Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frankincense and Myrrh...

The 3 Wise Men came bearing gifts og Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Have you ever wondered what Frankincense and  Myrrh are ?  I think I wonder what they are every christmas, but do nothing about it, then forget about it till the next christmas !  Well, the other day, I decided to finally find out, and I was pleasantly surprised - I would never have guessed what they are in a million years !

When the 3 wise men came to visit  baby Jesus, they came bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

Both Frankincense and Myrrh come from the sap of trees.  Frankincense is a milky white resin (or sap) that comes from the Boswellia Tree.

Boswellia tree
The tree grows in areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India, with the most aromatic species growing in Somalia, Oman and Yemen.  It can grow up to 5m in height.

Harvesters make cuts in the tree trunk to release the sap.  The sap oozes out and forms tear shaped droplets on the side of the tree which are left to harden for 2 weeks before being harvested.

Commiphora tree


Myrrh is a redish brown resin that comes primarily from a commiphora myrrha tree, common to Yemen, Somalia and Eastern Ethiopia, and is harvested in the same way as frankincense.

Both Frankincense and Myrrh are known for their frangrant qualities and have been used for thousands of years medicinally and religiously.  Frankincense was often burned as incense, and was used to make people smell better !  The  charcoal was also ground into a powder called kohl which was used by Egyptians as an eyeliner - interesting !  The rising smoke of frankincense symbolized prayers reaching to heaven, while Myrrh was commonly used in burials - particularly for embalming, and symbolizes death.  It was used for cleaning wounds and sores and used to treat gum disease, asthma, worms, coughs, colds and many other ailments.

The dried resin of myrrh and frankincense

 Both Frankincense and Myrrh were rare in Biblical times and therefore of great value. 

There is a lot more to learn about these 2 wonderful gifts from the wise men, but I'm happy knowing what they are for starters !  You could spend days reading all the information on the internet, and if you are so inclined - go for it - but I'm done, satisfied that I can explain to my 4 year old what these gifts to baby Jesus are, because for sure, she is going to ask sometime !

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