Where is January 6th a public holiday? What does C+M+B mean?

Three Kings: what is the holiday all about?

Right at the start of the year, people in three federal states have the day off on January 6th, Epiphany.

Hanover. On January 6th, the festival is celebrated in honor of the Three Kings. Guided by the Star of Bethlehem, they arrived at that stable immediately after the birth of Jesus Christ to worship him as the new King of the world. But who are the Three Kings and why is the holiday celebrated so late after Christmas?

Epiphany: Where is January 6, 2023 a public holiday?

Today Epiphany is only in Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt a public holiday, but it is also celebrated in other federal states.

In Austria and some Swiss cantons, January 6th is also a public holiday or rest day. In addition, Epiphany is a public holiday in Sweden, Finland, Italy, Spain and Argentina. In Uruguay, January 6th is celebrated as Children’s Day (“Día de los niños”).

Opening hours at Epiphany 2023: Which shops are open on January 6th?

Since Epiphany is a public holiday, most shops in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt are closed on January 6th. However, there are a few exceptions, they fall under a special regulation of the Shop Closing Hours Act, which also regulates the opening times of certain shops over public holidays and Sundays.

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In concrete terms, this means that train stations, petrol stations, pharmacies or shops in airports are usually allowed to open.

Epiphany: what is the meaning of the holiday?

There are numerous myths surrounding the Three Kings. One thing is certain: the holiday known today as the Epiphany or Epiphany is based on the feast of Epiphany (“appearance of the Lord”).

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the Magi who, guided by the Star of Bethlehem, found their way through the desert to the manger of Jesus Christ. Once there, the three wise men offer gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh – and worship Jesus as the new king of the world. In the Catholic Church, the three wise men or kings are therefore revered as saints.

The Evangelical Church also commemorates the Epiphany of the Wise on January 6th. In the New Testament, however, they are not referred to as “kings”. One searches in vain for the number three. This information goes back to extensive legend formation in the 3rd century. The names of the wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, are also first mentioned in the 6th century.

Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar: What do the names of the three kings mean?

The three kings were given their names for the first time around the year 500. The names are first mentioned in a childhood story of Jesus Christ, which reports in Armenian about Melkan of Persia, Gaspar of India and Baltassar of Arabia. In the 9th century these were reinterpreted as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The three men were supposed to symbolize the then known continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.

  • Caspar is of Persian origin. The name means “treasurer”. So Caspar gave the newborn gold according to his name.
  • Melchior is of Hebrew origin and means “king of light”. According to tradition, Melchior brought incense as a gift, which is a symbol of God and is still used today as an incense in Catholic services. The symbolism of this gift is that the three kings recognized Jesus as the son of God and considered him to be divine.
  • Balthazar is a Babylonian-Hebrew name and means something like “God protect the king” or “God will help”. Balthazar brought myrrh to Bethlehem as a gift. Myrrh is a plant with healing properties, through which the three kings gave Jesus healing powers and wanted to protect him from diseases.

Three Wise Men: What does C+M+B mean?

For many people, Epiphany symbolizes the end of the Christmas season. The custom of lighting the Christmas tree for the last time on January 6th and then plundering it is widespread. Children in particular parade around the houses dressed as the Three Kings with a star and sing songs to collect money for the needy.

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They write the year and the letters “C+M+B” on the front doors. However, these are not, as is often assumed, the initials of the three kings Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, but the abbreviation for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“Christ bless this house”). With the marking, the carol singers are supposed to bring blessings to the household for the new year.


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