On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Lord gave us the Feast of Epiphany.
The word Epiphany takes its name from the Greek epiphania, meaning, revelation or to reveal. The church calendar reminds us it is the day on which the Christ Child was made manifest to the world as the Son of God. The day is also called the Feast of Three Kings because it was to the Three Kings that the Christ Child was first revealed and as such, revealed to the whole world.
Carolers in front of Narodzenia Najswietszej Maryi Panny (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church) in Łapczycy (southern Poland)1925
The Feast closes the official twelve days of Christmas in Poland but the day brought out a new wave of carolers that took to the roads of Poland to sing their songs of the wonders associated with the birth of Christ. In remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem that hung over the manger the night of the birth of Christ, the star that led the Wise Men to the manger, young Polish boys dressed up as the Three Kings and went caroling from house to house. If it was impossible to imitate the rich garb of the kings, the boys simply wore their usual clothes with homemade paper crowns on their heads to denote them as the Three Kings. One of the boys smudged his face with ashes to signify him as the dark skinned king, Balthazar, and also carried a homemade colored box to signify carrying the gift of myrrh.
The caroling group on the Feast of Three Kings, always traveled with a large homemade star, the Gwiazda Betlejemska, the Star of Bethlehem, perched on top of a long pole. It was made from thick glazed paper or straw attached to a frame and was lit from within by a candle at the center or, in later years, by a light bulb powered by a battery. Sometimes someone dressed as an angel tagged along or yet another boy accompanied them playing the concertina, but most of the time the boys sang together a capella. And, as one elderly gentleman recounted to Polish folklorists about his caroling days, "one of the kings also carried a stick to ward off the dogs that roamed the countryside.” (Photo to left: Star carried by carolers 1986. Museum Etnograficzne w Rzeszowie)
The carolers did not enter inside the house as often happened with other carolers but, instead, stood outside a window. The homemade star, glowing in the night and voices raised in song about the Three Kings, such as Mędrcy świata (Wise Men of the World) drew the inhabitants to the window.
Mędrcy świata, monarchowie,
gdzie śpiesznie dążycie?
Powiedzcież nam Trzej Królowie,
chcecie widzieć Dziecię?
Wise men of the world, monarchs,
where are you hurrying?
Tell us, Three Kings,
do you want to see the Child?
When they had finished their repertoire of songs, the homeowner would step out of the cottage and asked the carolers: Where are you from, oh kings? The carolers always replied: Why, we are from the east and looking for the Child.”
The carolers were always rewarded for their entertainment with a treat of some kind; a piece of sweet bread, small money and oftentimes, something hot to drink. Then the carolers moved on to the next house because everyone in the village had to be visited or it would cause offense. Everyone felt blessed when the carolers visited their home.
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.