What is the story of the Magi in Christianity?

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arqueille eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three kings from the East--Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar-- followed a significant star to find baby Jesus not long after he was born. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and presented them to the infant as he lay in the manger.

These are all fancy gifts; gold is basically money in every culture that has it. Frankincense is religious-grade incense, and is pretty expensive. Myyrh is a kind of balm that smells fancy and might have medicinal powers. But the infant Son of God doesn't really have use for any of these rich gifts. (You'd think that the impoverished Mary and Joseph would use the gold to secure better shelter than an animal manger, but their poverty wasn't the issue so much as that there was no room at the inn.)

In O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," the young married couple splurged more than they could afford to buy fancy presents that the recipients turned out to have no use for. He pawned his watch to buy a comb, and she sold her hair to buy a watch fob. For extravagant gifts, it shouldn't be just the thought that counts, but sometimes it is.