Unwrapping the Mystery: What Do the Three Gifts Symbolize?

Every year, Christmas brings with it a sense of excitement and wonder. The holiday is a time to be merry and enjoy the company of loved ones. It is also a time to exchange gifts with one another as a gesture of love and appreciation. While receiving gifts is certainly thrilling, the act of giving gifts can be even more rewarding. But have you ever pondered what certain gifts symbolize?

The three gifts that are traditionally associated with Christmas are gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were presented to baby Jesus by the three wise men or Magi who had traveled from the East to honor the newborn King. Gold is a symbol of royalty and the preciousness of life. Frankincense represents divinity and the pureness of spirit. And myrrh represents mortality and the fragility of life.

Understanding what these gifts represent can help us connect with the true meaning of Christmas. In a world that can often be defined by material possessions and the pursuit of wealth, the three wise men remind us that the most precious gifts in life cannot be bought or sold. The gifts of love, faith, and hope are the greatest treasures that we can give and receive.

The significance of the 3 gifts presented by the Magi

The Christmas story recounts that three wise men or Magi traveled a great distance to present gifts to Jesus Christ after his birth. The three gifts they presented were gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but what do these gifts represent and why were they so significant? Let’s explore each gift further.

  • Gold: As one of the rarest and most precious metals, gold was a symbol of wealth and status. Gifting gold to Jesus represented the Magi’s acknowledgment of his divinity and royal status as the King of Kings.
  • Frankincense: Used in religious ceremonies as incense, frankincense was a symbol of holiness and righteousness. It represented the Magi’s recognition of Jesus as a spiritual leader and his connection to God.
  • Myrrh: A fragrant resin used for anointing the dead, myrrh was a symbol of suffering and sacrifice. It represented the Magi’s acknowledgement of Jesus’s eventual sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

These gifts were not only significant in their symbolism at the time but have also become symbolic themselves in Christian tradition. The three gifts have been interpreted to represent the three aspects of Jesus’s life and ministry – his divinity, his holiness, and his sacrifice.

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s reflect on the significance of the gifts presented by the Magi and their representation of Jesus’s life and teachings.

Gold as a Symbol of Kingship and Wealth

One of the most significant gifts presented by the Magi was gold. This precious metal has been valued for centuries and was used as a symbol of royalty, wealth, and power.

Gold was an essential part of the economy in ancient times, and it was often exchanged as currency and used to purchase luxury items. The ability to own and display gold was a sign of wealth and status, and rulers wore gold jewelry and used it to decorate their thrones and palaces.

  • In the Bible, gold is mentioned numerous times, and it is often associated with kings and rulers. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was made of wood covered in gold, symbolizing the presence of God among the Israelites.
  • Similarly, in the New Testament, the Magi presented gold to Jesus, recognizing him as a king and savior.
  • Gold was also used to create the luxurious Temple of Solomon, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.

Throughout history, gold has been used as a symbol of power and authority. Rulers and monarchs would often wear gold as a sign of their status, and even today, gold is associated with wealth and luxury.

The symbolism of gold is not limited to material wealth. It can also be seen as a representation of inner riches, such as wisdom, love, and spirituality. In many cultures, gold is believed to have healing properties and is used in spiritual practices and rituals.

Symbolism of GoldExamples in History
Power and authorityRoyal thrones, crowns, and jewelry
Wealth and luxuryGold coins, bars, and decoration
Spirituality and wisdomReligious icons, statues, and ceremonial objects

In conclusion, the gift of gold presented by the Magi is a powerful symbol of kingship and wealth, both in a material and spiritual sense. The precious metal has been valued throughout history for its beauty, rarity, and durability, and it continues to hold an important place in our society and culture today.

Frankincense as a Symbol of Divinity and Spirituality

Frankincense is a precious resin derived from the Boswellia tree, which has been used for centuries in spiritual and religious practice. The gift of frankincense given to baby Jesus by the Wise Men is a symbol of his divinity and spirituality.

