Montag, 12. Januar 2015

(Strange) German Holidays, #2 - Three Kings Day

There were quite a few people who liked my post first post in this series, so I feel confident to share another one, although it's quite a few days late again.

This one is a holiday in only three of the German states, and I'm lucky enough to live in one of them: It's January 6th, or 'Three Kings Day'. I did a bit of research again (wikipedia, my love), and learnt that actually, the day is called 'Epiphany' and celebrates the revelation of "God the Son as a human beeing in Jesus Christ". In our tradition, this is marked by the visit of the Magi, the three Wise Men or the Three Kings, as they are mostly called here. I also learned that the holiday goes back quite a while: Epiphanie and Christ's birth used to be celebrated together on this date, before the Roman Catholic church changed christmas to the 25th of December in the 5th centuary. Apparently, some parts of Christianity still celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January. But even before that, the 6th of January was an important holiday in Ptolemaic Egypt and Rome.

In Germany, or at least where I live, Three Kings Day isn't a holiday in the sense that people celebrate it themselves - it's a day off work though. Nativity scenes at home or in churches get an addition of the three wise men (when we had one when I was younger, they were already there on christmas eve, but at the far edge of the scene, not in the stable itself, and got moved a bit closer to the actual crib every day). There are also the Sternsinger (star singers) - groups of children dressed as the three wise men (though there are not necessaryly three, and girls are allowed as well). As they are known as the three kings Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar around here, and Caspar is usually depicted as dark-skinned, at least one of the children usually has it's face painted black or brown (I bet that's considered racist now as well...). Those star singers move through the streets, stoping at every door to sing. They collect money for charity (usually for other children) and if you give them something, you get a blessing on your doorframe: 20*C+M+B+15 (2015 for the year, the star for the star of Bethlehem, three crosses for the holy trinity, and the initals of the Three Kings).

The star singers are organized by the Catholic church, so I was never part of them when I was younger, though I always wanted to. Nowadays, less and less children are interested in joining them, so they are more open now. There still aren't enough to cover ever house anymore, especially in cities - they used to walk aorund all week instead of just January 6th, but now they will only come if you send them an email beforehand. I think that's pretty sad, it's a great tradition and they have been doing a lot of good with their collecting - in 2005 alone, they got about 47 millions!



Kommentare:

  1. Very interesting post. Unfortunately the traditions are lacking everywhere, mostly in the young generation. I vividly recall caroling door to door as a kid and even as a teen, but it's been YEARS since I've seen anyone doing it.

    Love the bit about the wise men moving closer to the nativity stable.

    A day off work never hurts either. I still find it quite interesting that only some states follow the holiday. I'm so used to all or nothing in the US.

    Thanks again for the lesson. Looking forward to the next one!

    AntwortenLöschen
    Antworten
    1. That's true, but I guess that's partly the older generation's fault...often, those things are brough across more as a chore as a celebration, and I don't blamekids for starting to resent them...

      Acually, there are holidays by state in the US as well, at least according to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_the_United_States#Legal_holidays_by_states_and_political_divisions_of_the_United_States

      Löschen
    2. Now that you mention it, I think the only one I've actually heard of being celebrated (as in a day off work/school) is Cesar Chavez Day in California.
      Some states do also allow those of us who are Jewish to have the day off to celebrate our, more major, holidays as well. Unfortunately I am in the minority in the state I currently live in so that's not really an option.

      Löschen
  2. Another lovely holiday! I am a little saddened that these precious holiday rituals are slowly disappearing as they really are so very wonderful.

    AntwortenLöschen
    Antworten
    1. I know what you're talking about...makes me sad as well :(

      Löschen
  3. Very interesting, especially as I did a 20+C+M+B+15 cake this year, so it's nice to know what I was making. Epiphany gets called Twelfth Night around here and I use it as an excuse to watch Shakespeare Twelfth night. my favorite of the plays.

    AntwortenLöschen
    Antworten
    1. Well that's interesting...I wonder why someone would order a cake for that? They probably figures that every reason is a good one to have on of your delicious cakes! :D

      Löschen
  4. Three King's Day is not a holiday celebrated in the US. Actually very few people even know what it is. I don't really celebrate it but observe it more as Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season and when I take down all the decorations.

    AntwortenLöschen
    Antworten
    1. Yeah, we do the 'taking down the decorations' part here as well, I forgot that. Felix' parents wait until 'Maria Lichtmess', which is 40 days after christmas, though.

      Löschen