Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dreikönigstag 20*C+M+B+15

Today is Dreikönigstag, Epiphany, and the 12th day of Christmas, which signals the end of the Christmas holidays here in Germany.  Tomorrow school and work resume.  In the States, for the most part, school and work resumed on Jan. 2 - as soon after New Year's Day as possible.

On Dreikönigstag here in southern Germany, groups of children called Sternsinger go from house to house dressed in kingly costumes and carrying a lighted star. They sing a song, recite a poem about the three kings, write a blessing on the door frame, and collect a donation for a charity. This year the money raised goes to children in need in the Philippines.  People whom they visit may also give them a treat - some chocolate, candy, etc. - to give them energy to carry on through the day and evening. I had baked very American chocolate chip cookies on the weekend in anticipation of their visit.

This year's group was the most adorable yet! They sang so well I wish I had asked if I could record them. Most of them had their lines memorized, and they were very grateful for our donation and the nibblies. I explained that I am from the U.S., and that the cookies were very typical American treats.

The blessing they write on the door frame is (this year) 20*C+M+B+15.  Each piece of the blessing has a meaning.
    20...15 is the current year.
    The * represents the Star of Bethlehem.
    C M B stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat** ("Christ Bless this House" in Latin)
    The three crosses represent the trinity.

**It is a common misconception that the C M B stands for the intials of the names of the three kings, which coincidentally are Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar.

The blessing stays on the door until the next Dreikönigstag, when the entire blessing is wiped off and rewritten for the new year.

I truly love this tradition, and I got giddy when our doorbell rang! It brings closure to the Christmas season in a really nice way, I think.

After the Sternsinger leave, it's time to take down Christmas. The decorations go back into their boxes, the tree branches get cut off and placed over garden plants to protect them against the cold, the tree trunk gets chopped up and put in the garage to use for firewood in 2 years when it's dry (because nothing gets wasted or thrown out in Swabia!), and the nativity scene gets packed away until next December.

It was a lovely Advent and Christmas season, and I am always a little sad to pack up the decorations. I have enjoyed reading other bloggers' impressions of Christmas in Germany, descriptions of Christmas markets I've been to or not, and plans for 2015. It should be a good year!


  1. No Sternsinger here! Only villages get that sort of thing.

    Our tree went to the Christbaumsammelplatz with all the other trees. RIP, little tree!

    1. I suppose that would be pretty hard to pull off in a big city, though I've also seen them in Esslingen. Apparently the Sternsinger go to _every_ house in our village. The local newspaper on the days surrounding Epiphany is full of photos of and articles about the groups of Sternsinger, and pretty soon they'll let us know how much money was collected in the whole state for the children in the Phillippines.

  2. I remember being so confused seeing those numbers and letters written on the door of Marco's childhood home in Baden-Württemberg. I don't think its really a thing up here in the north...

    1. I wondered about that, if this is a southern thing. I know Jan. 6 isn't even a holiday in the north, so it makes sense. I started this tradition in the school in Wisconsin where I taught, and when I visited in November I was happy to see the new German teacher has continued the tradition! The German students write the blessing on the door frames of the classrooms and offices in the school. It's a small Catholic school, so it was allowed.

  3. Anonymous3/1/16 17:30

    I just want to inform you of my using the second photo in this post on my church information blog, https://mariakirken.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/innholdsrik-onsdag-i-kirken/. I copied the link of this post as a reference to the photo's owner and origin. I hope you consent with this use of your photo, as it shows exactly what was needed in my text about the C+M+B-blessing. Thank you!

    1. I don't mind - but the Sternsinger made a slight mistake on our door last year (seen in the photo). The blessing should read 20 * C + M + B + 15 In other words, one star (the star of David) and three crosses (the trinity). I wish I could understand your blog post! :-)