This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany – the Revelation or Showing Forth of Jesus to the world. The Jewish shepherds had already been there on Christmas night. Now it was the turn of the wider Gentile world, which includes us! We followed the shepherds to Bethlehem through our representatives, the Wise Men from the East.
There are many customs attached to the day in different parts of the world. In the Spanish-speaking world the Three Kings receive letters from children and so bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. In Spain, each one of the Magi is supposed to represent one different continent, Europe (Melchior), Asia (Caspar) and Africa (Balthasar). According to the tradition, the Magi come from the East on their camels to visit the houses of all the children, much like Santa Claus with his reindeer elsewhere. In some areas, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi. It is also traditional to prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat.
In Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay, there is a long tradition for having the children receive presents from the three “Reyes Magos”. Many Spanish towns organise cabalgatas on the evening of the 5th, in which the Kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents) in attendance. Meanwhile, a tradition in Poland and German-speaking Catholic areas is the writing of the three kings initials (C+M+B, or K+M+B in those areas where Caspar is spelled Kaspar) above the main door of Catholic homes in chalk. This is a New Year’s blessing for the occupants and the initials are also believed to stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“May Christ Bless This House”). Often these markings are made by the
“Sternsinger” (literally, “star singers”) – a group of three school children dressed up as the magi, and carrying a star. After singing, the children write the three kings initials on the door frame.
This “C+M+B” is catching on elsewhere. Why not involve your children or grandchildren in this lovely tradition – or just do it yourself? Write the letters in chalk over or near your front door. Who knows – it can be an opportunity to gently share your faith when callers at your front door ask “What’s all that about”!
To you all – may Christ bless your house this year!