This morning talking to Matt Swaim on the Sonrise Morning Show, Sacred Heart Radio, was a fun and informative segment. We chatted about the gifts of the 3 Magi and to honor the shepherds, who couldn’t afford gifts for Baby Jesus, I’m sharing a recipe for mulled cider.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh:
Matthew 2:11. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus by the Biblical Magi “from out of the East.” And the passage says that they came to His “HOUSE”, which leads us to believe that they came after the birth and when Mary and Joseph were settled in Bethlehem. So who were the magi? Where did they come from?
They were called wise men, and developed distinct characteristics in medieval times. They are often depicted as representing 3 races, 3 ages of adult men and 3 different areas. There are lots of different accounts as to who’s who, but I take my description from St. Bede, an 8th century saint,who described the kings this way:
The first was called Melchior, and according to tradition, he was king of Persia, around 60 years old. He was an old man, with white hair and long beard; He offered gold to the Lord . He looks very middle eastern to me.
The second, Gaspar/Caspar by name, fairly young, middle age, around 40, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense. In my nativity set he looks like he comes from India.
The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was the youngest, about 20, and was called Balthazar; He is depicted as coming from Africa. The myrrh he brought was obtained around Yemen.
What was the symbolism of gold? I understand there is an edible type gold, as well.
Gold symbolized royalty so was a perfect gift for the future king. Some legends say that Jesus and Mary used the gold as payment to escape Herod on their flight to Egypt.
In antiquity, gold and silver were used to prepare medicines and both were considered a digestive. They are still considered medicinal in Chinese and Indian medicine and in certain homeopathic applications.
Edible gold is safe to eat but doesn’t have much flavor.
Metallic gold is biologically inert; that’s why dentists can use it for fillings, caps, and crowns.
Frankincense and divinity
Frankincense symbolized divinity (represents life and was used to anoint newborns).
Where does Frankincense come from?
It’s a resin that is scraped from the bark of the Boswellia tree, which isn’t the most beautiful specimen – sort of scraggly, but strong. These hardened resins are called tears.
Didn’t the Egyptians grind the charred resin to make a eyeliner?
Yes, they did. The Egyptians ground the charred resin into a powder called kohl. Kohl was used to make the distinctive black eyeliner seen on so many figures in Egyptian art.
Frankincense is considered to be healing. There’s even boswelia capsules to take for upper respiratory health.
Now Myrrh is not so well known as the other two. Myrrh symbolized Jesus’ future death, as it was an ingredient used in embalming at the time to keep away the smell.
It is a resin that comes from the sap of a type of Balsam tree.It was very valuable and was used as an incense burned during funerals. Myrrh is used in perfumes, salves, some natural toothpastes, etc.
We know shepherds were on the scene, too and were told about Jesus’ birth by angels.
They didn’t bring gifts, but represented how Jesus came for everybody, not just the rich. They also symbolize the fact that Jesus himself became a shepherd and we are His flock.
A simple drink honoring the shepherds, who, unlike the kings, could not afford gifts. Perfect for a holiday gathering!
Mulling spices for cider
Sometimes I’ll just boil the spices in a bit of water on the stove as a potpourri. Fragrant, and cloves have healing qualities.
4 cinnamon sticks, about 3” long, broken up
3 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
Mix everything together and store in pantry.
2 quarts apple cider
1 recipe mulling spices
1 sliced orange or apple
Cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)
Bring cider to a boil with spices, lower to a simmer and add fruit. Strain out spices before serving, with a slice of fruit and cinnamon stick.
Gilding the lily: Add a bit of rum to make hot buttered rum cider!