GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Three Kings’ Day, otherwise known as Dreikoenigstag or Epiphany Day, is observed on Jan. 6 annually. This holiday marks both the end of Christmas and the start of the new year. Since it is recognized as a public holiday in Bavaria, expect stores to be closed.
The history of Three Kings’ Day dates back thousands of years. The holiday was originally called the Feast of Epiphany, and on this day people celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. The biblical story goes that three kings, or wise men, followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert for 12 days until they reached the stable where Jesus was born. They presented three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
It was not until the fourth century that the celebration was divided into two holidays: one being Christmas and the other being Three Kings’ Day, exactly 12 days later.
On this day, children normally dress up as the three kings — Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar — and go door-to-door to carol and collect donations for charity. They are usually accompanied by a fourth child, who carries a star, and the whole group is called the Sternsinger, or star singers. The children will then ask permission to bless the house by writing the date and “C+M+B” above the front door in chalk. This stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” and it is Latin for “Christ bless this house.”
Due to COVID-19, Sternsinger groups will not be going door-to-door this year. Instead, local communities and churches have turned to virtual solutions.