Since I attended a church-run high school, I had to sit through plenty of Bible classes as a teenager, but never once in any of those lessons did I hear the theory that the gifts of the Magi (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) were actually meant as an embalming kit. I have no idea if this explanation of the gifts's meaning is widely accepted among scholars, but it struck me as weird, in an interesting way. From SFGate.com
The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh - odd gifts to give a newborn, but rife with symbolic meaning, for those three elements are related to the funeral and burial of corpses.
A long-standing tradition, dating back to the ancient Greeks, involved placing one gold coin on each eye of the dead, so that his or her soul would have the boat fare to cross the River Styx, that is, pass from the land of the living into the land of the dead.
Frankincense, the scent found in Catholic and Orthodox churches around the world, is a meditative aid, but is also burned in abundance around bodies before burial to cover any unpleasant odors.
Myrrh was an embalming ointment used until the 15th century to dress bodies before funerals. It is also known as "holy oil," and is still used in traditional Eastern Orthodox burial ceremonies. Myrrh, mixed with wine, also would be offered to Jesus before his crucifixion, as this was an intoxicant, which would have made him less susceptible to pain. The gifts of the Magi at Jesus' birth were all in anticipation of his death...
So, as you open your gifts this Christmas morning, think back to the very first Christmas presents. Aunt Flora's pink-and-brown knit tie may not be quite what you were hoping for, but it's a good deal cheerier than an embalming kit.