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Folklore: Holy Three Kings

DigiTrad:
WE THREE KINGS
WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE


Related threads:
Lyr Req: We Three Kings of Orient Are (39)
Lyr/Chords Req: My Dad used to sing this (12)


Wilfried Schaum 06 Jan 04 - 07:13 AM
DMcG 06 Jan 04 - 07:25 AM
kendall 06 Jan 04 - 07:36 AM
Wilfried Schaum 06 Jan 04 - 07:42 AM
Wilfried Schaum 06 Jan 04 - 07:47 AM
Wilfried Schaum 06 Jan 04 - 08:02 AM
DMcG 06 Jan 04 - 08:06 AM
Wotcha 06 Jan 04 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,Gustapho 06 Jan 04 - 08:21 AM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Jan 04 - 08:49 AM
Emma B 06 Jan 04 - 07:05 PM
LadyJean 07 Jan 04 - 12:48 AM
GUEST,Gustapho 07 Jan 04 - 06:05 AM
Joe Offer 07 Jan 04 - 11:43 AM
Wilfried Schaum 09 Jan 04 - 12:35 PM
GUEST,Matthew 09 Jan 04 - 01:43 PM
Wilfried Schaum 11 Jan 04 - 02:00 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Holy Three Kings/Starsingers
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 07:13 AM

On January 6 (day of Epiphany) the "starsingers" are on their way, singing and collecting alms for the socially neglected. They are teens, dressed up as the "Holy Three Kings" (enshrined in Cologne), and carrying a star (Bethlehem) on a pole. After having received a gift they mark the door with 20+C+M+B+04 as a blessing. Are there similar rituals outside of Germany?

By the way: A funny parody of their songs was written by Goethe; the verse I like most I tried to translate into English:

The Holy Three Kings come to adore,
They are always three and never four.
For if to the three were a number four,
There'd be one Holy Threeking more.


Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: DMcG
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 07:25 AM

Related to this, what is the background to there being 'three' kings at all? My translation of Matthew says 'some wise men' - no mention of three (and certainly not of kings but that aspects quite well-worn). Luke's account of the birth doesn't mention them, and neither Mark nor John discuss the birth at all. Yes, you can assume three givers based on the three mentioned gifts, but its a bit of a leap.

As far as I have been able to find out the first mention of the Kings as Caspar/Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar was from the writings of John of Hildesheim, around 1370. This seems very late. Has anyone an earlier reference?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: kendall
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 07:36 AM

There was a very interesting program on New Hampshire public TV last night about this. Seems they were actually astrologers from Babylon, not kings at all. The story was dressed up like so many other ledgends.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 07:42 AM

Dave, you are right, the NT doesn't know of kings, but - German folk tradition has them as three kings, and in the DT I found some songs referring to the Three Kings from the Orient. This song sounds very similar to one of the songs of my country, especially with its solo parts.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 07:47 AM

kendall - saw an interesting show on our 3rd program, where the men's home was assumed to be Southern Arabia, the thence home and trading centre of frankincense and the like.

But I've still got no answer to my original question:
Are there similar rituals outside of Germany?

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 08:02 AM

Dave - Here you find something about their history. Short and in English:
In the 14th century they were seen as the representatives of the three continents Europe, Asia, and Africa. So one of them is imagined as black. About 730 Beda Venerabilis wrote only about one with a thick dark beard, but nothing about a dark hide. Following a greek source he described them as a young, middle aged and old man, representing the ages of man. Lot of symbolism.
The Legend: The remnants of the Three Kings were brought to Milan in the 4th century as a gift of a grandson of Helena Augusta (The Emperors Mother) who discovered them in Palestine or elsewhere in the Orient. In 1164 they were given to the Archchancellor Rainald von Dassel after the storming of Milan by Imperial troops and brought to Cologne where they rest till today.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: DMcG
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 08:06 AM

I've heard of a Czech version that is virtually identical to the German one, but otherwise, none I know of. There are a lot of other traditional activities and events on the 6th January, though. Some places used to use the 6th as the main present-giving day, but by and large that seems to have been replaced by 25th Dec or reduced to a day for giving only little gifts ... but people are welcome to tell me I'm wrong!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Wotcha
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 08:21 AM

Three Kings is a holiday here in Germany, so the folk night venue (O'Reilley's Pub) in Stuttgart was packed with revelers getting ready for their mid week holiday.

In Belgium, I believe there is a day called "Lost Monday"/Verloren Mondaag (excuse my bad Vlaams) which I think is associated with Epiphany and the locals eat buns with coffee and have a slow day at work.

Cheers, Gesondheit!

