In parts of central Europe and Scandinavia troupes of costumed children, known as star boys, entertain their neighbors with Christmas Carols and dramas on Epiphany. One member of the group carries a long pole from which a bright star, representing the STAR OF BETHLEHEM, dangles. Children dressed as the Three Kings, or MAGI, follow the star, sometimes accompanied by a retinue of figures associated with the Nativity and other Bible stories. In some areas a child dressed as Judas collects the coins that onlookers offer in return for the children’s performances. In recent years some charitable organizations have begun collecting money by sponsoring groups of star boys. In many areas, however, neighbors have traditionally offered the group food and drink, rather than money. In places where young adults take part in these performances, neighbors may invite the group to sample their Christmas cheer. In past times Swedish star boys, called starngossar, often arrived at their final destination slightly drunk.
The yearly trek of the star boys reminds onlookers of the journey of the Magi and their final arrival at the stable in BETHLEHEM on Epiphany. Researchers speculate that this custom evolved out of medieval NATIVITY PLAYS that reenacted the story of Three Kings. This Epiphany tradition can be found in parts of GERMANY, POLAND, Switzerland, NORWAY, and Sweden. (For a similar custom, see CHRISTMAS IN INDIA.)