Star singers bring holidays to doorsteps

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
After Christmas, there is a visit and feast of the Three Magi, or "Heilige Drei Koenige" as the Germans call them.

The event commemorates the journey of the Three Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. The visit of the Three Magi marks the end of the holiday season in Germany.

In the 9th century, the legend of the Three Magi became the legend of the Oriental kings, named Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. In 1164, relics, alleged to be derived from the Magi and kept in Milan for centuries, were brought to Cologne where the golden shrine of the Three Kings, or Dreikoenigsschrein, has remained the greatest treasure of the famous cathedral to this day.

The relics were sought by innumerable pilgrims during the Middle Ages and motivated the citizens of Cologne to build their great Dom cathedral.

The custom of celebrating "Three Kings Day" spread from Cologne to other Roman Catholic areas of Germany. For the church, Jan. 6 is the feast of "Epiphany," celebrating the manifestation of the savior to mankind. For the Catholic population, however, it's primarily the feast of the Three Kings.

In former times, and in some rural areas today, a number of superstitious customs were practiced on the eve of Jan. 6 to protect the house and home. Houses and stables were smoked out with branches consecrated in the church. The initials of the Heilige Drei Koenige, C+M+B, and the year were written on the doorframe with consecrated chalk.

Nowadays in some regions, including the Eifel, several of these traditions are still practiced.

Groups of adults or children, often church mass servants, walk from house to house dressed as the Three Holy Kings, carrying a star-shaped lantern on a stick. Because they carry the star and sing a song or recite a religious poem at people's doors, they are also called the star singers. In return, the star singers collect gifts and monetary donations, which they donate to humanitarian aid organizations.