Monday, December 21, 2009

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, we know them best as the special gifts of the Magi. They presented these precious items to honor the baby Jesus long ago. All were given out of love, admiration and respect. These are the same fine qualities we still share today in gift giving. Now one might say that they were the very first Christmas gifts ever offered. We all know the story of the Nativity and of the three gifts mentioned. Of coarse gold is well known in today's world but what exactly are the other two?

Lets take a look so we can better relate when we read or hear the words Frankincense and Myrrh. Both are actually derived from resins of trees.
Frankincense is the product of the Boswellia sacra tree. This is a small deciduous tree which can have one or several trunks. The resin or sap is drawn from it and then dried. Since ancient times Frankincense was used in religious ceremonies. This spice is still used in today's society in everything from perfumes to medicinal needs and shows promise as a form of treatment in several medical conditions. Also used as incense and the aromatic aroma helps to reveal a tranquility with ones spirit and mind. To promote an inner harmony and peace within oneself.
Myrrh is derived from the Commiphora myrrha tree. This small and very thorny tree is a native to the Arabian peninsula. It was used in perfumes and incense. Myrrh was also used as an antiseptic and embalming oil for the dead. In some cultures it was also burned during their religious sacrifices. In modern times though myrrh is used as an antiseptic, in toothpaste and mouthwashes. It is also found as an ingredient in some healing salves that are designed to treat mild abrasions and minor skin ailments. Myrrh also shows promise in aiding in many different medical conditions.

Now in ancient times both of these spices were highly regarded as equal or even greater in value than gold. Many times these three different gifts are mentioned through out the bible. So what is the significance of these particular gifts given to baby Jesus in a manger so many years ago?

First the gift of gold was and is a symbol of status and royalty. Known to all nations and people and highly regarded as power and authority. This gift said He would be King.

Second the gift of frankincense is thought to have stimulating, warming and calming properties. It was used as a means of meditation and self awareness. This gift said He would enlighten us and open our eyes to the truth.

Finally the gift of myrrh which seems to be a bitter sweet gift when compared to the other two. Although myrrh was used in incense and perfumes in those days. Its most notable use of biblical times was that of an embalming oil. This gift said one day his earthly life would end because He was born to die for the world. Myrrh was one of the burial spices used in His burial preparations.

So I think the very first Christmas gift wasn't Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh it was the true gift of life through a baby in the manger for all mankind to receive and embrace.

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas.

Christmas dinner past and present

Christmas is a time of giving, caring and fond memories new and old. Still the other cool thing about Christmas is the eats. Come on admit it you love to indulge in great tasting foods and desserts during this time of the year. Heck without Christmas treats most of us wouldn't have a new years resolution to aim for. Something like maybe dropping a few holiday pounds before beach weather is on us. Oh yeah you know where we're coming from and there's nothing wrong with that train of thought. The truth is that Christmas dinner and desserts are just about as big of a part of this holiday as gift giving is. When you think about it; sharing our well prepared foods with loved one's and friends is giving a gift too. There is a lot of love, time, effort and thought that goes into a fine Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Then you also have those great homemade sweet treats like cookies, cakes, pies and more. Man you have to love this holiday.

So did you know that Christmas has always been about the food and sharing time with family and friends since it's most earliest years. Back in the colonial days Christmas dinner was the main focus. They would have had either goose, ham, turkey, beef or venison for the main course. If you lived closer to the coast you might enjoy oysters, fish, or mincemeat pies. Now the desserts were more then likely some type of pudding or custard, fruit pies and of coarse the infamous Christmas fruit cake. Egg nog was a very popular drink also but unlike today it was served up hot. There was also a good supply of alcoholic beverages too. Fruit wines, rum punch, old fashion brandy and other alcoholic beverages were all part of the holiday.

So like today there is really no one main "must have dish" on your table for a Christmas dinner. Location, preferences and diversity of people make Christmas dinner unique in every household. There is one thing to take to table though this Christmas and that is a word of thanks. Thanks for the one who has worked so hard to prepare the fine meal your about to enjoy, and for the precious time shared together at this holiday season. Now that's Christmas