By B. Francis Morlan
Legends abound of many gift-givers besides St. Nicholas in connection with Christmas. In old Russia, before the revolution of 1917, the most commonly known giver of gifts was an old woman known as Baboushka (which means grandmother in Russian).
Baboushka lived alone in a big house that required constant upkeep. She had lived so long alone that her days and her thoughts were filled only with cleaning, cooking, mending, spinning and looking after her empty property. She had no remaining family and rarely received visitors. Her large home near the road consumed her days.
As she busied herself one cold evening in scrubbing her floors, she heard the sound of trumpets coming from the road. She looked out the window and saw off in the distance three noblemen, finely dressed, moving down the road. She thought nothing of them until she heard the knock at her door.
"We are traveling to Bethlehem to find the Child who is born a King," said one of the wise men to her. "Won't you please come with us to find Him?"
The old woman explained that her floors were not yet clean and that she could not possibly leave her home. She invited them in from the cold but they explained that they could not be delayed. They bid her farewell and went on their way.
Late that night by the light of a fire, she pondered upon the men who had visited her and, more importantly, of the Child of whom they spoke. She regretted deeply, for some reason, not having gone with them now.
She gathered a few trinkets from among her meager possessions and set off into the cold night to find the noblemen. She walked and walked, inquiring after the traveling men and the Child who would be King but no one knew where to find them.
Legend has it that she continues to this day, traveling the lands in search of them. On Ephiphany Eve she leaves her trinkets in the homes of good children she visits in hopes that they too will search for the Child.