The Three Wise Men (also referred to as the Three Kings, and as the Magi) were always a part of the Nativity scene. The story of a visit of wise men to the Christ Child is told in the bible in St.Mathhew 2:1 tells us: "...Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem . . ." This Bible passage doesn't state how many wise men actually came from the east nor does it mention their names or their method of travel. It is only assumed they traveled by camel and they could have easily traveled by foot. The Bible doesn't claim these men to be kings, however it is speculated they were at least learned men and perhaps even astrologers.
Matthew 2:11 mentions three gifts that were presented: "... they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh." Several Eastern religions have claimed up to twelve wise men made the journey to Bethlehem.
According to medieval legend the names of three were Melchoir, King of Arabia, who brought gold; Gaspar, King of Tarsus, whom brought myrr; and Balthasar, King of Ethiopia, whom brought frankincense. These three names do not come from the Bible and did not appear in Christian literature until five hundred years after the birth of Jesus.
It is interesting to note that in St. Matthew 2:11 it states: ...and when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him..." The statement of coming into a house instead of a stable (or cave) and seeing a "young child," not a newborn, leads one to think that the wise men didn't arrive until quite some time after Jesus' birth. It is believed that the wise men came from the east by following a bright star that led them to to Bethlehem.
Many believe that these gifts brought to the Christ Child by the wise men may well have been the origin of our present-day custom of gift giving at Christmas - or as may religious people believe it it a showing of our desire to emulate the unselfishness of Christ. Whatever the origin, the practice has become universal.