The only mention of Three Kings Day characters appears in St Matthew’s Gospel. Here it speaks of ‘magi’ but without mentioning their names. Neither is it specified that they were kings nor that there were three of them.
“Three Kings Day” or “Three Magi’ Day” is the most awaited day for adults and children in Spain during the winter holidays. It is celebrated every year on 6 January and celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Christ Child. At the same time, it also marks the end of the Christmas season.
The Gospel says a star guided some “magi” from the east. To worship the newly-born king of the Jews. Herod the Great, who at that time was king of Judea and Galilee, sent them to see what it was all about and made them promise that once they found the boy, they would tell him so that he could worship him.
What are the Origins of ” Three Kings Day”
The names of Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar first appeared in a 6th-century mosaic in the Basilica of Saint Apollinaris the New in the Italian city of Ravenna.
On different continents, the names of the Three Kings appear in essential works in the history of Spanish literature, dating from the 12th century. The work is entitled “Auto de Los Reyes Magos” and is kept in the National Library of Spain. Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar appear in it, but they are not mentioned as ‘kings’ but as ‘sellers’ and astrologers.
It is believed that from the 5th century onwards, the celebration of the Kings gained popularity and spread throughout Europe.
Biography of Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior
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How did the three wise men find the child in Bethlehem?
In Spain, the first parade in honor of the Three Kings took place in 1866 in Alcoy, a town in the Community of Valencia in the province of Alicante. This parade also began the celebration of giving gifts to children, reminiscent of giving gifts to Jesus.
The Bible tells us that, guided by a star, the Magi found the boy in a stable in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph. The Magi prostrated themselves before him and offered him gifts: gold, the metal of kings, frankincense, the sacrifice of the gods, and myrrh, the symbol of humanity and a foretaste of future suffering.
Old prophets foretold Herod’s ousting from the throne by the coming king of the Jews. Herod, therefore, ordered the killing of all the children in the kingdom until the age of two. Beyond the answers given in the Bible, the origin of the Magi as we know them today lies in a long medieval tradition that “baptized” them with the names Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar.
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Where is the Three Kings Day celebrated most?
On 6 January, the Catholic faithful celebrate the incarnation and manifestation of God as a human being. In history, the “Divine Revelation” – as the Orthodox Church calls it – was first recognized, according to the Bible, by the three Magi from the East.
The 6th of January is hugely celebrated in Spain. They are far exceeding New Year’s Eve, for example. Why? Because it’s the holiday, their children have been longing for! And how could it not be, when for six years in a row I, too, have seen the biblical Magi of the East, after passing through Finland to take their breasts in hand, waiting for them with reindeer all ready saddled up and bags full of the long-awaited toys demanded by the children of the whole world.
They do as they do and, after they go around all the main streets of the country’s towns and villages handing out dozens of tons of sweets to the crowds of parents and children who hand them out on the pavements, they then go into people’s homes to leave the children the gifts they asked for in advance.
Key Verse related to Epiphany
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod, the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet.”
What is Epiphany?
On the occasion of this important Christian feast, we know about the celebration of Epiphany. As well as the long-awaited (especially by the little ones) arrival of the Magi on 6 January.
Epiphany (from the Greek epiphany) means appearance; in the Bible, it is mainly the manifestation of divinity. The birth of Jesus can be seen as an epiphany because it represents the manifestation of God. In the world, through the incarnation of the Son, it is the birth of the Son of God; it is God coming among us.
The current Catholic liturgy on 6 January celebrates the worship of the Magi, who come from pagan peoples to worship the infant Jesus. This is the feast of the Divine Revelation, the Epiphany, and the revelation of Jesus to the whole world. Since ancient times, both in the East and West, the Church has celebrated on 6 January the Divine Revelation to the world, a feast later known as Epiphany.
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What is the connection between Epiphany and the Feast of the Magi?
Soon, in the West, the feast of Epiphany acquired a threefold theological content. The celebration of the revelation of the incarnate God to the pagans. (The worship of the Magi), the revelation of Jesus’ divine sonship. (The baptism in the waters of the Jordan) and the revelation of the divine power of the Lord (the miracle of the wedding feast in Canaan).
From the earliest days of Christianity, it is believed that the first manifestation in the pagan world of the Son of God becoming man occurred with the worship of the Kings. He is referred to in the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-12): 1. And if Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod, the king. Behold, the Magi from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, Where is the King of the Jews, who was born? For we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him?
The prophet Micah announced the exact place of the Messiah’s appearance. He comforts his people by saying: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means the least of the princes of Judah. For out of you will come forth the Leader who will shepherd my people Israel” (Micah 5:1).
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Where do the names of the three Kings appear?
The tradition of the Three Kings in Spain means, above all, the great joy of children. On Kings’ Night, families leave baskets or trays on their balconies for the Kings. To put presents in for the whole family. (Not just the children) and it is customary to put straws for camels, biscuits, and wine for the Kings’ attendants. In the morning, the family enters the balcony and opens the packages. During the day, children are accompanied to the homes of grandparents. Uncles or godparents look for gifts that have been left in their homes.
The names given to the Three Kings (Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar) appear in 7th-century writings. Their royal status has no historical basis but seems to have been introduced by a literal interpretation of Psalm 71. And all the kings of the earth shall worship him; all the nations shall serve him).
All Spanish children believe the Magi will bring them presents on January 6. A few weeks before, they start sending them letters telling them what gifts they want to receive about ten days before 6 January. At many points in towns and villages, some children or pages of the kings collect the letters and advise little girls and boys.
- The only scriptural testimony that directly references the Magi from the East is the Gospel of Matthew.
- In both the Old and New Testaments, the word magus means ‘magician’ or ‘sorcerer.’ St. Justin, Origen, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome find the same meaning in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, even if we cannot say this would be the unanimous interpretation.
- From Persia, where he is supposed to have come from, is a distance of 1000-1200 miles. It could have been covered between three and twelve months by camel. There were also many weeks of preparation. The Magi could have arrived in Jerusalem a year after the star had appeared.
In his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho, St. Justin Martyr interprets the Magi as fulfillment. The Fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of the coming of the Redeemer. For St Justin, the Magi were priests of an eastern cult and practitioners of magic and astrology. The magi’s visit to the manger represented the moment of their conversion and their renunciation of idolatrous practices. St Justin cites Matthew’s account as a sign that Christianity is the true faith.
I hope you found new information in this article and that you can test your knowledge about The Nativity Scene and the Three Wise Men by accessing our Bible Quiz. You may also find good Games and Bible Trivia about important events from Christian history.