I talked previously about the Wise Men and their part in the Christmas Story. Not much is known about them, but there are quite a few interesting legends. For example, we assume there are 3 Wise Men, but some ancient painting sometimes show as few as two, and sometimes as many as four. Names and legends have even sprung up to provide more information about these men.
In the Greek church, Gaspar (or Caspar), Melchior and Balthasar are their names. Some artists have shown them to represent all of humanity: its youth, middle age, and elderly. In the Renaissance, other artists sought to make the magi represent race, color and creed. In one painting, one of the Magi is represented as coming from Ethiopia and was black. The others came from Persia and India.
Syrian Christians have a 6th century tale giving them Horamistar, King of Persia; Yestigat King of Saba; and Perozad, king of Sheba. Wikipedia lists some other names and legends, and has some footnotes to provide some sources to these legends.
According to the video, in the Spanish world, presents are not exchanged on Christmas, but 12 days later on 3 Kings Day, January 6. Presents under the tree are left by the 3 Kings, not Santa Claus. A special cake is prepared, representing good luck for the next year.
Marco Polo in the 13th century, claimed that he was shown the three tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s:
“In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And above them there is a square building, beautifully kept. The bodies are still entire, with hair and beard remaining.”
Another legend says their bones were allegedly removed by Helena, mother of Constantine, who was looking for Christian artifacts in the 4th century. She took them to Byzantium, and the bones have been moved a few times, finally ending up in Cologne, where they are today, sealed in a golden coffin in a cathedral.
So, can anyone verify that the Spanish celebrate 3 Kings Day? It sounds like a very interesting tradition to me. I really like the cake idea. About 2 years ago, I was trying to explain to my then 4 year old that Christmas was more than just Santa Claus. I told him that it was Jesus’ birthday. My boy exclaimed, “We should make him a cake!”
As I thought of this 3 Kings Day tradition, I thought that might be an interesting addition to the holidays. Perhaps we should all celebrate 3 Kings Day. Perhaps we could save some money on the post-Christmas sales if we waited to buy presents after Christmas. What do you think?
What post-Christmas sales?
Seriously though, I like the idea because it could potentially create a greater appreciation and emphasis on the true meaning of Christmas because it would separate the celebration of Christ’s birth and the giving and receiving of presents which has so profoundly obscured its meaning.
Yes, I’m surprised merchants haven’t caught on to this. It could help out the economy to give out more presents. 🙂
I agree that Christmas should be more focused on Christ, rather than gift-giving.