Sunday, February 21, 2010

Babushka and the Three Wise Men

The Christmas season is a celebratory one across much of  the globe. In the picture above, copyright Setarles, courtesy of Wikipedia, New Year is depicted in Revolution Square. The tradition of the Christmas tree came to Russia through Peter the Great who brought it back from his excursions in Western Europe. Although Christmas usually constitutes a religious celebration, secular themes have combined with the spiritual aspects to create a holiday of gift-giving, often done by kind, elderly figures. In the United States, Santa Claus comes down the chimney. In Germany, St. Nicholas leaves presents in shoes on December 6. In Mexico, the Three Wise Men visit children in January. In Russia, Babushka puts sweets and small toys and other gifts in childrens' stockings for them to find on Christmas morning.

Babushka means "grandma" in Russian, but is often used in the English language to describe scarves like the ones seen in the picture at left. In the tale of "Babushka and the Three Wise Men," children can learn an important lesson about taking life's opportunities when they come and not putting trivial things first instead. According to the tale, Babushka had the chance to go see the baby Jesus when the Wise Men stopped by her house on their journey to Bethlehem. She made them dinner and let them stay at her house for the evening. They invited her to join them on this special trip, but Babushka decided to clean the house, find gifts for the baby, and get herself prettied up before she left. By the time she finished all her chores, the star that the Wise Men were following had moved away. Babushka tried to find Jesus anyway, but wandered aimlessly and never found him.

Russian children wake up on Christmas morning excited to see what Babushka has left for them. Legend has it that Babushka wanders around Russia on Christmas Eve, looking for the baby King at whatever house has children. Just to be sure she does not miss Him, she leaves gifts for every child.

While this story is a nice way to explain Christmas traditions, it is also a fable. The moral of the story is to not let life pass you by. Babushka let the opportunity of a lifetime pass by her because she wanted to be completely prepared for it. Life does not let people be as prepared as they would like to be for chances that arrive. Babushka shows us that we should take opportunities as they come, not sit and wait for them when we have finally prepared ourselves to our liking.

Montgomerie, Norah. "Babushka and the Three Wise Men." Christmas Fairy Tales. By Neil Philip. Illus. Isabelle Brent. New York: Viking, 1996. 89-91. Print.