Skip to main content

January 6th is 3 Kings Day

3 Kings coming

3 Kings coming

Christmas Is Not over Yet!

My original purpose in making this page, January 4th,11 years ago, was to let everyone know that Christmas was not over yet. So, if you're reading this between Christmas and January 6th, don't take down the tree just yet. I know you'd like to, since you had it up since October, due to early Christmas advertising. But the Christmas season is not yet over and there is one more Christmas Holiday, and a very special one, although you won't find any ads about it. It is a holiday recognized mainly by the liturgical churches and celebrated in most Latin American countries. It is the feast of Epiphany, otherwise known as Three Kings Day. The word "Epiphany" means "manifestation" and the feast celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles by the coming of the Magi to see the Christ child. The feast of Epiphany marks the 12th and last day of Christmas. Contrary to popular thought, the 12 days of Christmas do not start 12 days before Christmas day, but rather start on Christmas day or the day after and end on Epiphany, January 6th. The counting is a little complicated, but here's what I got from another website on the subject: "the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th [(Epiphany eve)]. In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). In these traditions, the twelve days begin December 26 and include Epiphany on January 6." Although the 12 days of Christmas and the feast of Epiphany are celebrated mostly in Latin America countries, there are places in the United States where they are also celebrated. You can find out more about this by searching the web.

You could take down the manger, if you like, but leave the figures of the magi and the tree till the 6th. You see, also contrary to popular thought, the Magi or "three kings" did not come to the stable, but rather, as the gospel of Matthew relates, to a house, and they did not find a baby, but rather a young child, as the Greek word used indicates. They did not arrive until sometime between the birth of Jesus and his 2nd birthday, as Herod ordered all babies under 2 years killed based on the date the star first appeared. Thus, although we often see manger scenes which include the wise men (and it is also not known whether there were 3 or 300), these give a false impression that the magi arrived the same time as the shepherds. Thus, the need for a separate holiday. And what kid wouldn't want 2 chances to receive gifts?

Listen to he music of Epiphany:

Who Were The3 Kings?

The 3 Kings

The 3 Kings

Who were they?

The Greek word is "magi". That name appears in Jeremiah 39:3 and Jeremiah 39:13, in the name Rab-Mag, “The chief of the Magi,” listed among the princes of the king of Babylon, so they could have been of royal blood also. Thus, it may be because of this that they are called kings in the song, but it's also probably because of Is.60:1-6. Herodotus speaks of them as a priestly caste of the Medes, known as interpreters of dreams. Among the Greeks, the word was commonly applied with a tone of scorn to the impostors who claimed supernatural knowledge & magic & so the word was commonly used throughout the Roman world when the New Testament was written, thus in secular writings Simon the Simon Magus There was, however, side by side with this, a recognition of the higher ideas of which the word was capable, and we can hardly think that the writer of the Gospel would have used it in its lower sense. With him, as with Plato, the Magi were thought of as observers of the heavens, students of the secrets of Nature. Where they came from, we cannot tell.

Adam Clark quotes Whitby, saying that ""The Jews believed that there were prophets in the kingdom of Saba and Arabia, who were of the posterity of Abraham by Keturah; and that they taught in the name of God, what they had received in tradition from the mouth of Abraham."

Another website says this of them: "...Magos...comes from the old Persian word 'Magupati'[,] ...the title given to priests in a sect of the ancient persian religions.... Today we'd called them astrologers. Back then astronomy and astrology were part of the same overall ...'science' and went hand in hand.... The magi would have followed the patterns of the stars religiously. They would have also probably been very rich and held high esteem in their own society and by people who weren't from their country or religion." For more, see: "All About the Wise Men."

And, according to Ken Vincent, in the book listed below, "Magi is the Greek word for Mobeds, a term still used for Zoroastrian priests." He also notes that "The search for the identity of these Magi is the key to opening a startlingly refreshing insight into our Christian roots." For more click the link below and scroll down to read the entire excerpt under "editorial reviews."

But, according to John McArthur, "we learn from the book of Daniel that the magi were among the highest-ranking officials in Babylon. Because the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-which none of the other court seers was able to do-Daniel was appointed as “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). Because of his great wisdom and because he had successfully pleaded for the lives of the wise men who had failed to interpret the king’s dream (Dan. 2:24), Daniel came to be highly regarded among the magi. (Dan. 6:4–9).

Because of Daniel’s high position and great respect among them, it seems certain that the magi learned much from that prophet about the one true God, the God of Israel, and about His will and plans for His people through the coming glorious King. Because many Jews remained in Babylon after the Exile and intermarried with the people of the east, it is likely that Jewish messianic influence remained strong in that region even until New Testament times.

The magi from the east (the word literally means “from the rising” of the sun and refers to the orient) who came to see Jesus were true magi, and they surely had been strongly influenced by Judaism, quite possibly even by some of the prophetic writings, especially that of Daniel. They appear to be among the many God-fearing Gentiles who lived at the time of Christ, a number of whom-such as Cornelius and Lydia (Acts 10:1–2; 16:14)-are mentioned in the New Testament." (Read the entire 'Grad-to-you article.)

Gifts of the wise men

Gifts of the wise men

The Gifts of the Magi.

Matthew mentions that when they found Him, they came into the house & worshiped Him & opened their treasures & presented Him with gifts (The people of the east never approach the presence of kings or great personages, without a present in their hands.) They offered gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt.2:11). These gifts are significant. They held meaning back then and even more so for us. I will examine the meaning of each gift and quote from the verses of the Christmas Carol "We Three Kings" which speak about these gifts.