  • Frankincense has a long history of religious significance, particularly in Judeo-Christian contexts. It was used in the Old Testament as a component of incense offerings in the temple.
  • In the New Testament, frankincense is associated with the worship of Jesus as the Son of God. It was one of the gifts presented to him by the Wise Men, and is mentioned in the book of Revelation as a symbol of prayer and adoration.
  • Frankincense is also used widely in other religious and spiritual practices, including those of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In these contexts, it is believed to have purifying, cleansing, and healing properties.

The gift of frankincense to Jesus by the Wise Men represents the recognition of his divine nature and spiritual significance. It is a reminder of the importance of prayer, worship, and devotion in connecting with the divine.

In addition to its spiritual significance, frankincense has also been used historically for its medicinal properties, including as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Recent scientific studies have confirmed many of these benefits, suggesting that this ancient resin may have valuable modern applications in health and well-being.

DivinityFrankincense is a symbol of the divine nature of Jesus
SpiritualityThe gift of frankincense represents the importance of prayer, worship, and devotion in connecting with the divine
Cleansing and HealingFrankincense has been used historically for its medicinal properties, and modern research suggests it may have valuable health benefits

Overall, the gift of frankincense carries deep symbolism and significance in many spiritual and religious traditions. It is a reminder of the divinity and spirituality within us all, and the importance of connecting with the divine in our daily lives.

Myrrh as a symbol of suffering and death

Myrrh is one of the gifts given to baby Jesus by the Magi. While gold is considered a symbol of wealth and power, and frankincense is known for its religious significance, myrrh has always been a mysterious and intriguing gift. In ancient times, it was highly valued for its medicinal properties and was used to treat a wide range of ailments. As a symbol, myrrh can be interpreted in many ways, but ultimately it is associated with suffering and death.

  • Myrrh was used in ancient Egypt as part of the embalming process for mummies. This association with death has led some scholars to believe that the gift of myrrh was meant to foreshadow Jesus’ eventual death and resurrection.
  • Myrrh has a bitter taste and was often used as an analgesic to alleviate pain. This could be interpreted as a symbol of the pain and suffering that Jesus would endure during his crucifixion.
  • Myrrh was a rare and expensive commodity in ancient times, and it was often used as a gift to honor kings and other important figures. In this sense, the gift of myrrh could be seen as a sign of respect and reverence for Jesus, who was believed to be a king.

While the exact symbolism of myrrh may never be fully understood, one thing is clear: it is a powerful symbol of suffering and death. Its use in traditional medicine and embalming rituals, as well as its associations with pain and bitterness, all point to this interpretation. Whether the Magi intended the gift of myrrh to have this specific symbolism or not, it remains an enduring part of the Christmas story and a reminder of the sacrifices that Jesus made for his followers.

EmbalmingConnection to death and resurrection
AnalgesicSymbol of pain and suffering
Royal giftSign of respect and reverence

Ultimately, the symbolism of myrrh is one of sacrifice and redemption. While it may not be the most traditional symbol of Christmas, it serves as an important reminder of the sacrifices that were made for the greater good, and the hope that can arise from even the darkest moments.

The historical and cultural context of gift-giving in ancient times

Gift-giving has been a tradition since ancient times and has been practiced by various cultures worldwide throughout history. In ancient times, gift-giving was not just a gesture of goodwill but also served a practical and social purpose. It was a way for people to establish and maintain relationships, demonstrate their wealth and status, and communicate important social and cultural messages.

The practice of gift-giving was prevalent in Ancient Rome and Greece. Gifts were presented by the wealthy and powerful to show their generosity and social status. It was also a way to seek favor and influence from those in power. In China, gifts were given to express gratitude and respect, and the act of gift-giving was seen as a way to promote social harmony and maintain good relations with others. The Islamic culture emphasizes gift-giving as an obligation, especially during festive occasions like Eid al-Adha and Ramadan.

