The "Three Kings" or "Three Wise Men" are a significant part of the Christmas tradition in many cultures, particularly in Spain and Latin American countries. The tradition is based on the biblical story of the Magi, who traveled from the East to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the newborn Jesus. In Western Christian tradition, they are often referred to as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
- Caspar: Also spelled Gaspar or Kaspar, he is often depicted as the youngest of the Magi. Caspar is said to have brought the gift of gold, symbolizing Jesus' kingship.
- Melchior: Melchior is often portrayed as an elderly figure and is said to have brought the gift of frankincense. Frankincense is a symbol of worship and represents Jesus' divinity.
- Balthazar: Balthazar is traditionally depicted as a man of African descent. He is said to have brought the gift of myrrh, an embalming ointment. Myrrh symbolizes Jesus' mortality and foreshadows his sacrificial death.
The tradition of the Three Kings is celebrated on Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, marking the end of the Christmas season. In Spanish-speaking countries, this day is known as "Día de los Reyes" or "Three Kings' Day." The celebration involves various customs and events:
- Parades: Many cities and towns organize colorful parades featuring the Three Kings, who throw sweets and small gifts to the crowds. These parades often involve elaborate floats and costumes.
- Gift-Giving: Similar to the Western tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day, children in many Hispanic cultures receive gifts from the Three Kings on the night of January 5th or the morning of January 6th.
- Roscón de Reyes: One popular culinary tradition is the "Rosca de Reyes," a sweet bread or pastry in the shape of a ring, often decorated with candied fruits. A small figurine representing the baby Jesus is hidden inside the bread, and whoever finds it is said to be blessed.
Overall, the celebration of the Three Kings is a festive and joyous occasion in many cultures, emphasizing the importance of the Magi in the Christian narrative and bringing a close to the Christmas season.