2012 has started and I'm just about getting used to writing the year without hesitating! My year began in wintry Germany, with colourful fireworks going off everywhere, but me not seeing much of them except for reflections on fog! Hopefully, the fogginess is not indicative of what lies ahead, although, so far, my head hasn't really cleared up, partly because of jet lag, and partly due to a head cold.
Every now and then I have a hankering for a German Christmas; an excuse to catch up with family for a fun occasion, and some vague nostalgia for Christmases past. No bah humbug for me! Once again, I wasn't disappointed in what the old country had to offer, except perhaps the lack of a decent layer of snow. It was unseasonally mild for winter, and I only saw snow fall twice, not lasting long enough to get the camera out. Magically, some white flakes appeared on Christmas eve, just when the 'Christkindl' was making its approach.
I've written before about Christmas traditions in Germany, however, there was one tradition I had forgotten all about, and one which I was reminded about while travelling just after New Year. There is, in Germany and I believe, several other European countries, a tradition of "Sternsinger" (Star singers), walking through the streets between Christmas and Epiphany (6th December). These are mostly children, dressed as the three kings, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar, and singing a variety of carols. The impetus comes from the churches, who collect money this way for childrens charities. In 2011, the money went to support children in South America.
According to Wikipedia, this tradition goes back several hundred years. Children and young adults are sent out from the church, often after a Sunday mass, and knock on doors, offering to sing, pray, or recite a poem. Then the star singers convey a blessing, in the form of letters written on the door, in consecrated chalk. In Germany, the letters would likely be 20*C+M+B+12 ( the current year, a star symbolising the star of Bethlehem, three crosses symbolising the trinity, and CMB, which some believe stands for the 3 kings, others think they mean Christus mansionem benedicat/Christ bless this house). Different areas have different ways of writing the blessing.
I came across some star singers in a cafe, in a small town near Frankfurt. They were singing a song of the 3 kings, and people were happy for their song and their blessings, contributing to the collection quite handsomely! It was nice to see an old tradition kept alive, and I hope political correctness doesn't destroy this basically Christian event.