  • Gift-giving in ancient times was also associated with religious and spiritual significance. In Judaism, gifts were given during religious holidays and celebrations as a way to show gratitude to God and to share the blessings with others. Similarly, in Hinduism and Buddhism, gifts were offered to monks and priests as a way to gain merit and attain spiritual enlightenment.
  • The gifts given in ancient times were often luxurious and valuable items such as gold, precious stones, exotic animals, and expensive fabrics. These gifts served to demonstrate the wealth and status of the giver and were often a way to impress and awe the recipient. The gifts also served the practical purpose of providing the recipient with something of value that could be used or traded.
  • Gifts were also given during diplomatic relations between nations. Kings and rulers exchanged gifts as a way of showcasing their power and influence. These gifts were also used to reinforce alliances and create new ones.

The act of gift-giving has evolved significantly over time. Today, gifts are often given to demonstrate our affection and appreciation to loved ones on special occasions. The value of the gift is less important than the thought and effort put into choosing it. However, the ancient practice of gift-giving still holds importance and teaches us about the art of building relationships, expressing gratitude, and conveying meaning through thoughtful and purposeful gestures.

Ancient GreeceGifts from wealthy and powerful individuals to maintain social statusDemonstration of power and seeking favor and influence from those in power
ChinaGifts to promote social harmony and maintain good relationsExpression of gratitude and respect
JudaismGifts during religious holidays and celebrations to show gratitude to GodDemonstration of faith and sharing blessings with others
IslamGifts during festive occasions like Eid al-Adha and RamadanObligation and demonstration of faith

The table shows some examples of gift-giving traditions from different cultures and their respective significance.

The biblical prophecies that inspired the Magi’s gifts

The story of the Magi and their gifts to the newborn Jesus is a well-known one. The three wise men, or Magi, brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the new king. But what do these gifts symbolize? It turns out that the Magi’s gifts were not just random presents – they were chosen because they had significant biblical symbolism, as inspired by Old Testament prophecies.

  • Gold: As a precious metal, gold was associated with royalty and wealth. In the Old Testament, gold was often used to decorate the Temple of Solomon and was seen as a symbol of God’s glory and holiness. The gift of gold to Jesus therefore symbolized his kingship and divinity.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense is a resin that comes from trees in the Boswellia family, and was commonly used in incense and perfumes. In the Old Testament, it was also used in worship ceremonies as it was believed that its fragrance would ascend to God. The Magi’s gift of frankincense to Jesus therefore symbolized his role as a priest.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh is a resin that was used in ancient times for its medicinal properties and as a perfume. In the Old Testament, it was used to anoint the bodies of the dead. The gift of myrrh to Jesus therefore had a somber tone, as it prophesied his eventual death and burial.

As we can see, each of the Magi’s gifts had a specific biblical symbolism that pointed to different aspects of Jesus’ identity and purpose. The combination of these gifts served to reinforce the idea that he was both a king, a priest, and a sacrifice.

It’s also worth noting that the number three played an important role in the story of the Magi. There were three wise men, and they brought three gifts. In the Bible, the number three often represents completeness and perfection. For instance, Jesus was in the tomb for three days before he rose again – suggesting that his resurrection was a perfect fulfillment of prophecy. So the fact that the Magi brought three gifts could be seen as further confirmation of Jesus’ divine mission.

GoldKingship and divinity
FrankincensePriesthood and worship
MyrrhSacrifice and burial

Overall, the Magi’s gifts were imbued with profound biblical meaning that reinforced the idea that Jesus was not just any ordinary baby, but a king, priest, and sacrifice who had come to save his people.

The journey of the Magi in search of the newborn Jesus

The story of the Magi or the three wise men is one of the most popular in the Bible. It tells of their journey to Bethlehem in search of the newborn Jesus, guided by a star in the sky. The Magi, who were scholars and astrologers, followed the star for months until they arrived in Bethlehem. They brought with them three gifts, each with a symbolic meaning.

