The Three Kings

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The Three Wise Men, The Three Kings and The Magi are alternate ways of referring to the "Wise Men from the East" described in the Gospel According to St. Matthew in the Christian bible. According to Matthew’s account, they visited the young Jesus, bringing expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They are said to have followed a star, which came to be known as the Star of Bethlehem, to Jerusalem, and found Jesus, whom they believed to be "the King of the Jews". Matthew's narrative includes a political aside involving King Herod of Judea being troubled and jealous at the thought of the birth of another king. Nothing else is known about them.

The symbolism of the story has captured both Christian and non-Christian imaginations, and the story has been embellished over the centuries. Reference to the Magi in art, literature and popular culture are endless. These wise men are traditionally referred to as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, although their names are not referred to in the Biblical narrative, and Matthew does not specify how many they were, how long or from where they travelled; nor does the gospel indicate how old Jesus was or where He was living when the Magi arrived.

The story

Sometime after the birth of Jesus, wise men from the East came looking for him. They stopped at King Herod’s palace, inquiring where the “King of the Jews” had been born. Herod was evidently upset by the questioning; he would certainly not have wanted any other “King of the Jews” born, particularly one of Davidian lineage. In Matthew’s account, Herod asks the wise men to find the child and come back and let him know where He is, so that Herod may also worship him.

The wise men found Jesus, and knelt or prostrated themselves before him, and presented him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. God warns them “in a dream” not to go back to Herod, so they return to their own country via another route. There is no further reference to them anywhere in the New Testament.

Observation and celebrations

Most Western Christian churches commemorate the visit of The Three Kings as The Feast of the Epiphany, held on the 6th January. This is the twelfth day of Christmas, and officially marks the end of the season.

Christian Latin American tradition includes Three Kings Day as the major festival of Christmas, and the day is celebrated with a large festive dinner and the giving of gifts.