Do You Know the Story of The Three Kings?
From the Far East, The Three Kings –or Wise Men – come to our homes on the eve of January 5. Read today's article to discover more about this holiday tradition.
Melchior, Caspar y Balthasar. These are the protagonist of the story of The Three Kings. Most of us have heard of the three kings, but do you really know the story and traditions behind these characters? We’ll tell you more in today’s article!
Story of The Three Kings and the road to Bethlehem
The Three Kings – wise men from the East – were following an unusual star that took them to Bethlehem. Bethlehem was the place where Jesus was born, and they wanted to worship him and bring him gifts that were very valuable at that time.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh
- Gold. The 3 kings gave Jesus gold because that is the gift that was given traditionally to kings, as a representation of their royal nature.
- Frankincense. The kings gave this present, as it was a gift usually offered to the gods.
- Myrrh. In the past, people used myrrh to embalm the bodies of the dead. In this sense, this third gift represents how Jesus was also a man and would die for all of us.
It wasn’t until the 4th century that the story began to mention that there were three kings – based on the number of gifts they offered. Up until then, versions of the story mentioned numbers between 2 and 12, like the number of apostles.
This is also when people started referring to them as kings. Before this, people simply believed they were wealthy. As a side note, the word magi comes from Persia and means priest.
In the 8th century, the 3 kings received their names: Melchior, Caspar (or Gaspar), and Balthasar, as they appeared in an Italian mosaic. In the 16th century, people began to believe they represented the three races that existed in the middle ages.
According to these beliefs, Melchior represents Europeans, Caspar represents Asians, and Balthasar represents Africans.
Traditions regarding The Three Kings
Many countries around the world celebrate The Three Kings, especially in Europe and Latin America. In Portugal, for example, people take part in singing special carols – “January songs,” known as Janeiras.
In Austria, people hang chalkboard signs on their front doors to remind them that the kings visited baby Jesus. In Ireland, women celebrated “Women’s Christmas,” where they get the day off, and men have to do the housework.
In many Spanish cities, the story of The Three Kings tells that rather than arriving on camel, the kings came on horseback.
The Three Kings are also popular in the city of New Orleans. Some choose this date to take down their Christmas trees, while others replace the ornaments with purple, gold and green ones in order to make a Mardi Gras tree.
Another common tradition related to The Three Kings is to celebrate with a special cake. In New Orleans, for example, people make a sweet cinnamon pastry called King Cake. Within the cake, they hide a small plastic doll (representing Jesus). Whoever gets the piece containing the baby is responsible for providing the next King Cake.
Make your own King Cake
You and your family can make King Cake a new part of your holiday traditions by following the recipe below:
- 1 cup
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 2/3 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cups melted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
And don’t forget your tiny plastic doll! Once you have all of your ingredients, click here for the full preparation instructions. Then you’ll be ready to host your own King Cake Party.
Whether you hold your party at the end of the Christmas season, as in some countries, or during lent, per the New Orleans tradition, we’re sure you’ll want to make it an annual event!