(a Russian Christmas tale)
Long ago, an old woman named Babushka lived in a tiny cottage far from the city. One snowy evening, just as she was preparing her meal, Babushka heard a knock at the door. She opened it to find three men standing before her. From their rich clothing and fine features, Babushka guessed that they were men of learning who had traveled from far away in the East. They were shivering in the cold, and little slivers of ice hung from their beards. In their arms they each carried packages, and these were dusted with snow.
“Oh my,” Babushka said, “you must be freezing out there. Please come in and warm yourselves by my fire.”
The three wise men bowed in thanks and followed the woman into her cottage. “Forgive us,” one of the men said, “but we have been walking for a long, long time. Tonight our journey ends, for we are going to the place where the King of Kings will be born this very night. We are bringing Him gifts, and we wish only to stop for a while to warm ourselves.”
“Of course,” Babushka said, “but you must eat something. I have prepared a nice hot soup. Please join me.” She set a table for the four of them, filling bowls with steaming soup, placing crusty bread in the center.
They sat down at the table to eat, and the men told Babushka of the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, about to occur. “We are waiting for the brightest star to rise,” they said, “for we will follow its path. The star will guide us to the place where the King of Kings is to be born this very night.”
“How I wish I could join you and bring a gift myself,” Babushka sighed.
“Come with us, then,” the men said heartily. “The King of Kings will welcome you, but we must be on our way soon. Will you come?”
Babushka looked around and frowned. “I cannot leave just now,” she said. “I must clean the house and prepare myself, but I will come as soon as I am ready.”
With that she bade the men farewell and watched from the cottage door as they set off, following the starlight’s path. She waved until she could no longer see them.
Inside, Babushka washed the dishes, swept the floor, dusted and tidied the cottage. She bathed and dressed in her finest clothes, and then, looking around, she began to gather gifts to take to the newborn king. Babushka was a poor, hard-working woman who owned little, but she managed to gather several small toys, some sweets and tiny candles to take with her.
She walked to the door, tightly wrapped her coat and scarf around her to keep out the cold, and set off.
Babushka looked up at the sky, searching for the star that would lead her to the birthplace of the King of Kings. “Oh my,” she said, for no matter where she looked, she could not find the star. She had washed and scrubbed and readied herself for a long time, and as she worked, the stars had moved across the sky.
Babushka tried one road. She walked for a while, but eventually she realized she must have taken the wrong turn. She tried a different road, and then another, and another, always searching the sky for the star the wise men had followed.
People say Babushka never did find the right road, and that she is wandering still. And every year, at Christmastime, the children run downstairs to search for the gifts Babushka has left for them as she travels the world, searching for the King of Kings. In every house where a small child lives, the people say, Babushka leaves a gift in honor of each and every child and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born on Christmas Day.