Don’t be too quick to put away those Christmas decorations. Christmas Day represents the first of the 12 days of Christmas, ending Jan 6 with Three Kings Day or the Epiphany. The three kings brought the Christ child the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Traditions for this day include blessing the doorways with water and inscribing the initials of the three kings (C+M+B for Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) over the doorways.
I am always interested in the symbolism and use of foods and herbs in ritual. The gifts that the wise men or Magi brought to the Christ child have meaning; gold to represent his role as king, frankincense to represent his divinity, and myrrh to represent his humanity. Frankincense (Boswellia) and myrrh (Commiphora) refer to a resin from their respective trees. Both Frankincense and Myrrh resins are used as an incense that when burned will carry prayers to heaven. Frankincense is still used at Catholic masses for special occasions. Although we think of the gold brought by the wise men as the precious metal, gold could have other meanings. Some say it is symbolic of alchemy – a transition from the physical world to the spiritual world. I have also heard it suggested that gold referred to a specific type of frankincense that was more valuable. Perhaps celebrate Three Kings Day or the Epiphany by placing a small amount of these resins in your fire to scent your home. You could also burn herbs such as sage or rosemary to purify your home.
Other herbs that are used to celebrate the Christmas season include rosemary, costmary bay laurel, bedstraw, mistletoe and myrtle. The herbs bedstraw, chamomile, horehound, thym and sweet woodruff are said to have been mixed with the manger grass that Jesus slept in. You could mix these herbs to make a nice potpourri.
Its not too late to consider an herbal craft to commemorate the Christmas season. Even something as simple as putting sticks of clove into an orange or an apple is an enjoyable project for children or adults! A warm herbal bath is a way of purification and a way to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. Try using oregano and marjoram to help with aches and pains you may be feeling this season.
But the important thing is to keep caroling and enjoy the Christmas decoration now. Its nice to have this time to relax and enjoy the Christmas season after the hustle and bustle of preparations has ended. So if you didn’t have time to bake the Christmas cookies you wanted to before Christmas, go ahead and do it now, its still Christmas.