Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dreikönigstag (Who are those children writing on my door?)

Tomorrow, January 6, is a public holiday for those of us in the HENhaus area (all of Bavaria, as well as Baden-Würtemberg and Saxony-Anhalt)! So the stores are closed.......again. It´s Dreikönigstag, the end of the Christmas season  and the Twelve Days of Christmas. On the 7th, things return to normal again, and the children go back to school. Note: this may also be the day for Christmas tree pick up in your area.

Three King´s Day (or Epiphany) is the day the Three Kings (or Magi) came to visit Jesus, bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Sometime today or tomorrow, you can expect to get a ring at the door from the Sternsinger (Star Singers).

In many areas, children dressed as the Three Kings, carrying a large star (representing the star which led them to Jesus  in Bethlehem) go from house to house singing special songs for the day, or reading poems.

It is traditional to give the children candy, cookies, or chocolate as well as a monetary donation. The money collected goes to either the Church or another charitable organization. You may want to make sure you have your donation (of food or money) by the door now, to avoid the mad dash I had to make.

The children will then mark your door, to bless the house and inhabitants for the coming year.

Sometimes done in chalk (this year, ours is a sticker), this year we have 20+C+M+B+14.

What does that mean? 20 and 14 represent the year, obviously. Some say C M B represents the names of the Magi (Casper, Melchoir and Balthazar). Others say it represents "Christus mansionem benedicat", or "Christ bless this house".

Some insider tips (courtesy of my 13 year old cousin Leo, a long-time Sternsinger veteran):
  •  Remember these children are singing, walking, and on their feet all day!
  • Chocolate or cookies are preferred over candy. Why? They can eat them right away. Candy means empty wrappers that they don´t have room for, so it ends up being carried the entire day. Leo had 11kg or 24 pounds of candy to carry one year!
  • It´s nice to offer them something to drink, or they may ask for it. In that case, you can give them something in a glass. Bottles are hard to carry and dispose of. 
  • As far as monetary donations, a €5 bill is most common, and lightest to carry. Otherwise, a €2 piece will suffice. Avoid dumping billions of smaller coins as I did. :(
  • When you open the door, the children "should" start singing or reciting their poem. If not, a simple "Hallo" or "Wilkommen" should get them started. When they are done, give them your donations, and they will ask if you want them to mark your door. Then, they will leave. The need for German language speaking ability is minimal. :)
With all the stores closed, what to do?

If you are not going to Church, or making and eating a Three Kings Cake (recipe here)...... hit up a brewery for the Stärkeantrinken tradition! Drinking Bockbier on Three King´s Day (or Eve, depending on where you are) is a tradition said to protect you against diseases and danger in the coming year. Some breweries even make a special Three King´s Day brew just for the day, search Stärke antrinken, Dreikönigsbier or Oberste (link in German) in your region to find one. But beware! Both are especially strong!! 

Thanks to Leo for your help and information!

1 comment:

Susan H. Self said...

I love this. It is such a kind and sweet thing in honor of our Lord and Saviour , Jesus Christ. Thank you for explaining .