Epiphany is celebrated on 6 January in Germany to commemorate the journey of the magi, or wise men, who followed a shining star to visit the baby Jesus according to the biblical record.
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For Epiphany, churches and individuals set up a nativity scene and add three figures to represent the magi. Individuals and families may also attend special church services. Folklore associated with Epiphany states that if winter has not arrived by 6 January that it will not occur. Other traditions have developed over the years as well.
Groups of four children, three dressed as the wise men and one carrying a star, carol from house-to-house from 27 December to 6 January. Usually offered treats, they collect donations for charitable causes. As a sign of gratitude, the children will bless the house by writing the number of the year over the door in chalk.
People in rural areas may cleanse their homes and barns by allowing the aroma of burning frankincense to fill the space. Frankincense, gold and myrrh are the gifts that the magi brought to Jesus. A group of star singers visits the German Chancellor and Parliament on Epiphany each year.
People may gather the previous day and toast to the health and luck of family and friends with bockbier, a beer brewed for this special occasion. On the holiday, Germans eat a Three Kings cake. The circular golden pastry, filled with orange and spices, represents a crown and the three traditional gifts. The cake may contain a whole almond or trinket. The person who finds the token is considered king for the day.
This is also the time when the Christmas tree is taken down and any edible decorations, such as gingerbread houses, are eaten as the holiday marks the final day of the twelve days of Christmas.