The three gifts and their symbolism

  • Gold – The gift of gold symbolizes royalty and wealth. This gift was given to Jesus to signify his status as King of the Jews.
  • Frankincense – The gift of frankincense symbolizes divinity and spirituality. It was commonly used in religious ceremonies and offered as a gift to show honor and respect to a deity. The Magi gave this gift to Jesus to acknowledge his divine nature.
  • Myrrh – The gift of myrrh symbolizes suffering and death. Myrrh was commonly used in embalming and was offered as a gift to someone who was believed to be destined to die. The Magi gave this gift to Jesus to acknowledge his future sacrifice and death.

The number seven

The number seven is a significant number in the Bible and is often used to symbolize completeness and perfection. In the story of the Magi, the number seven is represented in a few ways:

  • The journey of the Magi took seven days to complete, which symbolizes completeness and perfection.
  • The Magi brought three gifts, which when added to the three wise men, equals seven.
  • Some sources suggest that there were seven Magi who made the journey, although this is not mentioned in the Bible.

Overall, the story of the Magi and their journey in search of the newborn Jesus is a powerful reminder of the significance of the birth of Christ. The three gifts they brought and their symbolism add depth and meaning to the story, while the number seven represents completeness and perfection.

GoldRoyalty and wealth
FrankincenseDivinity and spirituality
MyrrhSuffering and death

As we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, let us reflect on the story of the Magi and the powerful symbolism of their gifts.

The symbolism of the number 3 in Christian tradition

Throughout Christian tradition, the number 3 has held significant symbolism. It is believed to represent the Holy Trinity – God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The concept of three-in-one is a central belief in Christianity, and it is often observed in the Bible and religious practices.

The number 3 in Biblical references

  • Jesus was resurrected three days after his crucifixion. This event is considered the foundation of the Christian faith and is celebrated yearly on Easter.
  • The three wise men who visited Jesus after his birth gave him three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • There are numerous trios in the Bible such as Peter, James, and John who were Jesus’s closest disciples.
  • In the Old Testament, Daniel survived in a lion’s den for three days.
  • Jesus himself referred to the number 3 in his teachings. He predicted that he would be resurrected on the third day, and he asked Peter three times if he loved him after his resurrection.

The power of threes

The number 3 has also been considered a powerful symbol of completion, harmony, and perfection. This is evident in many Christian traditions:

  • The sign of the cross is made by tracing three fingers.
  • Prayers are often repeated three times for emphasis and completeness.
  • During mass, the priest blesses the congregation with the sign of the cross three times.
  • In baptism, the priest pours water over the head of the person three times while invoking the Holy Trinity.

The three gifts of the wise men

The three gifts presented by the wise men to Jesus – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – have been interpreted differently over the years to represent various meanings. Gold is often associated with kingship, frankincense is a symbol of holiness, and myrrh represents death and is symbolic of the perfumes used in burial rituals. Together, these gifts have been seen to represent Jesus’s divinity, humanity, and his sacrificial death on the cross.


The significance of the three gifts is still celebrated today in traditional Christmas nativity scenes.

The interpretation of the gifts in different Christian denominations

One of the most recognizable elements of the Christmas story is the three gifts brought by the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. These gifts are widely believed to hold a deeper meaning, and they are interpreted differently by various Christian denominations. Here is a breakdown of the gifts and their interpretations:

  • Gold: In many denominations, gold is said to represent the royalty and divinity of Jesus. It was a valuable commodity during the time of Jesus and was often given as a gift to kings. Some Christians also see the gift of gold as a symbol of the wise men’s recognition of Jesus’ greatness and power.
  • Frankincense: Many Christians believe that frankincense, which was used in religious ceremonies and as a perfume during the time of Jesus, represents the priestly role of Jesus. The smoke released by burning frankincense was seen as a way of carrying prayers and offerings to heaven, and its use in worship was considered a sacred act. Therefore, the gift of frankincense symbolizes Jesus’ role as both a king and a priest.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh was used as an embalming oil in ancient times, and it is often interpreted as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some Christians view the gift of myrrh as a reminder of the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ mission on Earth. Others see it as a symbol of the bitter suffering that Jesus would later endure for the salvation of humanity.

