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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Why myrrh? 
6th-Jan-2007 07:40 pm
Let me see..

The big celebration for the Nativity season in Spain comes today, Three Kings Day, January 6. Everyone goes to Grandma and Grandpa's house for dinner (cars are double parked in my neighborhood, which has a lot of retired people), and gifts are exchanged.

I took this photo of the Three Kings at the Royal Palace's historic Nativity scene. The figurines are more than a century old, made by outstanding sculptors of their day, and are clad in gold-embroidered silk. Every year since the late 1700s, the royal family puts up a fabulously elaborate Nativity in the Palace for public viewing.

The Three Kings arrived in Madrid last night, guests of honor in a colorful and slightly chaotic parade that included dancers, acrobats, bands and music, floats, balloons, elaborate costumes, and animals: camels, burros, oxen, horses, and even a flock of costumed geese waddling down the street and apparently unperturbed by the hubbub. As is traditional, the royal entourage threw 16 tons of candy at the delighted children lining the parade route. Some held their hats upside down to catch as much candy as possible. Child obesity is becoming epidemic in Spain.

The Three Kings are portrayed each year by Madrid aldermen, and since there are no black politicians, the alderman impersonating Baltazar, the African king, appeared in blackface, as did some of his pages, but parade organizers managed to find a Brazilian dance group to represent the African entertainers in Baltazar's court.

The Bible makes only vague reference of an unspecified number of unnamed wise men who visited baby Jesus, guided by a star, but they brought gold, frankincense, myrrh: gold because he was a king and kings liked gold (they still do), incense because he was a god and needed worshiping, and myrrh because he was human.

Why humans need myrrh? In those days it was also known as Balm of Gilead, a medicine used to cure diarrhea, an illness which, then as now, killed many babies. Even gods and kings have to survive their childhood before they can reign. Wise men knew what to bring.

6th-Jan-2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
Sorry not to be clever in this response, but...

Loved the photo, beautiful detail; you seem to have a good digital camera.

Loved the story, told it all to Eloise, including trying to estimate how large a pile of 32,000 pounds of candy is...that is, unless those were metric tons of candy (called long tons and short tons in the cement business).

Love the explanation of the 3 presents. Makes a lot of sense.

Big fat virtual hug to you, may you publish a novel in 2007!
7th-Jan-2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
Metric tons, no doubt, which are a 2204.623 pounds. A lot of candy.

Last year I saw the parade from a balcony overlooking the route, but this year I watched it on television. The TV reporters were throwing candy, uniformed police officers present on crowd control duty were throwing candy, children who were portraying Royal pages on the kings' floats were throwing candy, costumed characters on the street including people on stilts were throwing candy....

A couple years ago, parade organizers thought about blasting the candy out of cannons to reach the people in the back of the crowds, but finally decided there were safety issues.

I found a few candy wrappers and some confetti from the parade on the sidewalk in my neighborhood the next morning.

Thanks for the hug, here's one for you, and best wishes for publishing in 2007.
7th-Jan-2007 02:23 am (UTC)

This photo of the figurines is incredible - I first thought it was a photo of actors doing a reenactment.
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