What is frankincense, and where does it come from?

What to eat, drink, buy, and think during that special time of year
Dec. 14 2010 10:21 AM

What Is Frankincense?

And where does it come from?

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I don't want to be that person at Christmas, the one who launches into an exhaustive explanation of the origins of frankincense. Or the aunt whose reporting in the Middle East will lead her to assure her Catholic-schooled nephews that Adam and Eve more likely fell from grace because of an apricot and not an apple, in spite of what their teacher said.

I don't want to be the one who takes the mystery out of the Magi. Then again, it's still not clear where they came from, even if I can now picture the bags of resin in a pouch, hanging from the side of a camel, marching across the desert.

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Jackie Spinner is a journalist based in the Middle East. She was a staff writer for the Washington Post for 14 years and covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the author of Tell Them I Didn't Cry: A Young Journalist's Story of Joy, Loss, and Survival in Iraq.