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Lifestyle

Why children dress up as the Three Magi in Germany

At the beginning of every year, hundreds of thousands of young German carolers go out dressed as the Magi, singing and collecting money for the poor. It is the world's most important fundraiser by and for children.

Each year on

January 6

, the Catholic Church celebrates Three Kings' Day, or Epiphany. The date commemorates the tradition according to which three wise men from the Orient, the Magi, visited the manger of baby Jesus in Bethlehem and offered him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The feast is a holiday in different parts of Germany, such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Saxony-Anhalt, as well as in Austria.

A German traditional initiative called "Sternsinger" (Star Singers) takes place at the beginning of every new year before the feast of Epiphany. Children get dressed up as the Three Kings and go from door to door to collect money for projects in poor countries. Over 45.5 million euros (almost $50 million) were raised last year this way.

The tradition, however, is not without controversy. In some cases, children paint their faces black to represent Casper, one of the three Magi who is said to have had dark skin.

Blackfacing

repeatedly draws criticism.

This year on January 5, 108 carol singers, four from each of Germany's 27 dioceses, will get to visit Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Click through the gallery above to find out more about this tradition.

eg/kbm (epd, kna)

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