A Brief History of the Yo-Yo and Jesus
Written by Lucas James Pralle
The yo-yo, a device with the capacity to eat up an entire afternoon of a child’s time and bring a smile to the most somber adult, has been around for at least 2,500 years. Evidence of its existence before that time can be seen in Egyptian hieroglyphs and ancient Chinese documents, but modern yo-yo historians are reluctant to point to anything before ancient Greece. After all, they do have examples of the toy from the period, and there’s no reason to get overzealous over a yo-yo and throw the credibility of the whole thing out.
So before Christ, you had plenty of Greek children fiddling with their yo-yos, many adults too, although not in public, as it wasn’t fashionable at the time. And just as ideas, disease, and religion have a way of finding a way, so did the yo-yo. From China, it made the inevitable hop over to nearby islands in the Pacific. It swept down from the land of the pharaohs into the lower African continent. And from the aforementioned Greeks, where it was undoubtedly the most popular in ancient times, it was inherited by the incoming Romans, where it then flooded through the Middle East and up to the European tribes.
In today’s age, when one considers the widespread use of the yo-yo throughout the ancient world, it’s hard not to wonder why we know so little about something that was so important to people of the time…especially a pivotal character like Jesus Christ.
The story of Jesus and his yo-yo begins all the way back in Nazareth. Young Jesus was already two years old and getting along just fine when the path of the yo-yo and his would connect. In retrospect, he had an aptitude for such an activity. Along with being exceptionally intelligent, Jesus was quite coordinated for a child of only two years of age. His favorite pastimes were helping his mother in the garden and seeing how fast he could touch his little toes. It was all a great deal of fun for the family, and relatively uneventful, until four strangers showed up at their doorstep in Nazareth.
Now, the reader might be more familiar with the three Magi which most biblical history will account for, somehow failing to mention the fourth, and by far the most important, at least to Jesus at the time. Being a good host, Mary invited the men in and offered them some tea, which they quickly declined before dropping to their knees and presenting, to Jesus’s young eyes anyway, rocks, sticks, and a sweet smelling goop. He promptly positioned himself behind the protection of his standing mother. Fortunately, the fourth Magi, having fathered many children himself, looked up from his prostrate position, gave young Jesus a wink, and presented a wooden yo-yo to the boy.
Upon initial inspection of the thing it amounted to nothing more than the rocks, sticks, and goop that the others had presented. That is until the Magi dropped the yo-yo, it spun down to the end of its string, and the magical spinning disks returned back to his hand. Jesus’s eyes went wide, and the fourth Magi smiled and gestured for the boy to come out and see what he had traveled so far to bring him. Jesus looked up at his mother before cautiously stepping forward. The fourth Magi demonstrated again, the disks spun down and came back up with a whir that made Jesus’s ears tingle.
The boy clapped his hands in excitement and went to the Magi, allowing him to neatly place the small loop around his finger and gently guide Jesus’s hand in dropping the toy. The first attempt was a failure, and one of the other Magis, who all beside the fourth were kneeling with their heads down, which was undoubtedly uncomfortable, cleared his throat as if it was time for them to get going. The fourth Magi ignored this less than subtle signal, wrapped the string around the toy, and had young Jesus try again. This time they managed to get it to return half-way, and on the third attempt they made a full return. Not surprisingly, Jesus was a real natural at the sport. The Magi dismissed themselves and Mary put the other gifts they had brought away in the cupboard. When Joseph came home later that afternoon, they had to pack their things and move to Egypt. This really didn’t bother Jesus that much because he had his yo-yo.
Jesus trained relentlessly during his time in Egypt, wowing his parents, and anyone that was lucky enough to witness his incredible performances. He’d spin the toy in all directions, make it hang in the air like a bird, and send it bouncing about like a flea. Children of all ages would gather around to watch young Jesus, and then their parents came to watch too. They would clap their hands and sing happy songs and beat rhythms with reeds as he swung his yo-yo around in seemingly impossible directions. Their happiness made him happy, and it fueled his passion to become better.
Eventually it was time for Jesus’s family to return to Nazareth. He did so, unperturbed, practicing with two yo-yos on the way back, as the Egyptians had given him one as a teary-eyed parting gift. As expected, his days growing up and becoming a man were filled with manly things, plenty of yo-yoing, and the crafting of yo-yos in the wood shop. Jesus knew just about everything there was to know about yo-yos at that time, and he was quite skilled at making them. So he decided to open a shop up in Nazareth. It was called Yo-Yo Jesus.
Business was booming at Yo-Yo Jesus. Folks would travel from far lands to get their hands on one of Jesus’s famed yo-yos, and along with their silver, they would bring stories from their distant homes. One particular story that kept on popping up was that of another skilled yo-yoer to the southeast, out near Jerusalem. Up to that point, Jesus had never met anyone that could come close to matching his abilities. It was exciting for Jesus to think of a colleague to compare notes with, and maybe even perform tandem maneuvers for delighted audiences. Jesus locked up his shop and set out to meet this mysterious yo-yoer.
The trip was tough, and Jesus was happy when he finally caught sight of the Jordan River. As he approached, he could see the familiar glint, sway, and snap of a yo-yo being expertly wielded near the water. Rejuvenated, he quickened his step.
The man was facing the shallow, dark waters of the river. Jesus watched as the stranger’s yo-yo shot up past his shoulder like a bird—once, twice, and then he deftly swung it from side to side.
“The river. It brings me many things. Wheat, water, forgiveness, those things are for all of us. We just need to take time to accept its gifts.” Jesus pondered this for a moment as he squinted out into the sundrenched river.
“They say you’re the son of God you know,” said the man. Jesus watched as he led the yo-yo onto itself and it gracefully went from one side to the other. “That you’re the king of men, and because of it, you’re meant to sacrifice your life.” The man’s yo-yo jerked about like a living creature.
“What do you think?” asked the man as he looked over at Jesus, who was now standing next to him and looking out into the Jordan. Jesus flung his yo-yo hard, and it whistled down and skimmed the surface of the water. The man nodded.
“I came to play.”