Three Magic Kings


“Birth of Jesus with Visiting Magi” by Heinrich Hofmann, circa 1900. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)


You’d wake up in the morning wondering if they were still there but you didn’t want to meet them, afraid of the magic of their passage still infusing the lighted Christmas tree in the living room, down the hall from the doorway of your bedroom.

Christmas toys were small, peremptory tokens that fulfilled a duty since you went to an American school in which instruction took place in English. Both Cuban and US holidays were observed.  They’d told you all about Halloween and Santa Claus coming to your house with gifts on Christmas Eve. We had no problem taking small toys from Santa Claus, but the important ones—bicycles, Lone Ranger costumes and fake Peacemaker revolvers, Tonto action figures, Zorro’s secret hideout (a miniature plastic mountain), were brought by the Three Magic Kings on January 6.

Train sets were also delivered, which you weren’t old enough to assemble, but which delighted you by running round on a single track on their own power. It made perfect sense: the heavy gifts were brought by carriers in a caravan, rather than stuffing all the toys for the world’s children into one sled driven by a portly, crimson old man. Besides, it was ludicrous to imagine polar reindeer in the Caribbean.

This was during the early days of the Castro revolution, before Christmas was banned and the Three Kings were no longer honored in Cuba.


The story of the Wise Men and the Star of Bethlehem belongs to Matthew. The story of the shepherds and the “multitude” of angels in the night sky belongs exclusively to Luke. Both Matthew and Luke regard Jesus as a Native of Bethlehem, not of Nazareth, as Mark and John seem to do. Bethlehem was near Jerusalem in Judea; Nazareth was in Galilee.

The angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in Matthew. Gabriel—Angel of the Annunciation—appears to the Virgin Mary and later to the shepherds on the fields in Luke’s narrative. There is no stable or manger in Matthew. When the Three Kings “were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.” (KJV, Mat. 2:11)

The journey of the Holy Family in Luke is from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. The exodus in Matthew is from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape persecution. After years of exile, Jesus, Joseph and Mary go to dwell in Nazareth to avoid the reign of Archelaus, son of Herod.


“Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Luc-Olivier Merson, 1880. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)


My devotion for the Three Kings derives from my Spanish grandmother. Beginning Christmas Eve she would sing a song that made it seem as if the Kings were perpetually journeying through the desert:

Tan tan, van por el desierto,

tan tan, Melchor y Gaspar.

Detrás les sigue un negrito

que todos le llaman

el Rey Baltasar.

On the eve of Epiphany we’d place buckets of corn and pails of water outside the house for the camels. (Years later in Puerto Rico we’d fill buckets with grass and water, because on that blessed island it was legend that the Kings traveled on horses.) This was done to provide refreshments for the caravan, so it could continue on its journey.

A caravan was an enterprise that traveled desert paths to bring commerce and magical objects from the East to a holy child—offerings at the time of his birth which also signified the hour of his trial. The Nativity scene under the Christmas tree was not only a reminder of the birth of Jesus, but also a memorial that told the story of the great journey of the Kings. Opening their gifts, you realized that you (yourself) were the god-made flesh, and that the universe was rendering tribute to you. Their journey was all about you, once again born, re-born with gifts under the light of the star.

When I return to my time and place of origin, the Kings always await me during Epiphany. Once, during a terrible winter, I recovered my blue-eyed daughters and my handsome son on Twelfth Night. Ever since then the color of the season, and the magic of the Kings, has always been blue.



Baroque nativity scene, Adoration of the Magi (detail with elephant), Gutenzell, Germany, 2005. (Credit: Andreas Praefcke)


  1. I am now not positive where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend a while learning much more or working out more. Thanks for fantastic info I was searching for this info for my mission.


    1. Alex,

      Some of it is from King James, some of it from Spanish folklore, and some from childhood memories in my own family. It is for me a sacred day of remembrance. Many thanks for your comment!



  2. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually something which I feel I’d never understand. It seems too complex and very large for me. I’m looking forward on your next put up, I’ll try to get the cling of it!


    1. Complications are added later, but it is important that it be kept a simple story. Three magician astrologers follow a star in order to praise a child that was born. Lovely and gorgeous. My favorite and holiest story from the Bible.


  3. I am not sure where you are getting your info, however great topic. I must spend some time finding out more or understanding more. Thank you for excellent information I used to be searching for this information for my mission.


  4. Thank you for every other excellent post. Where else may just anyone get that type of info in such a perfect approach of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such info.


    1. Myra, many thanks for your comment. The worth in the writing–if there is any merit in it–comes from the great story, and from some heavily charged memories of what the story meant to a young child. Best of luck with your presentation. OG


  5. I do accept as true with all the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for newbies. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.


    1. Francisca, many thanks for your comment. This particular post (3 Kings) goes up every year at this time, and each year it grows in length. At some point I will get it right. It is not so much that the posts are short–it is that the writing is SLOW! Bright blessings, OG


  6. Thanks, I’ve just been searching for information approximately this subject for a while and yours is the best I’ve found out so far. However, what concerning the bottom line? Are you certain concerning the source?


    1. Jeanne, Many thanks for your comment. With regard to the story, you can check the veracity of the facts in the King James version–the comparisons between each of the Gospels are fascinating. Some of the conclusions I take from George Bernard Shaw’s “Preface” to his play Androcles and the Lion.” The rest comes from Spanish folklore and my own childhood memories. Delighted you found the post of some use! OG


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