Friday, January 6, 2012
Happy Kings Day!
Of course growing up I’d never heard of Kings Day. It was not part of our family celebration when I was a child (and my parents were active in the Presbyterian Church), and our conversion to Mormonism did nothing to bring the holiday alive.
I’ve really only had two brushes with the holiday (except, perhaps, for my enjoyment of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which is said to be from a story told on the eve of this holiday).
The first was in Germany on my mission. It was customary in some families for children to find bags of cookies or other treats hung on their door, presumably left by the visiting kings, just as they had done for the Savior. In others, eating of a special cake or plundering the goodies from the Christmas tree are common (though in my house this starts on Christmas morning!). My companion and I returned home from working on this day and found a bag of cookies on our door, left by a member family who lived not far from us.
The power of this act of kindness cannot be overstated. I had been in Germany less than two months and my companion and I did not get along well (largely, I think, because of my stubbornness at what I thought a “good” missionary should do and my lack of compassion toward a companion who had had a very different mission experience from my vision). We had enjoyed a last-minute invitation to an older couple’s home for Christmas dinner where neither they nor we quite knew what to do to make ourselves comfortable. (The families we knew best were either traveling or otherwise occupied.) I had been unable to reach my parents by phone on Christmas because of limited phone connections and their travel schedule (they were on a brief visit to my brother’s for the holiday before returning to Nigeria where my father was working at the time). Poor me.
The memory of this small act of kindness of a few cookies in a bag still stirs me.
My second experience was in Venezuela when my family and I lived there for my work. We had a certain mountain village we liked to visit. As we were driving there on a particular January 6 (I had forgotten completely that it was Epiphany), we were suddenly faced with three speeding horses with riders dressed in colorful robes that charged toward us, and then around us on both sides of our car. Only then did I notice the people lining the street watching the horsemen, and it was only some distance up the road that I sorted out that they represented the kings, and that we had inadvertently driven into a celebration of the kings.
(To this day I wonder if I missed a road block, but it would not surprise me if I didn’t; traffic in Venezuela was often a bit uncontrolled.)
It was kind of exciting to have them zoom past us, hooves clacking against the cobblestone street, and to see the whoosh of color run by. I wonder if the Magi who visited the Savior were slow and methodical in their journey or if they felt the urgency of the players who passed us in Maracay.