Do you ever feel hopelessly behind? …Like you’ll never catch up, you’ll never finish all those lovely little projects whirling about your brain, you’ll never accomplish your dreams or reach your goals, or be who you want to be – or, ugh, just finish the laundry!
Apparently, as a general rule in my life, I must be late for everything. Everything.
Perpetually late to the party.
…Am I even on my way there?
If months ago I could have chosen an opening post for the New Year, this certainly wouldn’t have been it. At the turn of each calendar it seems everywhere you’ll find positive influence, hopeful suggestions, and uplifting promises for a “better” life this year – and here I am seven days in and already playing catch up!
Which brings me to Kings Day – which was yesterday. And this post was actually supposed to go up Friday. See what I mean?
Perpetually late to the party.
How fitting, then, that yesterday marked the celebration of the most notorious late party-goers in history: the “Three Kings!” who, besides baby Jesus, have always been my favorite characters in the Nativity story… not just because they were late, but because they got there by faith alone.
Though most scenes show three king-like figures alongside the shepherds, angels, and proud parents, the wise men from the East (Matthew 2:1) and their journey remains shrouded in mystery and surrounded by debate.
First of all, they were almost certainly not kings in the royal sense. The book of Matthew is the only Gospel to mention them and they are referenced as wise men (or “Magi” depending on your Bible version), not kings. There’s also no reference to an exact number, but since three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11)) are given the common assumption is that there were three. Thanks to pop culture and popular songs like “We Three Kings” these myths perpetuate.
Lastly, and perhaps most surprising, they were not even at the manger scene! They were LATE – though probably not on purpose. Matthew 2:2 simply says “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Excuse me for a moment – Is that not the most profound act of faith you’ve ever heard? They saw his star and came to worship him – that’s it! I can’t help but wonder what that must have been like, or if others thought they were crazy, or made fun of them for following a star, or their faith… I could go on and on about the wonders of the wise men story and the importance of living by faith, but I digress.
Their actual arrival also remains a mystery. Some claim it was mere weeks after the birth while others maintain it was as much as two years later. Either way, January 6th is the recognized date of celebration in honor of these faithful travelers and coincides (and correlates, by some traditions) with the Epiphany, which is the revelation of the Christ child as the flesh of God. This, too, is a debated topic regarding when and how this occurred…
…Okay, let’s stop right there. Are you overwhelmed yet? Did you have any idea that the fun festivities of “Kings Day” are actually steeped in mysterious and highly debated religious history? Surprise! Most of them are. Don’t even get me started on Mardi Gras…
I love learning and seeking an understanding for popular traditions, holidays, and festivals so pardon my digression and thank you for listening. Sometimes the history and tradition behind the holiday is actually more interesting than the popular way to celebrate it today and, in my humble opinion, it should be one’s duty to know what you’re celebrating before you do.
So, now that you know… let’s eat cake!
King’s Cake: A traditional cake enjoyed on and around King’s Day – January 6th. Like the many differing traditions and theories surrounding the wise men themselves, King’s Day traditions are just as numerous and diverse. Widely celebrated in France, French regions of Canada, New Orleans, Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish and Latin cultures, the varying traditions of King’s Day are influenced by their respective celebrating culture and even differ among families.
In general, a King’s Cake is baked on January 6th to honor the late arrival of the wise men. Baked inside the cake is a special trinket (traditionally a bean, but now commonly a ceramic or plastic baby or toy) upon which the recipient is given special duties, either serving as “King for the Day” or being responsible for the providing the next party’s cake.
King Cakes are often associated with Mardi Gras as King’s Day commences the season of indulgence, Carnival (which Mardi Gras concludes), before Lent – the season notorious for sacrifice, penitence, and doing without.
So, without further ado, and before it’s too late — let’s eat cake!
(top left) Traditional King Cake via Southern Living
(bottom left) New Orleans Style Kings Cake via The Kitchn
(right) French Style King Cake “Galette Des Rois” via Easy French Food
Before I went on a religious holiday rant, what I actually wanted to talk about today (er, Friday) is that even though we may feel perpetually behind and always “late for the party” – remember the wise men. Remember that even though they missed the main event and arrived later… they still arrived. By faith, and by way of God’s will and star, they arrived. You are never lost, nor late, when you’re following God’s will for your life – even if, by the world’s standards, you feel hopelessly behind.
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