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In Christian tradition the Magi (Greek: μάγοι magoi), Three Wise Men, Three Kings or Kings from the East are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts. They are mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew , which says that they came "from the east to Jerusalem" to worship the Christ, "born King of the Jews". Because three gifts were recorded, there are traditionally said to have been three Magi, though Matthew does not specify their number.
According to Matthew, the kings, for whom the Eastern church gives a variety of different names for (in the West the names have been settled since the 8th century as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) followed a star which came to be known as the Star of Bethlehem. As they approached Jerusalem, Herod tried to trick them into revealing where Jesus was, so that he might be put to death. Upon finding Jesus, they gave him three symbolic gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The tradition of gift giving for Christians dates back to this story. In many countries, they're the equivalent of Santa Claus.
Appearances of the Magi in Fiction:
- In the Justice League of America comic story "2000 Light Years to Christmas" the League helps three aliens counterparts of the Magi recover the gifts they bore for a messiah born on another planet that they had lost on Earth.
- In the Twilight Zone episode "Paladin of the Lost Hour" the old man who holds back doomsday from happening hints that he's really Caspar.
- In the short story "The Fourth Wise Man" the Mage Artaban arrives too late to meet baby Jesus, as he had stopped along the way to help people in need. He only finds Jesus on the day he was crucified, and fails to rescue him because, again, he stopped to help someone. A voice (presumably Jesus') tells him however that his kindness to others was just the kind of real gift he wanted from people.
- The Magi themselves do not appear in O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, but they inspired the characters to give each other presents.
- The Three Sages in Chrono Trigger are named after the Magi, at least in the English version.
- The three Magi arrive with gifts for Brian at the start of Monty Python's Life of Brian, though it turns out that the real Messiah had been born across the street.
- In The X-Files episode "Existence", which likens Baby William's birth heavily to the birth of Christ (including a prominent Star of Bethlehem), the Lone Gunmen step into this role, bringing gifts and admiring the baby.
- The Magi are the night visitors in Amahl and the Night Visitors.
- In the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy Christmas Special "Jingle Jingle Jangle", the Kanker sisters take on the role, bringing the Eds the gifts of "mold, franks and cents, and fur."
- An SCTV Christmas show has an extended commercial with Edna Boil and her line of holiday fashion for dogs, modeled by little yappy dogs. Creepy enough, then she highlights the true meaning of Christmas with Magi costumes worn by "We Three Pups".
Tropes involving the Magi:
- Badass Beard- all have it.
- Cross Cultural Kerfuffle: Should kids in Hispanic America -especially in Puerto Rico- get their presents from Santa or the Magi? The eternal debate!
- The Magi are often pictured in Arabic gear.
- The Determinator: Artaban spent *his whole life* trying to deliver his present to Jesus.
- Numerological Motif: Three Kings, three presents.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Like traveling around the world on camel to deliver presents to the Son Of God personally.
- Samaritan Syndrome: What kept Artaban from finding Jesus.
- Token Minority: Melchior is often depicted as being Black.
- Five-Token Band: Many versions actually make the three different races to symbolize the entire world coming together in awe of Christ.