Today many people enjoyed hearing more about the history of the Feast of the Three Kings as presented by our celebrant Fr Bernard Confer. We have noticed the progress of the Magi to our manger (click on photos below to enlarge)…


In our Polish tradition, Christmas does not end on this day, but the season does begin winding down. This is the day the figures of the Three Kings are added to the parish and home Christmas crib. This can be done ceremoniously at evening mass on the Epiphany. Since the Christmas season is still under way, kolędy are sung during mass by a choir and/or the congregation, but the day’s special is ‘Mędrcy świata’ (Wisemen of the World). This can be nicely paired with the English carol ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’. After the mass, the priest blesses chalk and commemorative facsimiles of the gifts of the Magi: gold leaf, frankincense and myrrh.

Honoring the Magi – K+M+B: One custom that has withstood the test of time in Poland is the practice of inscribing the traditional initials of the Three Kings over the doorway of the home with blessed chalk. It is done by family members upon returning from Epiphany Mass or by the parish priest making his New Year pastoral rounds. The inscription is found over the doorway or on the doors of rural farmhouses and big-city high-rise apartments, on parish premises, in hospitals and other institutions. The initials stand for the Polonized version of the presumed names of the Three Magi: Kasper, Melchior and Baltazar. The most common ways of inscribing them are : K+M+B 2016 (with a space before the year), K+M+B+2018 (with a plus sign linking the ‘B’ to the year), K+M+B-2020 (with a hyphen linking the ‘B’ to the year) or: 20-K+M+B-16 (with the first two digits of the year preceding the initials and the last two following them). In the past, some uninformed Polish Americans have dismissed this custom as so much superstition. It is true that in the Old Country, way back when, peasants believed that the chalk inscription and many other symbols and gestures helped ward off harm and illness. But, during the 45-year-long post-World War II communist era period, this custom was a way of proclaiming that a dwelling was inhabited by a family of Catholic believers and Polish patriots. In a Polish-American setting, the chalk inscription also proclaims that those living there are proud of their Catholic faith and Polish heritage. That will be the case when enough families practice the custom to make it readily recognizable in a given community. The first to introduce or revive this practice in the neighborhood may be asked what it means by postmen, meter readers, paper boys, non-Polish neighbors or others. Depending on whether the person is genuinely interested or is just making small talk, you can provide a full explanation or simply say: ‘It’s an old Polish custom asking God to bless the home.’ That is not at variance with the truth. When the Latin spelling of Kasper is used, the inscription comes out C+M+B and that has been interpreted to mean: Christus Mansioni Benedicat (May God bless this home).


Photo credit: Chris Byrd