Epiphany is widely celebrated in Switzerland. Special treats can be found everywhere and there are many „Verahstaltige“ (en: events) honouring the three wise men. But what exactly is this day in honour of and who were the three kings? Read on to find out about this Swiss tradition and how this „Fiirtig“ (en: holiday) is celebrated.

What are the origins of Three Kings Day?

Baby Jesus in the manger with the Three Wise Men
Baby Jesus in the manger with the Three Wise Men

The story behind the holiday is from the Bible, more specifically from the Gospel of Matthew. According to this gospel, the Three Kings, also known as the Three Wise Men of the Orient, followed a bright „Stärn“ (en: star) to Bethlehem. They were in search of the King of the Jews and came bearing gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. The three astrologers, or Magi as they are often referred to, were Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. The holiday we celebrate is in honour of the first meeting of the Christ child with the Three Magi that recognised his essence and bowed down to him.

How is the feast day celebrated?

The Three Kings
The Three Kings

Epiphany takes place every year on 6th January. In many places, the so-called star singers wander through the towns and villages to bless „d Hüser“ (en: the houses). House doors are traditionally adorned with the „d Buechstabe“ (en: the letters) C+M+B. Many believe that these letters stand for the names of the Three Kings. However, this is not true; they stand for the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat“ which loosely translates to “Christ bless this house”.

Most towns hold special masses where the the story of the Three Wise Men is reenacted. Many restaurants also celebrate the „Ahlass“ (en: occasion) by decorating their tables and offering special daily menus. There are also small street fests and markets where handcrafted arts and crafts around the theme of The Three Kings are sold.

Three Kings cake

Three Kings cake
Three Kings cake

Whether you choose to celebrate the holiday in church or at one of the markets, one Swiss speciality cannot be missed: „Dr drei Königschueche“ (en: the Three Kings cake). This delicacy is more of a sweet bread rather than a cake. It is made out of small balls of sweet dough set together in the shape of a crown. The Three Kings cake is popular because it is „no viel mehr“ (en: so much more) than just a delicacy. One of the buns hides a miniature plastic king. Whoever has the piece with the toy inside, becomes king for the day and can rule over the day. It is „Kei Frog“ (en: no question) then that the cake is especially popular amongst children.

Celebrating together

The holiday is generally celebrated with the family and friends. It is a day to get together and guests are always welcome. That is why it is the ideal time to „uszprobiere“ (en: try out) your newly acquired language skills. At www.learn-swiss-german.ch, we are of the opinion that living the culture is the best way to living the language and as the story of Epiphany is widely know, it is easy to join the conversation.

Vocabulary list

Swissgerman English
1 Verahstaltige events
2 Fiirtig holiday
3 Stärn star
4 d Hüser the houses
5 d Buechstabe the letters
6 Ahlass occasion
7 Dr drei Königschueche the Three Kings cake
8 no viel mehr so much more
9 kei Frog no question
10 uszprobiere try out

 

Three Kings Day – otherwise known as Epiphany
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