Today, January 6th, marks the arrival of the three kings to the birth place of the Christ Child. I so vividly remember my German grandmother never allowing the figures of the three kings to make their appearance in her nativity scene until today. For her, and much of the Western Christian world, it marks the end of the blessed and joyful holiday season known as Christmas.
As they followed the star to Bethlehem, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, bore gifts for the holy newborn. They were, according to Matthew 2:11, gold representing his royal standing, frankincense for his divine birth and myrrh for his mortality.
The three figures represented in the photo are Neapolitan creche figures and were handmade in Naples, Italy in the mid 90's. They feature terra cotta heads, hands and legs, linen wrapped wire bodies and intricate clothing made of the finest silk and passementerie. Naples has a long history as the birthplace of the intricate presepio, or creche, and families were known to fill rooms with these elaborate scenes. Going from home to home to view these miniature wonders was, and continues to be, an important part of the Christmas season in Italy.
(resource: The Golden Glow of Christmas Past/Greg Goodlite)