This video provides a brief introduction into the history of the three Wise Men, or Magi, which are a part of the traditional Christian story of Christmas. Teachers, check out our Christmas workbook here: http://amzn.to/2gnCVHM
The Three Wise Men, also known as the Magi, have long been a part of the traditional Christmas story. But who are the Magi, and what is their story?
Magi were astrologers, meaning they studied the stars. Many years ago, this was considered a very legitimate science, and astrologers were highly respected individuals. According to the Biblical Christmas story, in the nights leading up to (or on the night of) Jesus’ birth, the Magi noticed an unusually bright star in the sky. They travelled across the desert in the direction of the star and eventually arrived in Bethlehem where they met the newborn baby Jesus.
As part of this tradition, it was said that the Magi brought with them three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even though it is never stated how many Magi brought these items, since the number of gifts was three, it has long been assumed that there were three Magi as well. In many customs, the Magi are even given names and identities. Melchior is a Persian scholar, Caspar an Indian scholar, and Balthazar an Arabian scholar. While most cultures recognize three Magi, other cultures have the traditional number of Magi established at twelve.
The gifts presented prove to be quite interesting. Gold is, of course, rare and expensive. Frankincense was used as a perfume, and Myrrh was a very costly oil, normally used for anointing the dead (which is certainly an unusual gift to bring a child). It is the elaborate nature of these gifts that has led many to believe that the three men were kings.
According to tradition, the Magi arrived some number of days after the birth of Jesus. The date recognized by many cultures across the Christian world is January 6th. This day has become a holiday known as Epiphany, but it is also referred to as Three Kings’ Day in many countries. In fact, at one time this holiday marked the conclusion of the Christmas season, which ran from Christmas Day through January 6th (the Twelve Days of Christmas). Even in modern times, in many countries where Three Kings’ Day and Epiphany are still celebrated, children have to wait until January 6th to open their gifts!
The Wise Men are so well-recognized and remain such a large part of the Christian Christmas story that they have even been honored with their own song. “We Three Kings” is a traditional Christmas carol written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in the 1850s. It was first seen in print in 1863 in Carols, Hymns and Songs.
Aside from the song, the Magi have also been featured in countless works of art, stories, movies, and are usually included as part of nativity scenes and plays during the Christmas season. They will certainly continue to be a part of the modern Christmas for many years to come.