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January 6, 2012

The twelve days of Christmas have come to the end. Sadly January the 6th – the Feast of Epiphany also called “The Adoration of the Magi” or “The Manifestation of God”, best known as the day of the Three Kings (or wise men/magi): Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, is the day for putting away all the pretty Christmas decorations.

Did you know that the last day of Christmas comes with its own traditions, rituals and symbols?

The Christmas tree is taken down and in some areas is burnt in a big bonfire. For the children this can be an especially joyous occasion, because taking down the tree they can finally take all of the sweets, chocolate ornaments wrapped in foil or cookies that have been used as decorations.

On the evening before Three Kings, traditionally there were prayers, blessed dried herbs would be burnt and their aromatic smell would fill the house. Doorways would be sprinkled with holy water and the master of the house would write with chalk C + M + B and the year above the house and barn door and say: “Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar,  protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.”. By the way, C + M + B has traditionally been translated with Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, however, according to the Church it stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedictat” (Christ bless this home).

One more tradition was for carolers to go from house to house. This custom, reminiscent of the travel of the Three Kings is still very much alive in Germany and Austria. Beginning with New Year and through January 6, children dressed as the kings, and holding up a large star, go from door to door, caroling and singing a Three Kings’ song. For this they of course receive money or sweets. Years ago the collected donations went to unemployed craftsmen, today they go to charities of the church or the Third World.

These nice rituals could make saying goodbye to Christmas tree, its treats and decorations easier, yet we have become more practical (if it’s the right word) – we box everything up, throwing the tree away (hopefully to be chopped up as mulch) and rush again to the shops, that a few weeks ago were inviting you to get your presents, but now are announcing a new attraction – SALE.

P.S. If you have some chalk, don’t forget to put C + M + B on your door.

Information about the day of the Three Kings was found on

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2012 10:57 am

    Thanks for stopping by my blog again 😉

    Do you know…I never realised that the last day had it’s own rituals. I think I’ll be saving this blog post of yours to revisit next year as I’m a sucker for anything like that!

    To be honest, I’m always reluctant to take down the Christmas tree and decorations – so as you say, this will be something positive to do instead. Also, around the 5th of January, I’m always frantically sorting things / preparation (I work partly as a teacher) for returning to work so there never seems the time…next year I shall just have to make some 😉

    Happy new year x

    • January 8, 2012 1:52 pm

      Happy New Year, Alan.

      To tell the truth my Christmas tree isn’t down yet… I must admit this isn’t a job I’m looking forward to. I guess I will have to do everything gradually… removing decorations bit by bit – hopefully everything will be finished before Easter 🙂


      P.S. Your blog is a source for inspiration and a real treat for an antique lover!

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