A Nativity scene in Mallorca

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Epiphany and the Three Kings

There is no biblical source for the Three Kings. Matthew mentions the magi or wise ones but no kings, no names, no number, not even their sex! (Matthew 2:1-16). The story of the Three Kings, so widely celebrated at Christmas, arises from a tale by one John of Hildesheim, a fourteenth century cleric. And it was the Venerable Bede (672-735) who was the first to describe Balthasar as the black king although he was never represented as such until the XIV century and, even then, this did not become generalised until the XVI century.

 However, there is a shrine in Cologne Cathedral housing the reliquary of the Three Kings. When last opened in 1864, it was found to contain the almost complete skeletons of three bodies, collected by Helena, mother of King Constantine, in the Holy Land around 330AD, which were then wrapped in white silk and replaced.

Nonetheless, on 5 January, children all over Mallorca eagerly await the arrival of Kings Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar, bearing gifts.It is reputed that if children have been naughty, the Kings will only leave carbón or coal, hard, black and sugary!

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