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Three Wise Men Came to My Door

January 9, 2011

January 6 is a holiday here. It is call the “Three Kings Day” marking the day when Catholics believe The Three Wise Men delivered gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to the baby Jesus.

To this day, the doorways would be sprinkled with holy water and the initials of the Three Kings — C+M+B (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) — plus the year are inscribed in chalk over doorways in German-speaking countries on the eve of January 6 to protect house and home. (Although historically the three letters are supposed to come from the Latin phrase for “Christ bless this house” — “Christus mansionem benedicat” — few of the people practicing this custom are aware of this fact. In many parts of Europe, including Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, the Christmas celebration does not end until this date, now considered the arrival of the three “kings of the orient” in Bethlehem.

I noticed all the date on the internet mentioned January 6 is the last day the Three Wise Men will come to your door, but this is not true depending on what city you live in. When I talked to a young man at my mother in law house last year he explained to me they continue going door to door until the first Sunday of January, even if pass the six; the purposes and the traditions. The 6th of January is just the marker of the German national holiday when Jesus was born and according to a Bible story, these three kings saw, on the night when Christ was born, a bright star, followed it to Bethlehem and found the Christchild and presented it with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Beginning with New Years and through January 6 (some city the first Sunday if Jan 6 is not landed on a Sunday), children and young adults dressed as the kings, and holding up a large star, go from door to door, caroling and singing a Three Kings’ song. For this they receive cookies, sweets or money. Formerly the collected donations went to unemployed craftsmen and veterans, today they go to charities of the church or the Third World.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2011 2:41 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I had no idea that such a custom existed. I live in a very German, prodominently Catholic town–a lot of people practice “old country” traditions, so I’m going to be on the lookout next year for those initials. It would be amazing to find such a tradition going on around me without even realizing it.

    • January 9, 2011 2:54 am

      Your welcome and I would not have know either if I was not at my mother n law last year. I have seen it on the news and a few children a few days ago walking around plus my hubby photo when he use to be a wise man, lol. But it is strange. The smaller the area you see more tradition.
      My mother n law live in a village. John and I live in a city that is not too huge but not small either. We was home and no one rang our bell:( I can understand in each building there is 7 levels and more. In a village there is regular houses.

  2. January 10, 2011 6:48 am

    I didn’t know about the custom of the initials and the date and think it’s great. I’m going to do it next year, after all I am half German. Once again, I have to say that being in Germany for the Christmas holiday season must be so special, thanks for sharing with us Lora

    • January 10, 2011 10:25 am

      Your welcome and it is special here. I don’t know but for me it is magical…there is always something going on and a lot of history surrounds me.

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