The three gifts that Coll, Gyb, and Daw bring for the Christ child—a bunch of cherries, a bird, and a ball—symbolize Christ’s status as the Son of God. With their crimson-red juices, the cherries signify the blood Christ will spill for the sake of the world through his eventual crucifixion and redemption of mankind. The bird represents the Christian symbol of a dove, reflecting the peace Christ brings to the earth. Lastly, the ball symbolizes the orb. A common symbol in the Medieval period, the orb is often depicted in Medieval art with a scepter and represents power and royalty. Thus, the ball represents Christ’s power and status as a spiritual King. Together, the three gifts reveal Christ’s status as human and God. In addition, the gifts also reflect the shepherds’ generosity despite their crippling poverty, ultimately leading them to earn redemption.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Three Gifts appears in The Second Shepherd’s Play. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...with Mary and Christ. Each of the three shepherds prepare to present Christ with a gift. (full context)
...Referring to Jesus as “my sweeting” and admiring the way he “merries” and giggles, Coll gifts the Christ child with a bunch of cherries. (full context)
Gyb calls Christ the “sovereign savior” and presents him with a bird. He lovingly refers to the Christ child as “Little day star” and “little tiny mop.” (full context)
...Christ’s poverty. Calling baby Jesus “darling dear, full of Godhead,” Daw presents him with a ball with which he can play tennis. He also asks Jesus to “be near when I... (full context)