Christmas is the time of holidays – New Year’s Eve and January 1st follow the actual Christmas Days 24./25./26.12. And in Catholic regions, there is still another holiday –Epiphany day (6th of January). Read more about why this day is a holiday in Bavaria and Munich.
Epiphany means “Day of the appearance of Christ”. On this day, the appearance of Christ and his divinity are celebrated. Besides, three events are said to have happened on the 6th of January in different years – first, the arrival of the Three Wise Men at the stable where Jesus was born. Secondly, the baptism of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan took place then. And thirdly the conversion of water into wine which is the first miracle Jesus is said to have accomplished. In the churches, the history of the Three Wise Men is read on this day, because it was the first history about the appearance of Christ.
This day means the end of the Christian Christmas period. The cradles are removed and the Christmas trees are taken to the dump. On this day, so called “carol singers” (girls and boys, dressed up as the Three Wise Men) walk from house to house (pubs and restaurants included), sing songs and write the letters C, M and B together with the annual number on the door. C, M and B stand for the Latin words “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“Christ shall bless this house”). Some people also believe that the letters stand for the initial letters of the names of the Three Wise Men: Caspar (in Persian: Guardian of treasure), Melchior (in Hebrew: My king is the light) and Balthasar (in Babylonian: God protects life). This custom was revived in Germany only at the end of the fifties by refugees from Silesia. Nevertheless, it has a long tradition. Already in the 16th century school children with their teacher walked from house to house and sang about the birth and life of Christ. For that, they received small presents, nuts or apples. Moreover, they consecrated the house and painted a cross on the door.
The Three Wise Men are patron saints of travellers and innkeepers. Therefore, in the Middle Ages, pilgrims and other travellers used so-called “Epiphany paperslips”. These were amulet-like papers, on which the sign C+M+B and various incantations were written down. These slips of paper were carried along on the then dangerous trips as a reassuring travel paper. The admiration of the Three Wise Men as patron saints of innkeepers shows until today in the name of old restaurants such as “Moor Inn”, “Star Inn” or even “To the Three Kings”.