Appalachia Christmas Music

We Three Kings Of Orient Are

We Three Kings Of Orient Are is one of the most popular Christmas Carols. Just think of all the Christmas plays which use the song to show the presence of the Three Wise Men sharing their gifts with the Messiah.

The song is based on the book of Matthew. Even though most of us have that vision of 3 wise men bringing gifts from afar, the Bible doesn’t actually say there was 3 wise men. The Bible does describe 3 gifts given, and that is why most stories and songs infer that there were 3 wise men as well.

John Henry Hopkins Jr. was an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church. Hopkins preferred writing to preaching and worked for a New York newspaper as a writer and as a scribe for a church journal.

In 1857 while trying to decide what Epiphany gifts to buy for his nieces and nephews, Hopkins decided to write them a song. He chose the wise men as the subject for his gift of song. As Hopkins wrote the song he tried to imagine what those wise men must have felt as they searched for the Christ Child.

After giving the song to his nieces and nephews, Hopkins published the song in his own song book, Carols, Hymns, and Songs. During the next century when churches began to add Christmas songs to their hymnals the song was among the first carols chosen-ensuring We Three Kings Of Orient Are would become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time.

Several weeks ago I shared the version of We Three Kings Of Orient Are from Pap and Paul’s Songs of Christmas cd with you. Today I’d like to share a video of them performing the song. If you remember the track from the cd I let you hear-you’ll notice right off the video doesn’t have all the instruments that the cd track does. My favorite way to hear Pap and Paul do the song-is the produced track from the cd. But there is something really special about the simplicity of them doing the song with only Paul’s accompaniment on the 12 string guitar.

While I was researching the history of the song, I kept coming across the tidbit that Hopkins was crazy about children-even though he never had any of his own. Many scholars claimed it was Hopkins’s child like love for the Christmas season which inspired him to write the song. I think Hopkins would be pleased as punch that each Christmas children dressed in bathrobes with towels tied around their heads pretend to search for the Christ child to the cadence of his song.


We are very grateful and humbled by all you folks who have purchased one of Pap and Paul’s Songs of Christmas cds-THANK YOU! Pap and Paul’s Songs of Christmas cd is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard, including the song We Three Kings of Orient are. You can go here-Pap and Paul’s Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.


*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Interestingly enough, Tipper is right about the Magi. Much of what we believe is actually assumed and could well be wrong. Read Matthew 2 and Luke 2, and then note what is shared at about it.
    Note that Matthew mentions “wise men” visiting and Luke mentions “shepherds visiting.” Does that mean one or the other is wrong. Not necessarily! Perhaps Matthew was sharing what he’d heard from a witness actually there when the wise men visited, Luke was sharing what he’d heard from a witness actually there when the shepherds visited, and neither of those witnesses was there the entire time, or when the other witness was.
    The fact is, no one knows the exact minute details, and in truth, if God thought we needed to know, He would have revealed it in His Word. When He doesn’t, then we don’t know, and we’re to say so and leave it at that, not make things up to suit our own fancy whatever that might be.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 6:03 pm


  • Reply
    December 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you Tipper. Once again this blog brought back many happy childhood memories. Love the 12 string.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    December 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    What a great job on this song! I love their harmony and the arrangement of the tune. Sure would like to win on of those cd’s.

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    December 2, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I would love to have a copy of this CD!

  • Reply
    Nathan Beck
    December 1, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    New time subscriber. Just turning 70 on Dec. 31. I remember as a child setting on the porch listening to the Opra on radio before t.v. came to our house in rural Florida. This sure brings home a lot of memories.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 1, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Love Pap and Pauls music and singing!
    Don’t even get me started on..
    “We Shriek-ings of orange juice bar” or We Thee Kings of aren’t you barred” and yep, I remember the one that a child thought was We Three Kings and “a loaded cigar!
    Children are precious with their attempts to sing the lyrics…and just sure they have them right.
    I have problems with today’s lyrics and the modern rock music!
    Until I look up the lyrics online, I find I have messed up quite a bit.
    I love the hammered dulcimer! I am trying my hand at learning the dulcimer…The problem is finding time to practice. Wish me luck!
    They say anyone can learn the dulcimer…HA…Yeah right!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    wayne smith
    December 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I loved the story and the video

  • Reply
    December 1, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I love the presentation and will listen to it with joy. I wondered many times about the guitar. For many years in college a young man I dated played one of those guitars. He was more of a folk music singer. I tried once just to do a chord; I made a fool out of myself. We all had a good laugh.

  • Reply
    Shawn J
    December 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I am gonna try my luck again, fingers crossed. Thanks for the giveaway.
    smjohns63 at yahoo dot com

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Paul and Pap do such a nice job on
    the Christmas Songs. But I love to
    hear their harmony on “Just a touch
    of the Past” and “Bury Me Beneath
    the Weeping Willow Tree” as well.
    Thanks so much for sharing their
    Music with us for the Holidays.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    December 1, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    It is time to get Pap and Paul’s cd out and playing in my car. I love this carol.
    Thanks for sharing the story of the writer.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I enjoy everything those two do, especially when the guitars are in use. Guitars, banjos and voices work for me.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Pap and Paul are performing at their usual stellar standards, but the real outstanding part of this song is the accompaniment! I don’t know who arranged the guitar music but it’s seldom that one ever hears a piece so well done.
    My compliments to them both!

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    December 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you for the history behind this and the beautiful song. They did an awesome job on it as usual.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Love that 12 string effect. Tell Paul he needs to take up the harpsichord or hammered dulcimer next. Both lend themselves to Christmas music also.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Although I am looking forward to receiving the CDs I ordered, I especially like this guitar accompaniment. I’ll be eager to compare it to the CD.
    Listening to the playlist this morning is having to suffice for church today. It’s a nice option.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    December 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Very pretty! One of my favorites.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 1, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Tipper: This bright and quiet first day of December makes me want to get out and tromp these ridges. We are planning a fairly short hike next week with the Smokey Mountain Hikers and then have a covered dish supper with them – just down the road from us. So today I am thinking we should get out and practice hiking – as our long distance driving up and down the interstate does not keep us fit!
    Best of December to you and your family!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Beverly Forrester
    December 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I love Christmas music. Especially songs that point toward the true reason for Christmas. Would love to win this cd. P.S. I do like other Christmas songs also.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for the songs and for the history behind them. Reminds me of my Dad and all my family singing along with him and his guitar.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    December 1, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Oh, yes! I prefer this version with only their voices and one instrument, how beautifully they compliment each other. I cannot stop my wandering mind from recalling the lyrics kids once changed to bearing a loaded cigar. Now that I’ve heard how great a love for children Rev. Hopkins had, I suspect he would have shook his head then chuckled over their mischief.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 1, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Tipper, your right that is beautiful with Paul’s 12 string guitar the only accompaniment. I guess it’s really time to gen into the Christmas spirit!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 1, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Tipper: The details you present add much to the pleasure of listening to “We Three Kings” by your Pap and Paul! Our visit and book signing at Byron Herbert Reese Center was perfect yesterday with sunshine and wonderful people. Jim and I had to ‘tearing ourselves away’ from all the friendly folks. BUT THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS were when my dear cousin came by the Center to have me sign her copy of “Fiddler” and I got to meet her THREE BEAUTIFUL GRANDDAUGHTERS!
    I hope December is just about perfect for you and your beautiful family.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 1, 2013 at 7:11 am

    One of my favorite Christmas carols. Pap and Paul, are amazing as always.

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