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!