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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm assuming you posted this question in the literature section because you're reading something, such as "The Gift of the Magi," in which there is a reference to the Magi.  While there are many older and disparate references to magi, the most common and modern use comes from the Bible in reference to the story of Jesus's birth.  The Magi are the wise men who, for years, had been studying the stars in order to discover the coming of the Messiah.  After seeing a propitious sign in the sky (likely an alignment and intensity of stars), they journeyed more than a year and found themselves in Bethlehem in a rustic barn where they found Jesus.  They offered this child king their famous gifts--gold (which was, of course, very valuable to a poor couple who was kind of on the run), frankincense (a heavenly scent and one worthy of a royal priest), and myrrh ( a kind of gum or resin often used in embalming, symbolic for He who died and rose again). 

They are generally used as a symbol of sacrificial giving and of humility, as they unselfishly put someone else before themselves.