It’s called the “rule of threes”. In French, “règle de trois”. The principle that suggests things that come in threes are inherently “superior” or “ore prodigious” than any other collection or combination of numbers. Funnier. Sadder. Scarier. More exciting. More satisfying. And more effective. There is “third time’s a charm”, “three is the magic number”, “three men in a tub”, “Three Dog Night”, and “three sheets to the wind”. Movie trilogies are better than a standalone movie or a movie and sequel. And a fourth in a series of movies could destroy a franchise…yeah, I’m talking to you Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.
Further, hitting the trifecta is better than hitting the daily double. Three Stooges are better than two Stooges. Think about it. If it were the Two Stooges, they would be, for all intents and purposes, Laurel and Hardy. Funny yes, but not “Stooges” funny. Or, take The Three Musketeers. Aramis, Porthos, and Athos. Three lifelong friends dedicated to protection of the crown. And then comes D’Artagnan who eventually joins the group, making them more of a Charleston Chew where the rich, creamy nougat is ruined by artificial colors and flavors.
Growing up (and even when fully grown,) at Christmas time, the rule of threes would always be pushed to its limits thanks to my two brothers. Inherently, I and my brothers would end up getting the exact same presents year after year after year. Now I don’t mean socks and underwear every year (although for a very long time, that was also true), I mean if I got socks and underwear, then so did my brothers. The next year, if I got an umbrella, then so did my brothers. And the next year, if I got a bowling ball, you could rest assured that my brothers would get bowling balls as well.
And so, it went. Gloves. Jackets. Chafing dishes. Guitars. Recliners (thanks, Costco!). It was as though my parents persisted in trying to find the one combination of three “somethings” that would prove the theory wrong. After all, they came pretty darn close with the simple act of having us three boys, but luckily, my innate je ne sais quoi was enough counterbalance to the other two’s collective fadeur.
And to think that they were trying to ruin this principle during Christmas. After all, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three persons in one nature. Not one person or two people. Three. The Holy Trinity. In fact, all throughout the bible, God had planted clues in threes suggesting to us that the number three is going to play an important role as things continued to unfold throughout (and beyond) history.
From the start of creation, things of import have popped up in threes. Adam and Eve had three sons. Noah had three sons. Three visitors appeared to Abraham. Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and nights. Jesus rebuked Satan three times in the desert. Three Magi visited Jesus – Side note: notice how each of the Magi presented Jesus with different gifts. Can you imagine if all three showed up each with a box of frankincense? Awkward…but I digress.
Jesus’ ministry lasted three years. There were three crosses upon Calvary. There were three nails holding Jesus to the cross. And the coup de grâce, Jesus rose from the dead after three days.
It’s important to remember that the number three has great power and meaning. Hymns are sung in triads to achieve that perfect tonal harmony. The best type of circus is a three-ring circus. The best type of suit? A three-piece. And let’s not forget, when your mom got angry, what did she count to? That’s right. Three.
So, this Christmas, if you’re opening presents and see that you and your two brothers got the same size gift with the same wrapping, don’t bother opening it. Just wait until one of the others opens theirs to see what it is. That way you won’t have to show your disappointment when you and your brothers get the same racing car printed boxer shorts.
Also, if you find yourself trapped at a Christmas party and forced to sing the 12 Days of Christmas, don’t sing anything past French hens. Because the third day has something the other 11 days don’t. That certain je ne sais quoi.