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FAQGermanyHolidays in Germany

Epiphany (Dreikönigsfest)

Epiphany (Dreikönigsfest)

Both Protestant and Catholic communities across Germany celebrate Epiphany, also known as Dreikönigsfest or Three Kings’ Day, as a religious feast day. People observe it annually on January 6th, although some congregations may move the celebration to the first Sunday after January 1st.

Key aspects of how Epiphany is celebrated in Germany

   1. Religious Observance

Epiphany is a religious feast, and it is common for religious families to attend a special service on this day. Many churches also have nativity displays, and on January 6th, the Magi (three wise men) are often placed in the display.

   2. Traditions

Over time, various traditions have become associated with Epiphany in Germany. Some of these include:

    • Taking down the tree: Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season, and it is customary to take down Christmas decorations, including the Christmas tree, on or shortly after this day.
    • King cakes: Special king cakes, known as Königskuchen, are often baked for the holiday. These cakes may contain a hidden coin, bean, or small figurine. Discovering one of these items in your slice of cake is said to bring luck for the year or designate you as the “king” or “queen” of the day.
    • Special foods: In Germany, specific foods are also associated with Epiphany. Apart from king cakes, people may prepare and enjoy other traditional dishes on this day.

   3. Public Holiday

Epiphany is a public holiday in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, and Saxony-Anhalt. On this day, post offices, banks, stores, and other businesses are closed in these states. However, stores in some tourist areas may remain open, and stores at railway stations, airports, and along highways are usually open. Public transport services may run as usual, on a reduced schedule, or not at all, depending on the location. In the rest of Germany, January 6th is not a public holiday.

What is the history behind the King Cake tradition during Epiphany

The tradition of eating King Cake during Epiphany has a long history that dates back to medieval times. Here is the history behind the King Cake tradition during Epiphany:

    1. Origins: You can trace back the tradition of eating King Cakes during Epiphany to medieval Europe. People celebrate Epiphany, also known as the Twelfth Night, on January 6th, which marks the 12th day after Christmas. It commemorates the visit of the Magi, or the three kings, to the Christ Child.
    2. Association with Epiphany: From the 19th century onwards, the tradition of the King Cake became closely associated with Epiphany. The cake takes its name from the Biblical Magi, who came to Jesus to offer him gifts, twelve days after his birth. Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Epiphany season.
    3. Symbolism: The King Cake is symbolic of the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. People often shape it like a crown or a ring and decorate it with colorful icing or sugar in the traditional colors of purple, green, and gold. The cake may also contain a hidden figurine, representing the Christ Child or the Magi.
    4. Roman Saturnalia: The cake tradition’s origin may have a connection to the Roman Saturnalia festivals, which dedicated themselves to the god Saturn and celebrated the longer days following the winter solstice. These festivals involved the sharing of cakes, and this tradition may have influenced the King Cake tradition during Epiphany.
    5. Continuation of tradition: The tradition of sharing King Cakes during Epiphany has continued throughout the centuries. In France, for example, the tradition of sharing Epiphany cakes began in the 13th and 14th centuries, with shares for everyone present and an extra one saved for the people with low-income.
In medieval Europe, people established the tradition of eating King Cake during Epiphany, closely associating it with the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The cake’s symbolism, association with Epiphany, and historical connections to Roman festivals have contributed to its significance in the celebration of Epiphany in various cultures.

Also Check:

Public Holidays in Germany

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