Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Wise Men Day!

It is a HUGE Puerto Rican tradition to celebrate the three wise men who visited Jesus and brought him gifts after his birth. 
The day we celebrate that visit is today, January 6th.

Dia de los Reyes Magos or Three Kings/Wise Men Day is one of the most beautiful religious traditions amongst Hispanics, especially in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is famous for having the longest Christmas in the world; starting the day after Thanksgiving and ending in late January. 
And can I just tell you how much I love that?!

So, that being said, if you happen to stop by anytime in the next couple of weeks, don't be surprised to see our Christmas tree and decorations still out.
What can I say? 
You can take the girl out of Puerto Rico, but you can't take Puerto Rico out of the girl!

In my culture, children gather grass in shoe boxes and water and place it under their beds as an offering to the camels on which the Wise Men travel. In exchange, the Three Kings (as they are best known back home) leave presents to those who have been good during the year. 
Sound vaguely familiar? 
Very much like Christmas on the mainland, 
children wake up much too early to check out what they got, 
and families gather to drink, eat and be merry.

***** says this about the wise men:
In the conventional version of the Christmas story, the wise men or magi:
  • Gaspar,
  • Melchior and
  • Balthasar
started the gift-giving custom of Christmas by bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child on Epiphany, the day on which the infant was presented. The 3 magi have been described not only as wise men, but also as kings or Persian priests and astrologers.

I'm definitely no theologian, so I was really excited to learn a few facts about these special men during one of our church's Christmas services, like for example:

* It took these men (who the Bible says came form the East) somewhere around two years to get to Jesus. Can you imagine everything they had to endure during their journey?

* Although we always include these men in our nativities, they did not visit Jesus while he was in the manger. The Bible says they "arrived at the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him". Theologians estimate Jesus was between 1 and 2 years old at the time of their arrival.

* Until recently, I never really understood the significance of the gifts they gave Jesus. But apparently, these gifts held a strong prophetic significance.
The gold represented a gift fit for royalty; they knew Jesus was the King of Kings.
The frankincense was used on offerings to God inside His temple, where people believed it to carry their prayers to heaven. This tells us they understood Jesus' role as Priest, his Godly nature.
I've heard a couple different interpretations for the myrrh. One is that in the old days it was used for embalming or anointing of the dead. The other is that myrrh was also used for medicinal purposes, a common analgesic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory. Christ was offered "wine mingled with myrrh" to ease the pains of the cross. So basically, the myrrh represented Jesus' mortality, suffering and sorrow. They knew he was born to die for the world.

* The idea of giving presents during Christmas originated with the wise men and the gifts they gave Jesus.

OK people, is it just me or is this stuff totally fascinating?! 
I love it!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your day today, 
and Feliz Dia de los Reyes!


Rachel said...

Interesting stuff! Thanks for the lesson! Who says blogging is just a mindless entertainment hobby?