Christmas in Germany: Epiphany
Epiphany, January 6, is called Dreikönigstag, or "Three Kings’ Day” in Germany. In past times many people celebrated Twelfth Night, or Epiphany Eve, as the end of the Christmas season. Some Germans still follow this old custom, electing a King of the Bean and Queen of the Bean to preside over Twelfth Night or Epiphany parties. Another old Epiphany custom, the caroling of the star boys, or star singers, also survives in contemporary Germany. Nowadays these costumed lads, dressed as the Three Kings, or Magi, may collect coins for charitable causes rather than treats for themselves.
The blessing of homes with incense, holy water, and the initials of the Three Kings is a religious custom connected with Epiphany. The Germans use the initials CMB to represent the Three Kings, which come from the names most associated with the Magi in folklore: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These initials are printed over the front door in chalk, surrounded by the numbers representing the year. Thus, in 1999 the inscription would read 19 CMB 99.
Two final Christmas customs take place in German homes on Epiphany. Many German families add the figures representing the Three Kings to their Nativity scenes on this day. In addition, Christmas trees are taken down, and children are permitted to eat the treats that have been used as decorations.