“Happy Three Kings” seems like a silly greeting as it shouldn’t focus on the Kings, but on the baby Jesus. And if you had rushed over deserts, mountains and seas with a twelve day deadline then you would have been more harried and exhausted than happy, I would think. Add to that a frantic shopping spree for gold, frankincense and myrrh, and this was holiday stress at its worst. With email, texts, telephones and telegraphs not yet invented, the wise men had to rely on their “pre-visions” or mental telepathy to know the precise birthdate of Jesus. A bright star (forget cloudy evening complications) and cranky camels (where on earth did they keep those in Europe? or did Melchor sail to the Middle East and hop on a camel there?) without a compass and you should really be amazed by their synchronized arrival at a manger in Bethlehem… With some suggesting the Maggi came from Persia or over 1,000 miles away, their camels must have flown to cover the distance in less than two weeks. And what’s with this 1970 change that you can celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany EITHER 12 days after Christmas on the 6th of January OR on the first Sunday after January 1st, which means anywhere from Jan 2 to 8, or 8-14 days of Christmas? :) I jest, of course. Please don’t take offense. Growing up, the Feast of the Epiphany was a pretty big deal in our home. And we put out our biggest shoes the on the evening of the 5th, as well as water and munchies for the camels. For some homes, the major presents were received on this “twelfth day” of Christmas.
My mom always had an incredibly elaborate creche set up in our home, often with lots of bricks and moss and plants and lights and they were the setting for this ceramic set representing the three kings, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, assorted livestock, some Angels, etc. She spent more time on this tableau than on the Christmas tree and I used to spend many a cool December evening observing the display at night time, wondering what presents might appear on the Feast of Three Kings… So imagine my surprise when I got to the office in Cebu last month and the staff had unearthed the original set of ceramic figurines that our family used year after year since the 1950’s or so. So many of the pieces were chipped or broken or damaged after all that time, but as you can see from the photos, enough of the pieces have survived to populate this simple “bahay kubo” set-up on top of a filing cabinet in the office… To this day, The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in our home on January 6th, 12 days after Christmas. I hope you got a goody in your shoe today as well. :)
P.S. The King’s shopping guide. Melchor from Europe with gold, self-explanatory. Gaspar from Arabia with franckincense or a type of resin for fragrance or incense. Balthazar from Africa with myrrh, another type of resin, used for fragrance or embalming purposes. Marketman’s modern interpretation: gold (jewelry, inggots, or for one Three Kings celebration, gold foil wrapping a bottle of olive oil!), perfume for the loaded ones, Axe body spray for those on a modest budget, or some incense sticks, will make nice presents with historical relevance… :)