In Christian tradition the Magi (pronounced /ˈmeɪdʒaɪ/; from the Greek: μάγοι, magoi, usually translated as “wise men”, although it probably meant “astronomer” or “astrologer”… that is why they were following a star), also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men, (Three) Kings, or Kings from the East, are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts.Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi. In the Western Christian church they have been commonly known since the 8th century as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. In the Gospel of Matthew, the only one to describe the visit of the Magi, it states that they came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. Although Matthew does not mention their number, because three gifts are recorded as having been given to the Christ Child, traditionally there are thought to have been three Magi. The Magi, as the “Three Kings” or “Three Wise Men” are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity and in celebrations of Christmas.
Western Christianity celebrates the Magi on the day of Epiphany, January 6, the day immediately following the twelve days of Christmas, particularly in the Spanish-speaking parts of the world. In these Spanish-speaking areas, the three kings receive wish letters from children and magically bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. In Spain, each one of the Magi is supposed to represent one different continent, Europe (Caspar), Asia (Melchior) and Africa (Balthasar). According to the tradition, the Magi come from the Orient on their camels to visit the houses of all the children; much like Santa Claus with his reindeer, they visit everyone in one night. In some areas, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi, it is also traditional to prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat.
Spanish cities organize parades (cabalgatas) in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents) in attendance. The cavalcade of the three kings in Alcoi claims to be the oldest in the world; the participants who portray the kings and pages walk through the crowd, giving presents to the children directly
Matthew 2:1-12 describes the visit of the 3 Magi:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
If you want to learn more, read the full article at Wikipedia.
Now you already now the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of Artaban, the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with the other 3 Wise Men in the presence of the young child Jesus?
Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) an American author, educator and clergyman wrote The Story of the Other Wise Man. You can read the story here or you can listen to Part 1, Part 2 or download the full story here.
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