Today is Dreikönigstag, Epiphany, which signals the end of the Christmas holidays here in Germany. Tomorrow regular work resumes for those who didn't already have to be back earlier this week, though classes don't resume in Baden-Württemberg schools until Monday. In the States, school and work resumed on Jan. 4th - 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. People they visit may also give them a treat - some chocolate, candy, etc. - to give them energy to carry on through the day. In our little village several groups of children are deployed with their adult chaperones to every house. Most people are home to greet them because today is a stiller Feiertag (holiday) in Baden-Württemberg.
This year's group was adorable! They sang very well and had their lines memorized, and they seemed to appreciate our donation and the nibblies.
The blessing they write on the door frame is (this year) 20*C+M+B+16. Each piece of the blessing has a meaning.
20...16 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 initials 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 I heard their footsteps on the front porch! It brings closure to the Christmas season in a really nice way. If I could send one holiday tradition to America, I'd send this one.
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. This year we're actually going to wait a bit; our neighbors told us just the other day and my Schwiegermutter confirmed it that the Catholic tradition is to wait until Mariä Lichtmess (Candlemas - February 2nd) to take down Christmas!
It was a lovely Advent and Christmas season, and I am always a little sad to pack up the decorations. I so enjoy the lights on the outside of the house, our lighted Christmas star and tree, and the general cheer of Christmas decorations.
I've enjoyed reading other bloggers' end-of-year and/or New Year's posts, and although I probably won't write one of those since I'm too much a realist for resolutions or personal goals, I should be able to come up with something interesting to write about in the next few weeks.