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Epiphany: Festival celebrated on January 6 to commemorate the adoration of the magi and the first manifestation of Jesus Christ; until the 4th century this day was celebrated as the day of the baptism of Christ (which was regarded as the actual birth) and was also regarded as the beginning of the year. In 1164, the bones of the three wise men, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar (originally astrologers) were transferred from Milan to Cologne, where they were venerated with particular fervour. In Austria, the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus was reflected in numerous traditions and customs such as Epiphany plays, Epiphany rides or the custom of "Sternsingen" ("star singing"), which have been revived in Oberndorf, Gmunden, Heiligenblut, Bad Ischl, Scheibbs and St. Gilgen. Since 1954, small groups of children from "Jungschar", the Catholic Children's Association (one child holding the star), have been making these rounds, singing carols and collecting money for Third World projects in small groups. This custom of "Sternsingen" is connected with a renewed interest in the blessing of houses with consecrated incense, or the writing of the initials K+M+B (Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar) with consecrated chalk on doors).
Various masked parades take place during the night before Epiphany, the last of the 12 Holy Nights. For example, the Perchten processions in Pongau or the "Glöcklerläufe" in the Salzkammergut region (in particular in Ebensee). Here, the "Göckler", young men dressed in white with large head covers which are illuminated from within and bells around their waists, run from house to house. This tradition originated in the 1860s, the name "Glöckler" is derived from "klocken" ("to knock") and refers to older alms-begging traditions with masks.
Literature: R. Fochler, Von Neujahr bis Silvester, 1971; E. Hörandner and F. Jary, Mitfeiern! Festland Österreich, 1983; H. M. Wolf, Das Brauchbuch, 1992. - Wissenschaftlicher Film des ÖWF: H. Fielhauer, "Maulgab", "Räuchern", "Sampermilch", 1969.
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