On 6th of January we celebrate “the three kings.” According to the Bible, on this day the three wealthy men arrived to Bethlehem to bow in front of the little Jesus and brought him valuable presents. The significance of this holiday has faded in past decades, but every Czech knows who the three kings are, and they come from home to home, sing carols and write “K † M † B †” above the entrance door. Do you want to learn more? Read on!
What is the liturgical significance of this day?
On 6th January, three kings arrived to Bethlehem following a comet and brought the baby Jesus gold, myrrh, and frankincense. For “Western” Christians this day means the end of Christmas celebrations and beginning of a liturgical break. Party - carnival time is coming! However, for the “Eastern” Christians this day marks the beginning of Christmas!
What traditions are still kept today?
Boys dressed as the three kings come from house to house and sing carols. The most well-known is “My tři králové jdeme k Vám, štěstí, zdraví vinšujeme Vám” – “We three kings are coming to you and wishing you health and happiness”. After the visit they write K † M † B † and the year ( K † M † B † 2017) with consecrated chalk above the entrance door. On this day, you can also go to church, where priests can consecrate water, salt, chalk, or for example some jewelry. This amulet should ensure your health and happiness. It is also a big day for charity. You may see three kings on the streets with money boxes. The Czech Catholic Charity organize the main fund-raising campaign. For many Czech families Three kings mean the end of the holidays and time to take down Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree. It is also the last day for the Christmas markets - if they have not closed already, they will close on Three kings.
What is the inscription K † M † B †?
Many people think that these letters are the first letters of the king’s name Kašpar, Melichar a Baltazar. But it is actually the Latin saying Christus mansionem benedicat - “May Jesus Christ bless this house”. † is not plus, but crosses and it symbolized the Holy trinity. You may also see the letter C instead of K, which is common in other European countries.
How was three kings celebrated in the past?
A whole parade accompanied the three kings and while singing carols they were also splashing houses with consecrated water and burning frankincense. In the Middle Ages, the priests themselves also sometimes went house to houses.
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