My kids get peeved at me every year around Epiphany. Of course, it’s not like I don’t irritate them at other times of the year, but Epiphany brings on a particular thorn in their sides. It’s a special day for us, as we celebrate the arrival of the Magi at the foot of the manger. We usually have a special meal and dessert and everyone gets a little extra present from the Three Kings. We take off of school, re-read the Scripture story, spend some time together as Clan and play Christmas carols.

Therein lies the problem. Nearly every Christmas CD we own carries a rendition of “We Three Kings”. And that blows everything. In more ways than one.

You see, as a kid, my mischievous older siblings taught me their own rendition of “We Three Kings”. Like any good mom, I taught it to my children. It goes like this:

“We Three Kings of Orient are,
smoking on a rubber cigar.
It was loaded,
it exploded…

We Two Kings of Orient are,
smoking on a rubber cigar.
It was loaded,
it exploded…


I, the King of Orient are,
smoking on a rubber cigar…”

I think you get the picture, and unfortunately, so do my kids. The image of the Magi puffing away on combustible stogies has been ingrained into their brains since the first moment I desecrated the song for them. Now every time they hear “We Three Kings”, they find themselves cracking up at the preposterous lyrics they learned when they were younger.

Not so bad if you’re just hanging out together at home, but consider what happens when it’s played at a concert or liturgy! Last Christmas Eve, we decided to pilgrimage to the Basilica of Holy Hill for Midnight Mass. We’d never been there and heard it was a most awesome experience.

Well, it was. Until the choir broke into “We Three Kings” and it broke my children into snickers and snorts. It was made worse by the fact that we were all standing on the ambo side of the Church, right up front because the pews were filled! Try as they might, the kids could not focus on the real lyrics. All their ears heard was rubber cigars and explosions. Bang.

I saw them out of the corner of my eye, hunched over, elbowing each other. The adult in me tried to remain prim and reverent but the kid in me caved in and I caught a snicker on my own lips. I tried to hide it, but then my daughter noticed and that brought a new round of chuckles. Good grief.
I bowed my head, not only to stiffle my ridiculous sense of humor, but also to utter a short prayer to Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. “Oh, my dear Magi. I am so sorry. It’s not you, truly we respect and honor you. It’s just the stupid image stuck in our heads! Please forgive me for dementing my children like this. Thank you for the important role you played in the Nativity Story. Pray for us. Amen.”

You’d think I’d learn, but I don’t. This morning as I was moseying around the house making it feastive for our celebration, I found myself humming…you guessed it…”We Three Kings.” John came into the room and heard me.

“Mom! NO!!”, he ordered.

A few minutes later, I heard him humming the tune and I simply smiled. Ha. Like it or not, rubber cigars have become part of the Clan’s Epiphany tradition. I just hope the Three Kings have an enduring sense of humor!
Categories: Blog


Brian Sullivan · January 6, 2010 at 9:18 pm

The version you taught your kids are only slightly more absurd than the genuine lyrics. Actually, it's the melody that's awful, except for the chorus which is beautiful: "Star of wonder, star of night…"

Marge Fenelon · January 7, 2010 at 1:23 am

I agree, Brian! Thanks for posting.

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David Marshall · December 10, 2019 at 6:45 pm

My family was taught that the end of the song was 🎶Silent Night.🎶

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