Scroll to Continue
Flicker Commons

Flicker Commons

1) GOLD: The first gift mentioned is gold. We know that gold is a very precious metal and thus very valuable and thus it was also a sign of kingship. (ISam.12:30) So by giving Him gold, they recognized His kingship (I Kings 10:14), We must also recognize Him as King and make Him king of our lives (ITim.6:13-15). But also in the Bible, gold is used to represent Divinity or Divine Character. The author of the song missed this aspect. They were also recognizing that He is not only a King, but a truly Divine one—the God King. We must also recognize Him as such and then seek to apply His diving character to our lives. Gold was what characterized the inner part of the Old Testament Tabernacle, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Outer Court was all brass, indicating judgement. He took our judgement upon Himself so that He could bring us into the presence of God by developing in us Divine character. Gold is purified through fire, and sometimes, we may have to go through the fires of suffering and trials in order to purify our character and make it more like His. As to what happened to the gold, as Adam Clark says, “The gold was probably a very providential supply, as on it, it is likely, they subsisted while in Egypt.”

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

2) FRANKINCENSE: The second gift is frankincense. They offered it to Him as their God. Frankincense is a sweet perfume from a wounded balsam tree. It was used in the incense which was burned in the tabernacle and was also placed upon the shew-bread displayed there. It speaks to us of sweetness through wounding. As a part of the incense, it also speaks to us of true worship and also represents praise & prayer. (See Rev.8:3.). Since it was offered before the Veil of the Holy of Holies where God's presence was & sometimes brought inside, its presence indicated that God was near. Thus, the 3rd vs. of “We 3 Kings” says “Incense owns a deity neigh.” The magi gave it to Jesus in recognition that He is God incarnate, the one who came to bring God to us (Emmanuel). and also, in recognition of his priestly ministry. (Heb.4:14, 6:20). We must worship God in spirit & in truth (John 4:24), & praise Him, even though at times we may be wounded in spirit and trust Him as our great High priest. (Heb.2:17)

Wikimedia commons

Wikimedia commons

3) MYRRH: The third gift is myrrh. This is a very bitter perfume, which was one of the main ingredients in the holy anointing oil (Exodus.30:23) and was used to anoint bodies for burial. Thus, it speaks prophetically of His suffering and death, & of his ministry as prophet in prophesying regarding the same (Mark 8:31). They gave the myrrh in recognition of His humanness which is subject to suffering and death. We must also offer our lives and die to self to serve Him (Mark 8:34)

"So, bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come, peasant, king to own him. The king of kings salvation brings. Let loving hearts enthrone Him." (----Last verse of "What Child Is This?")

The holiday and it's celebration:

3 Kings Day is celebrated mostly in Latin American countries although, as Epiphany, it is a recognized holiday on the church calendar of most liturgical churches, such as Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Greek Orthodox. worldwide. In Latin America countries, like Venezuela, they hold outdoor celebrations which often include a parade featuring men in costume on horseback representing the 3 Kings. I saw it in Venezuela and it's quite impressive. Also, according to the first article in the link capsule below the picture, in Bavaria and Austria, Children dress up as the 3 kings, and carrying a star, go door to door caroling in hopes of receiving money or candy.

One of the wise men in a 3 Kings Day parade

One of the wise men in a 3 Kings Day parade

For more on the history and celebration of Epiphany, check out this article.

Check your understanding: Take my little 5 question quiz:

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The 12 day of Christmas is __________
    • Christmas day
    • New Years day
    • January 6th
  2. True or false: the magi paid homage to baby Jesus in the manger.
    • True
    • False
  3. How many magi actually paid homage to Jesus?
    • 3
    • 3,000
    • No one actually knows
  4. The gifts of the magi were ______
    • gold, silver and precious stones
    • gold silver and incense
    • gold, frankincense and myrrh
    • gold silver and platenum
  5. 3 Kings day is celebrated mostly in ______
    • North America
    • Latin America
    • Europe

Answer Key

  1. January 6th
  2. False
  3. No one actually knows
  4. gold, frankincense and myrrh
  5. Latin America

Read more on Celebrating 3 Kings Day:

Will you celebrate? Vote in my poll:

The Three Wise Men receiving children at a shopping centre in Spain. Letters with gift requests are left in the letterbox on the left-hand side.

The Three Wise Men receiving children at a shopping centre in Spain. Letters with gift requests are left in the letterbox on the left-hand side.

Check out this fictional account of the coming of the magi and what followed:

© 2013 James M Becher

Any Comments? - What do you think of 3 Kings Day?

Peter Badham from England on January 25, 2014:

In Spain the 3 Kings is when the children will get their presents, but in the last years with the influence of Christmas films etc they now want both, so it is quite complicated (present wise) there now.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on January 06, 2014:

This year (last year, now) I said I was not going to leave my tree up until the 12th Day of Christmas, but, of course, I did. Just took it down today. I started a lens about this a year ago, but never finished it. Maybe I don't need to now, huh? Great lens. Enjoyed reading it.

Lorelei Cohen on January 05, 2014:

We always referred to this celebration as Orthodox Christmas but I had no idea of this being the finale of the 12 days of Christmas. I always presumed they began pre-Christmas. You have taught me a lot that I did not know.

socialcx1 on October 30, 2013:

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on October 24, 2013:

Jim, you might want to update this page and get rid of the 2010 date in the intro :) I think Google would like it better if the content appeared to be fresh.

Related Articles