Wednesday, January 09, 2013
The childish horror of black faces again
A fun tradition under attack for no good reason
German chancellor Angela Merkel raised eyebrows when she was pictured alongside children with blacked-up faces on the steps of the chancellery in Berlin earlier today.
Fortunately for the CDU leader, the visiting children were not part of a political stunt but carol singers dressed up as the three wise men for the German Twelfth night, known as Three Kings' Day.
Although the costumes of the children may appear controversial, the blacked-up faces of the children joining the Chancellor today is part of the Sternsinger, or star singer, tradition of Dreikönigstag, the Three Kings' Day, when children go from house to house in groups of four and sing carols for charity.
It is tradition that one of the kings are black and it is not seen as racist, but part of the traditional costume.
This is a predominantly Catholic practice where three children dress up as the wise men who visited baby Jesus and one child carries a star on a stick for the three wise men to follow.
The three kings and their star ‘bless’ houses with magi as their raise money for an annual good cause. This year’s cause in Germany is Tanzanian hospitals.
Three Kings' Day is celebrated in the 6th of January which is a public holiday in three German states, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt, and marks the end of the Christmas celebrations.