Did Gift Wrapping Start with the Wise Men?

During Epiphany, we remember that the three wise men were the season’s first gift givers. 

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Posted in , Jan 2, 2018

Three wise men

Haven’t sent all your Christmas cards yet? Still need to get a present or two for someone on your list? Have no yearning to take the tree down for a while? 

Don’t worry. Christmas isn’t officially over yet. The traditional 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and they’re not over until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany that marks the arrival of the wise men. 

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You know the story, of course. “Wise men from the East” followed the star from their homeland far away–possibly Persia–looking for the newborn king. 

They stopped in Jerusalem where they met with the nasty King Herod and consulted with his chief priests and scribes to learn where this new King would be found.

They continued following that star until they reached Jesus in Bethlehem. Overcome with awe and joy, they gave him the gifts they had brought with them: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Because there were three gifts we generally figure that there were three wise men although no number is given in the Bible. There could have been three…there could have been more.

What we remember about them is that they were gift givers, and in giving our gifts we honor the first gifts ever given at this season.

It’s also interesting to note that the wise men didn’t simply plop their gifts on the ground but offered them in treasure chests. The first Christmas boxes? The predecessor to gift-wrapping? It’s fun to think so.

Fortunately the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to monstrous Herod, and they went home a different route. Similarly Joseph and Mary and Jesus escaped to Egypt to avoid Herod’s wrath. 

In many countries gifts are not exchanged until January 6. So just in case you thought it was too late…fret not. You’ve got time yet.

The word “epiphany” means recognizing the true nature of something, seeing it for what it really is. The wise men knew what they were seeing in Bethlehem. Would that we could be so wise.

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