Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar

FOR the last few days we've been preparing for Epiphany, or the Coming of the Magi. We've baked star biscuits, made a large star to carry and crowns to wear, made a hanging star for our nature table and learned a new song. Most of all we've practised being Sternsinger to surprise Papa when he came home from work this evening.

The practice of Sternsinger, or Star Singers, goes back to the sixteenth century and is a tradition in German-speaking countries. Church members, usually children, dressed as the three kings go from door to door singing and collecting money for the poor. 20*C+M+B+09 is written in chalk on the outside of the door. The star represents the star of Bethlehem, and the three crosses for the holy trinity. C, M and B have traditionally been understood to stand for Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, however, according to the Church it stands for "Christus Mansionem Benedictat" (Christ bless this home). The numbers at the beginning and end of the blessing represent the year.

Sternsingerlied from Austria
(own translation)

From far beyond the eastern sky three travelling Kings are we,
We've come from mountains far away and journeyed over the sea.

A child lies in the manger, obedient and good.
Most wonderful on Earth is he, a halo o'er his head.

We've prayed to him and offered gifts and made our sacrifice.
And now we bid a fond farewell and leave this very night.

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