Frankincense Discover the Christmas custom, story, myth and legend associated with Frankincense. This festive tradition and Christmas custom, with its familiar symbol and meaning, has evolved over time. But what is the history, meaning and origin of Frankincense? This article provides facts and information about the history of Frankincense as a familiar symbol which has specific religious significance to the Christian religion and the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Frankincense is a gum-resin obtained from certain species of trees. Frankincense was an ingredient in the sacred incense and holy anointing oil of the Israelites. [Ex 30:34-38]
The Gifts given by the Three Wise Men The Three Wise Men, or Magi, presented the infant Jesus with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, three gifts which were fit for a king.
Frankincense was used as a perfume, symbolizing prayer and the priesthood
Gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, symbolizing virtue
Myrrh (an embalming oil) was used as an anointing oil and as a symbol of suffering
The names of the 'Three Wise Men' are not mentioned in the Bible. They are referred to by a variety of different names but in the traditional Western Christian church they are commonly known as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These names were detailed in an early 6th century Greek manuscript in Alexandria. Tradition says that the Frankincense was presented to the infant Jesus by Balthasar.
What is Frankincense? (The Technical Stuff!) The word Frankincense is familiar to all Christians but what exactly is Frankincense? Frankincense is a gum-resin obtained from certain species of trees of the genus Boswellia, and natural order Burseraceae. The trees, from which Frankincense can be obtained grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia and possessed the following characteristics:
Bark, often papyraceous
Flowers of white, green, yellowish or pink with 5 petals
Trigonal or Pentagonal fruit and seed compressed
How is Frankincense obtained from a Tree? To obtain the frankincense a deep incision is made in the trunk of the tree, and below it a narrow strip of bark 5 inches in length is peeled off. When the milk-like juice has hardened by exposure to the atmosphere, the incision is deepened. In about three months the resin has attained the required degree of consistency. The season for gathering lasts from May until the first rains in September.
What was Frankincense used for? In the Red Sea regions frankincense was valued not only for its sweet odour, perfume, but when burnt but for the light it produced which was used for illumination instead of oil lamps. It also produced a fine white smoke and was often used in various religions and burnt at the altar as offerings. Frankincense was burnt with almost every sacrifice offered in Jerusalem's temple. Its fumes were also an excellent insect killer. As a medicine it was in former times in high repute. The Romans was believed to be an antidote to hemlock and recommended for tumours, ulcers of the head and ears, affections of the breast, vomiting, dysentery and fevers. In the East frankincense was been found effective as an external application in carbuncles, blind boils and gangrenous sores. In China it was an old internal remedy for leprosy and is credited with stimulant, tonic, sedative and astringent properties.
Frankincense Christmas is celebrated worldwide, throughout the Christian population of approximately 2275 million people, but is also celebrated by many non-Christians as a secular, cultural festival. A Christmas custom or tradition is symbolized by a familiar symbol or icon, such as the Frankincense, have come to represent the spirit and meaning of this special time of the year.
The history, meaning and origin of this familiar symbol
Old Customs, Symbols and Traditions
Meaning and origin of this traditional Christmas custom
History, Facts and information about customs, symbols and traditions - Frankincense
Meaning, history and origin of traditional symbols
A Religious Christian meaning, Pagan origins or a Modern Christmas custom - Frankincense
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