While these are the most common interpretations of the gifts, there are many variations across different Christian traditions. Some denominations view the gifts as prophesying the three stages of Jesus’ life: his life as a king (gold), his priestly ministry (frankincense), and his sacrificial death (myrrh).

In the Armenian Apostolic Church, the gifts are linked to the Magi’s backgrounds: gold for Melchior, who was a king from Arabia; frankincense for Gaspar, a scholar from India; and myrrh for Balthazar, a physician from Ethiopia. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the gifts are seen as symbolizing the three virtues of faith, hope, and love.

GoldJesus’ royalty and divinity; wise men’s recognition of Jesus’ greatnessCatholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Methodism
FrankincenseJesus’ priestly role; link between heaven and earth in worshipCatholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Methodism
MyrrhForeshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection; reminder of Jesus’ sacrificeCatholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Methodism
Gold, frankincense, and myrrhThree stages of Jesus’ life: king, priest, and sacrificial victimVarious traditions, including Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

Regardless of the specific interpretations, many Christians see the gifts as a reminder of the greatest gift of all: the gift of Jesus, who came to bring salvation to the world. As we celebrate Christmas and the arrival of the Christ child, let us reflect on the significance of these three gifts and the message of hope, peace, and love that they bring.

The contemporary reimagining of the 3 gifts in popular culture and media.

In modern times, the three gifts of the Magi have been reinterpreted in various ways in popular culture and media. Here are some examples:

  • Gold: In the movie “The Gift” (2000), the character played by Cate Blanchett receives a gold-covered necklace from her husband, which symbolizes his love and dedication to her. Gold is often used in contemporary culture to represent wealth, luxury, and success.
  • Frankincense: In the TV series “Supernatural,” Frankincense is used as a symbol of purity and holiness, as it is often used in religious ceremonies. The show’s main character, Dean Winchester, wears a pendant containing Frankincense to protect himself from demons and evil spirits.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh has been associated with healing and rejuvenation in recent years. In the video game “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” players can use Myrrh to heal themselves during gameplay. In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey suggests using Myrrh as a metaphor for taking care of one’s physical and mental health.

Additionally, the three gifts of the Magi have been referenced in movies, TV shows, and books as symbols of generosity, kindness, and selflessness. For example, in the movie “Elf” (2003), Buddy the Elf gives a gift of a snow globe to his father, symbolizing his love and appreciation for him. The snow globe contains a miniature version of New York City, where the father lives, and is meant to remind him of their shared bond and memories.

The table below summarizes the contemporary reimagining of the three gifts:

GiftSymbolism in Popular Culture and Media
GoldWealth, luxury, success, dedication, love
FrankincensePurity, holiness, protection from evil
MyrrhHealing, rejuvenation, self-care

Overall, the three gifts of the Magi continue to hold relevance and importance in contemporary culture and media, serving as symbols of various values and ideas.

What do the three gifts symbolize?

Q: What are the three gifts given to Jesus?
A: The three gifts are gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Q: What does gold symbolize?
A: Gold symbolizes royalty and is often associated with wealth and power.

Q: What does frankincense symbolize?
A: Frankincense symbolizes divinity and is often used in religious ceremonies and rituals.

Q: What does myrrh symbolize?
A: Myrrh symbolizes death and sacrifice and was commonly used in burial ceremonies.

Q: Why were these three gifts considered important?
A: These gifts were considered important because they were expensive and rare, symbolizing the importance and worthiness of Jesus.

Q: What does the giving of these gifts signify?
A: The giving of these gifts signifies the recognition of Jesus as a king, a divine being, and one who would sacrifice his life for his people.

Q: Are there any other meanings behind these gifts?
A: Some interpretations suggest that gold symbolizes the Father, frankincense symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and myrrh symbolizes the Son.

Closing Thoughts

The three gifts given to Jesus hold significant symbolism and represent the recognition of his divinity, royalty, and sacrifice. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were important because they were rare and expensive, symbolizing the importance and worthiness of Jesus. We hope this has provided a deeper insight into the significance of these gifts. Thank you for reading and we hope to see you again soon.