An aura of mystery surrounded the Wisemen
(or Magi as they were called) when they appeared in Bethlehem following
the birth of Jesus. It was they who had traveled far, following a
brilliant star in the East that came to stop over the manger. The Magi
were learned men believed to have come from Persia. They were astrologers
and interpreters of dreams and omens. Their reputation as men of learning
was well known by the Greeks and Romans.
No scene of the Nativity is complete
without the Magi, although they did not reach Bethlehem until twelve days
after the birth of Christ, the day now known as Epiphany. According to
Christian doctrine, on that day it was made known to the Magi that the
baby born in the manger was sent by God.
In the mid-twelfth century, an important
event brought the Magi from a verse in the Bible to a prominent position
in Christian practice. Three entombed bodies were found in the Basilica of
Milan, Italy. They were reputed to be those of the Magi. After the finding
of the tombs, a special service for the celebration of Epiphsny became
more popular and spread from Belgium, where it originated. into France,
Spain and the rest of Europe.
Spain adopted the feast of the Magi in a
grand way. The story of the three Magi was written in their version saying
the Magi traveled through Spain on the way to Bethlehem. Promises of gifts
from the Magi promoted good behavior in the children.
Santa Claus has reached into Christmas
celebrations all over the world, but 1 most children in Spain still write
their letters to the Magi.
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