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 head and carry a big golden star on a pole. They sing, pray and ask for charity collections for their parish.
Each year, about 500,000 children participate in the fundraiser event which was established in 1959. More than €600 million were collected to support more than 51.000 projects and relief programs for children in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Eastern Europe.
Today is the official day when Germans observe Three Kings Day or Epiphany. The day marks the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas tree is lit for the last time and 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.
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+B17” above the doors to keep evil from entering. The three letters C, M and B do not 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 over the door until the next Three Kings Day.
Caspar is Persian and means treasurer; Melchior is Hebraic and means the king of light; and the Babylonian name Balthasar means “the Lord may protect the life of the king.” The three wise men were considered kings, because people believed that only kings would be able to bring such gifts as gold, incense and myrrh to the stable where Christ was born.