Brian


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: GUEST,Gustapho
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 08:21 AM

Here in Moronia we have celebrated the "Three Kings Festival" on Jan. 6th ever since time began. It is celebrated by families challenging one another to a game of cards played with a deck with only three kings. Each game, an unknown king is discarded and a game similar to patience ensues, the first family to lay their last card winning the game. The losing family then sing a verse and chorus of "The Barley Mow" and stand drinks all round. In the event of a stalemate everybody sings a verse and chorus of "The Barley Mow" and call each other names. The name calling and the copious amount of drink that is seen off frequently leads to a violent outcome hence Moronia being known for the most efficient first aid service in the world. The celebrations go on for 24 hours, outside ,in all weathers and on the stroke of midnight all the participants are led back to the asylum. I understan in Kent there is a group proposing to institute this tradition.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 08:49 AM

OZ TV showed a doco about this - it claimed to have found teh origina place of origin - where there was a large building with three empty tombs which allegedly their bodies had been removed from in 3C - the Cologne link - they tested the material that the bones were wrapped in and found that it seemed to be of eastern origin and dated to approx 3C...

Robin


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Emma B
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 07:05 PM

Still a big day in parts of Spain but associated with the giving of gifts rather than the German tradition outlined in the original question


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: LadyJean
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 12:48 AM

And here I sit in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, having returned from a very Catholic neighbor's Twelfth Night party. The priest asked God to bless a piece of chalk, then marked my neighbor's door. I think my neighbor is Scottish, Irish and German. About half of Western Pennsylvania come from similar backgrounds. (No German in my family, just some Swiss on my mother's side.)
The notion of blessed chalk just boggles my Presbyterian mind. But I said nothing.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: GUEST,Gustapho
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 06:05 AM

Lady Jean,
          We also have the chalk in Moronia. It is used to keep the score and small marks are made upon the houses of the families involved in the celebration. But good chalk is in very short supply so only small pieces are used. This leads to a degree of frustration among the players and every so often can be heard the cry, "Where in heavan`s name is that blessed chalk?"


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 11:43 AM

Wilfried, could you post the German version of Goethe's parody?
Thanks.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 12:35 PM

Joe - ASAP, which means: not earlier than Sunday. Tonight a gig, tomorrow the electricians are coming, a guided tour to perform in the afternoon, and an alumni meeting in the evening.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: GUEST,Matthew
Date: 09 Jan 04 - 01:43 PM

While waiting for Wilfried's return I found this bilingual text of Goethe's Epiphanias here: Die heiligen drei König mit ihren Stern.

Regarding English Twelfth Night traditions; according to The Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore "...the recurrent feature is that there is invariably mention of cake and alcohol." There were ceremonies for selecting a King and a Queen for the night, and wassailing and straw-burning were other customs associated with the date. No specific customs relating to the three kings /wise men /magi however seem to have existed.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Holy Three Kings
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 11 Jan 04 - 02:00 PM

Epiphaniasfest

Die heil'gen drei König' mit ihrem Stern,
Sie essen, sie trinken, und bezahlen nicht gern.
Sie essen gern, sie trinken gern,
Sie essen, trinken, und bezahlen nicht gern.

Die heil'gen drei König sind kommen allhier,
Es sind ihrer drei und nicht ihrer vier;
Und wenn zu den dreien der vierte wär',
So wär ein heil'ger drei König mehr.

Ich erster bin der weiß' und auch der schön',
Bei Tage solltet ihr erst mich sehn!
Doch ach! mit allen Spezerei'n
Werd' ich sein Tag kein Mädchen mehr erfreun.

Ich aber bin der braun' und bin der lang',
Bekannt bei Weibern wohl und bei Gesang.
Ich bringe Gold statt Spezerei'n,
Da werd' ich überall willkommen sein.

Ich endlich bin der schwarz' und bin der klein'
Und mag auch wohl einmal recht lustig sein.
Ich esse gern, ich trinke gern,
Ich esse, trinke, und bedanke mich gern.

Die heil'gen drei König' sind wohlgesinnt,
Sie suchen die Mutter und das Kind;
Der Joseph fromm sitzt auch dabei,
Der Ochs und Esel liegen auf der Streu.

Wir bringen Myrrhe, wir bringen Gold,
Dem Weihrauch sind die Damen hold;
Und habe wir Wein von gutem Gewächs,
So trinken wir drei so gut als ihrer sechs.

Da wir nun hier schöne Herrn und Fraun,
Aber keine Ochsen und Esel schaun;
So sind wir nicht am rechten Ort
Und ziehen unseres Weges weiter fort.

Written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and sung in the presence of the Duke Of Weimar by Corona Schröter (the first king) and two male singers on Jan. 6, 1781.

The verses beginning with Ich are sung soli by the different kings. Note the different endings of the 3rd stanza. In Matthew's text the meaning is: I'll never win a maiden [for marriage], in my version it is: I'll never please a maiden [marriage not necessarily intended - we know our Goethe]. I think my version is the correct one; it is from the Standard Edition of the Bibliographical Institute. To understand the joke you must keep in mind that this stanza was first sung by a female singer at the Duke's court.

The English translation is mostly correct, only the colours are not the colours of their hair. As I wrote in a former post, the three kings represent the continents Europe, Asia and Africa. So it's not white-haired, but white and so on.

Compare with the English song in DT

Wilfried


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