It is the Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany. Christmas is officially over. As tradition goes, it is believed that all Christmas decorations must come down by midnight or else, the whole household will be struck by bad luck throughout the year. With a heavy heart, I spend my entire evening making my living room tinsel-free. It is also a jolly good excuse to finish off any remaining sweets and half-consumed alcohol.
I usually leave my Christmas shopping until the second week of December. It takes two or three trips to the shops and a click of a button and presto, my shopping is done. Though I put careful thought into the presents I am offering, I pray that they would bring pleasure to the recipients. But I am not always lucky when I am on the receiving end as not everyone is as thoughtful as I.
You will understand what I am saying when I say, ‘Secret Santa’ – the last exciting event before the office is closed for the holidays. Having taken a name from a hat, I am careful in purchasing something that I hope they would like. Even though I might not know that person intimately, I would not want them to throw my chosen gift at the back of their cupboard. It is not just trusting my guts but also taking a leap of faith.
On the day of the big reveal … excitement … drumroll. From the big pile, I retrieve my anonymous present wrapped in glittery paper. Should I unwrap now or later? I hesitate. I weigh the tiny present in my hand, feeling the texture, guessing the content. What if I am disappointed? I will need to do my best to compose myself. As I do not have a good poker face it is best that I take my present home and unwrap it away from prying eyes. And if I do not like it, then, I can pass it on to someone who might.
Epiphany is another gift-sharing occasion. It is the day when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi or Three Kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus. The day is sometimes called ‘little Christmas’ in some parts of the world. Epiphany is also a moment of sudden realisation. Three Wise Men had an epiphany when they saw the lone star and decided to take on a hard journey to meet a newly born.
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar must have started on their travel many months before. A long and uncomfortable journey on camel back. Imagine, how much easier it would have been if Amazon could deliver their chosen gifts! They battled the physical harshness of the desert because they were about to come upon beauty, purity, and divinity. A deity to whom they would present three material gifts.
Gold was one of the three gifts. One could say that a poor baby born in a manger would have no need of such a lavish gift. Why would Jesus, the son of God, need wealth and money? But as I ponder some more, I realise that gold also means purity. The Three Kings did not come to show off their wealth but to experience pure beauty.
‘Don’t trust everything you see. Even salt looks like sugar.’
Hence, I have learned that there is an ambiguity in practically everything I encounter daily. It is imprudent to take anything at face value. It is only wishful thinking to dream that I would be given a gift-wrapped bundle of wealth. Now that I have had my own epiphany, I need to trust and believe in myself and put the hard work needed to achieve success. There is more beauty in simpler things, and I need to keep it real.