Three Kings Day was originally a Christian feast day celebrating the revelation of God in the Christ child. It is the highlight of the holiday season for many Latin communities, especially the Puerto Rican community.
The twelfth day of Christmas celebrates the biblical story of the three Magi or wise men Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who followed a star to Bethlehem to pay their respects to the baby Jesus. They gave the child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh before returning home.
We don’t really know who the Magi were, where they were from, when they visited, or even how many they were. There are many regional variants and the tradition has been filled in from the barest of hints.
The biblical story comes from the Gospel of Matthew in the first book of the Bible’s New Testament. It tells of “wise men from the East” who came to Jerusalem looking for “the child who has been born king of the Jews.”
“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”
Many traditions are built around the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere which can be any day between December 20-23. All of the traditions have something to offer if you take the time to contemplate them. It does not really matter if they are your personal traditions or not. They are human traditions and we are all humans.
On a personal note, I find Three Kings Day to be the day every year when all the pressures of the holidays melt away. I feel renewed and able to get back to work. I hope you do too.
The image is “Les rois mages en voyage” (The magi kings on their journey) 1886-1894 by French painter James Tissot. It is in the collection at the Brooklyn Museum.