Three Kings Day 2007

Children disguised as the Holy Three Kings go from house to house to collect donations for their church. Courtesy photo

Children disguised as the Holy Three Kings go from house to house to collect donations for their church. Courtesy photo

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Children disguised as the three holy kings can be seen between Christmas and Jan. 6 walking from house to house in the KMC. They have paper crowns on their heads and carry a big golden star on a pole. They sing, pray and ask for charity collections for their church.

Germans observe Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, Jan. 6. Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas tree will be lit for the last time, discarded, and the ornaments will be packed away until next Christmas. It's one of Germany's most traditional and characteristic religious holidays, but only in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Sachsen is it a legal holiday.

The children asking for donations represent Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. In former times, when ringing door bells, they received Christmas cookies, pretzels and sausages. Today, people donate money which mainly is used for supporting projects in developing countries and other missionary projects.

After receiving a donation, the three holy kings bless the house by writing with chalk "20C+M+B08" above the doors to keep evil from entering. The three letters C, M and B don't stand for the kings' initials, but for the Latin words "Christus Mansionem Benedictat," and literally means "Christ bless this home." The blessing has to stay over the door until the next Three Kings Day.

Caspar is Hebraic and means treasurer; Melchior is Hebraic and means the king of light; and the Babylonian name Balthasar means "the Lord may protect the life of the king." The three wise men were considered kings, because when Christ was born they came to the stable and brought gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.