Saturday, January 8, 2011

6/365:Crowds at Three Kings procession

6/365:Crowds at Three Kings procession
January 6th

For the first time in fifty years the Epiphany (Three Kings Day, or the famous Twelfth Day of Christmas) is a holiday in Poland. Three years ago, a foundation dedicated itself to organising a procession, and as you can see from the photo, it's a popular event despite the bitter cold. If you look closely you can see many people in the crowd wearing paper crowns; those were distributed by volunteers along with song books. In Poland, by old tradition carols are sung after Christmas, not before.

The whole thing is like a play with hundreds of actors. Three men on horseback are the Kings Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Their courts are color-coded: children in red capes and silver helmets for Caspar, who represents the continent of Europe, green capes and rice hats for Melchior who represents Asia, and blue capes and headscarves for Balthasar and Africa.

Preparing for the procession


Standards of the Magi

The courts gather by Sigismund's Column in the Old Town Square in Warsaw at noon for the Angelus prayer, then set out to walk to Pilsudski Square where a family acts in a live creche. Before they and the thousands of ordinary people following them can take their crowns off to pay respect to Jesus (who in Catholic tradition is the King of Kings), they first have to visit king Herod, then fight hordes of devils and be tempted to stray from the path.

Never fear: they are guided by the Star of Bethlehem.
Behind it walk hosts of angels (this year played by a school for the blind) and shepherds with a flock of sheep come straight from the mountains in the South.

Visitors from the highlands

Among them walked the Cardinal Archbishop and clergy, then mountain lifeguards, then a choir, then at last the hosts of the kings.

King Balthazar rides out

King Caspar rides out

King Melchior rides out

This year there was a bit of excitement with Balthasar, because a black man had volunteered to play the part. Poland is a very pale-skinned country; though it is not exactly uncommon to see black people anymore, their presence in media, politics and other public events still causes interest. When you see someone who is not white in Poland, your first thought is 'a foreigner'; but this year's Balthasar, a native Sudanese, has been living here since 1996. Maybe next year a man of Asian roots will step up to play Melchior?

Three Kings Procession


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...