Monday, January 6, 2014

the duty of welcoming royal ambassadors...

6th of January is a day here in Austria on which you can't possible leave your home, as all and everybody can expect royal visitors!
Epiphany in English - it's Dreikoenigstag in German - is the day in liturgy. It's all about the three Kings (also referred to as the three Wise Men or Mages) were, in the Gospel of Matthew and Christian tradition, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of Christian tradition.
Over here you can be sure that these three kings visit your home in a younger and shorter version, which means that you have to have money ready for the charity they collect for and an equal share of sweets (you don't want the kings to get into a fight once they are out of the public eye and their costumes!) for the participants. Since I am on the end of their route, I also keep something to drink ready to make sure I get something out of the by then hoarse voices ;)
So once you open the door, there is no holding back - you are faced with a group of three elementary school children dressed up as the magi (plus the star(holder) and their chaperone) - and as soon as you are barely in sight, they reel of their rehearsed litany in a speed that's hard to comprehend - first together, than with each kings little statement wrapped in a poem that by the end of the day has become a blurry of words. This is followed by some traditional song immediately followed by the box pushed under your nose. I take this all with a lot of humor and feel really sorry for those kids - they really don't look like they have much fun and I especially pitty the one child in the Sternsinger group that traditionally is to represent Baltasar from Africa and so, that child typically wears blackface makeup - which by that time is smeared and looks extremely itchy and thoroughly uncomfortable.
The last tradition in German-speaking areas is the writing of the new year's blessing for the occupants three kings' initials (C+M+B+the years) above the main door of Catholic homes in chalk. It's not the initials as most believe but stands for "Christus mansionem benedicat" ("May/Let Christ Bless This House"). This was always quite taunting to them in this house as doorframes are white and you can't see the chalk. So this year the actually brought stickers ;)
After that you share out the sweets and are then able to safely return to your sofa - because before this procedure has taken place you can't possible relax. Even phonecalls start that day with a "have the kings been there yet?".
I wonder if I there not to be at home next year.
Neee, I'm sure they stop cars too - there are tons of groups loose that day!