WARSAW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cities and towns throughout Poland — from north to south and east to west, like the Sign of the Cross — are celebrating the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
The celebration is one of the oldest and most important holidays in the Catholic Church and is a public holiday in Poland. It commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem to pay tribute to Jesus, 12 days after His birth.
According the Polish Bishops' Conference website, almost 900 towns, cities and villages will participate in grand celebrations, the largest number in the celebration's 12-year history.
The journey of the three kings from far distant parts to see the newborn King is re-enacted in hundreds of ways throughout Poland, each according to the planning and styles of the townspeople, with all Poles, young and old, getting in on the act.
Christ is born.
He's going to deliver us.
The angels are playing;
The kings are bidding welcome;
The shepherds are singing;
The cattle are kneeling.
Miracles, miracles do they proclaim!
In Warsaw the festivities begin with Cdl. Kazimierz Nycz leading the Angelus at noon, followed by a reading from the Gospel of Matthew:
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judah ... behold, there came Wise Men from the East to Jerusalem. ... And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary His mother, and falling down they adored Him; and opening their treasures they offered Him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The procession of the kings will set off from three points in Kraków, each led by a thespian king from three continents — Africa, Asia and Europe.
All three groups will will process along their routes, rendezvousing at the manger scene at the Town Hall Tower to sing Christmas carols and worship the Baby Jesus together.
The most important actors of the Magi procession are the children, who prepare in Kraków schools for a long time, said Paweł Czerenko, co-organizer of the procession.
The procession in Wrocław begins in Ostrów Tumski, the most ancient part of the city, with all family members dressed for the occasion, and ends with caroling led by a local band, Noah's Ark.
Lubliners (people from Poland's ninth-largest city) process down a route that includes historic Krakowskie Przedmieście — the "high street of Lublin" — culminating at Lublin Cathedral. Lubliners look at the celebration as a time to "manifest their faith" and to consider that "everyone can become a sage."
Celebrations in all the cities begin or end with Holy Mass.
The Poles are famous for taking small boxes containing chalk, a gold ring, incense and a piece of amber (the substitute for frankincense), in memory of the gifts of the three Kings, to church to be blessed on the feast day.
Back home, they inscribe "K+M+B+" and the year with the blessed chalk above every door in the house to provide protection against illness and misfortune. Tradition says the letters stand either for the names of the Three Kings — Kasper, Melchior and Balthazar — or for a Latin inscription meaning "Christ bless this house."
"The three kings show that to meet Christ one has to set out on the road. Let us get up from the couch and go in the procession of the Three Kings," encouraged Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman of the Polish episcopate. "Through the celebration of the Epiphany, Poles show attachment to Christian values."
Polish president Andrzej Duda also gets in on the act, inviting everyone to "be together this day," adding: "Let's experience the festive atmosphere. Let nobody remain indifferent to this great invitation to seek what unites us: good, beauty and mutual respect."
"The procession of the Three Kings is also a tradition of singing Christmas carols," said president Duda. "These unique monuments of our language and our culture are a living heritage that we pass on to our families from generation to generation."
Church Militant previously reported on the Polish Magi retinue, recording that the event began in 2009 in Warsaw with a handful of participants. In 2019, more than 1.2 million participants took part, and 2020 promises even larger numbers.