Among all that can be seen on Berlin’s streets at this time of year – from empty firework wrappers to discarded bottles and snacks – groups of singers dressed as wise men are becoming increasingly common.
They are star singers, or epiphany singers, who collect money for the poor in a tradition better known in predominantly Catholic southern Germany around this time of year. The youths forms groups of at least four singers, three dressed as the Three Kings or Three Wise Men, and one carrying a star.
On Tuesday Chancellor Angela Merkel was regaled by 108 singers in the Chancellery. Wherever they go, the singers sing a special set of traditional songs that have evolved in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
The performances are becoming more and more popular in Berlin, largely a Prussian and Protestant city. Many of Berlin’s 100 Catholic congregations, as well as some Protestant congregations, are now involved in such events.
The tradition is rooted in a medieval ecclesiastical play that tells the story of the kings in the Christmas story, in the Gospel of Matthew.