Anika R.
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Sternsingen am Dreikönigstag - Children ...

Sternsingen am Dreikönigstag - Children sing for charity on Epiphany

Jan 06, 2022

In many regions in Europe on January 6th (Epiphany, 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗶𝗸𝗼̈𝗻𝗶𝗴𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗴), kids (and adults) dressed up like the three Kings or “𝗪𝗲𝗶𝘀𝗲” (wise people) go from door to door and collect money for charity. They are called “𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿” and often carry a star ahead of them. They represent the wise men that in the 3rd century turned into kings and in the 9th century received the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, who traveled to bring gifts to Jesus following the star.

We find written references to the 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻 or 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗶𝗸𝗼̈𝗻𝗶𝗴𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻 as early as 1541, though that doesn’t mean it hadn’t been around before. After the Reformation in 1517, many Catholic convent schools (𝗞𝗹𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗰𝗵𝘂𝗹𝗲𝗻) in now Protestant regions lost their funding, and were supplementing their income by having Sternsinger collect money. By the end of the 19th century, asking for donations was deemed begging and forbidden. The 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻 was revived in Germany and Austria by refugees from Silesia after World War II.

The way the 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗶𝗸𝗼̈𝗻𝗶𝗴𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻 is done depends on the region and church. You will find it predominantly in Catholic areas, though the tradition is also observed in Scandinavia which is mostly Lutheran. In many communities, the event starts out with a service in the church, possibly a play, before the children are sent out. They go from door to door, sing songs, recite a poem, or give a little speech. They (or an accompanying adult) bless the house by marking the door or door frame with blessed chalk with the letters C, M, and B as well as the year.

The way it is written varies: 

20*C+M+B+22 (one star, three crosses)

20+C+M+B+22 (four crosses)

20-C+M+B-22 (with a third cross above the M)

20 C+M+B 22


While it makes sense to associate the letters with the names of the Three Kings, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, the letters actually stand for the Latin “Christus mansionem benedicat”, Christ bless this house. At least that has been the interpretation since the 1950s.

The 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿 have collected millions of Euros over the years which were donated to different charities that help children in need all over the world. Since 2004, the 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻 has been on the list of the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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