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10 Myths About Christmas


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Three Kings Visited Jesus Shortly After His Birth
Most nativity scenes feature three kings in some way. Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Most nativity scenes feature three kings in some way. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Gaspar (or Caspar), Melchior and Balthasar, three kings from the east, are said to have traveled a long way to see Baby Jesus, following a freakishly large, bright star and hauling gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh along with them. Alas, according to the Bible this is yet another Christmas miss, despite the presence of a trio of king figurines in all nativity sets.

The Bible says magi came from the east, following a big star, and that they were looking for the King of the Jews. But magi are wise men, not kings. And the number of and names of the magi are never detailed anywhere in writing. Further, the Bible says the men arrived when Jesus was a young child, not an infant, and they found him at home with his mom -- not in a manger in a stable.

Scholars believe the men were likely astrologers who arrived a year or more after Jesus' birth. Because three gifts are listed in the Bible, scholars also say it's possible that over time, people assumed this meant there were three men [source: Boyett]. The myth of their names emerged later, after a mosaic depicting the magi was created in the sixth century. The mosaic, housed in the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy, contains the names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar [source: Sacred Destinations].


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