German children collect donations, observe Three Kings Day

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Children disguised as the three holy kings come to people’s doors from after Christmas until the end of January, and after singing, they leave a blessing above the door. — Courtesy photo

Germans observe Three Kings Day or Epiphany Saturday. The day marks the end of the Christmas season. Traditionally, in many houses, the Christmas tree is lit for the last time, discarded, and the ornaments are packed away until next Christmas. It’s one of Germany’s most traditional and characteristic religious holidays, but only in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Sachsen Jan. 6 is a legal holiday.

From after Christmas until late January, children disguised as the three holy kings can be seen walking from house to house in the KMC. They have paper crowns on their heads and carry a big golden star on a pole. They sing, pray and ask for charity collections for their parish. Usually, an adult member of their parish accompanies them.

Each year, about 500,000 children participate in the official caroler fundraiser event, which was established in 1959. The fundraiser is called “Sternsingeraktion,” caroler campaign. In the 2017/2018 campaign, the Sternsinger children’s missionary work will show engagement against exploitatory children’s work in India.

In 2016, 2,168 projects in 112 countries were supported. More than €46 million were collected to support projects and relief programs for children in Asia, Africa, Latin American, Oceania and East Europe.

The children asking for donations represent Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. In former times, when ringing doorbells, they received Christmas cookies, pretzels and sausages. After receiving a donation, the three holy kings bless the house by writing with chalk “20C+M+B18” above the doors to keep evil from entering. The three letters C, M and B don’t stand for the kings’ initials, but for the Latin words “Christus Mansionem Benedictat,” and literally mean “Christ bless this home.” The blessing has to stay above the door until the next Three Kings Day.