and you will dazzle in the limelight, and you will have me to thank.
Today, I am thankful for the internet so I can learn facts and trivia to share with my friends.