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The Three Wise Men, also known as the Three Magi or the Three Kings, appear in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter two. There, they appear before Jesus as a child, noting that they observed his star in the east, and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They first visit Herod, asking where the new king can be found; Herod sends them to Bethlehem, and asks that they return when they have found him. The Magi, however, are warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, and their failure to report back leads directly to the massacre of the Holy Innocents.
The Three Wise Men frequently appear in Nativity scenes and other Christmas decorations; they are featured in the Christmas carol We Three Kings. An apocryphal tradition in the West gives them the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; other cultures have different names. It is not even stated in Matthew's account that there were in fact three Wise Men; only that there was more than one Wise Man, and that there were three gifts.
Artists have used the theme to represent the three ages of man. Since the Age of Discoveries, they also represent three parts of the world. Balthasar is thus represented as a young African or Moor.
In Ben-Hur, Balthasar is an old man who goes back to Palestine to see the former child Jesus become an adult.
Christianity celebrates the three kings on the day of Epiphany, January 6, the last of the "twelve days of Christmas".
In Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking and Catalan-speaking world, the three kings (Sp. "los Reyes Magos", Cat. "les Reis Mags d'Orient") receive wish letters from children and magically bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. The Wise Men come from the Orient on their camels to visit the houses of all the children; like the Northern European Santa Claus with his reindeer, they visit everyone in one night. It is traditional (at least in Catalonia) prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat.
Spanish- and Catalan-speaking cities organize cavalcades in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw caramels to the children (and parents) in attendance.
Currently this tradition, like that of the Christmas crib and the Christmas tree, coexists in many regions with Papa Noel (Father Christmas), in Basque areas with Olentzero, and in Catalonia with the Tió de Nadal.
In Catalonia, there are many other specific traditions about the three kings, some very local, some more widespread. In most of Catalonia, Page Gregory prepares the way for the kings and lets them know who has been good or bad, but in Cornellą de Llobregat, Mag Maginet prepares their way. In Terrassa this is the role of the page Xiu-Xiu, but with Hassim Jezzabel separately serving Caspar.
In Catalonia, Melchior (Cat. "Melcior"), light-skinned as usual, dressed in the style of a king of the late Middle Ages (the Gothic Era), is the youngest king, but has a white beard and hair, because Jesus punished him for unnecessariily showing off his strength and youth. He brings the children baubles. Caspar (Cat. "Gaspar"), also light-skinned and similarly dressed, has brown hair. He brings them toys. Balthasar (Cat. "Baltasar") is dark-skinned and dressed as an Arab or Moor. It is his job to leave a lump of coal for children who have been bad.