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KRAKÓW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - One of the most Catholic countries in Europe is celebrating the Feast of Epiphany in spectacular fashion.
On Friday, hundreds of Catholics gathered in Kraków to commemorate the three kings visiting the Infant Christ. Three separate processions — each representing one of the three kings — set out from Wawel Castle, Plac Matejki and Plac Sikorskiego, converging in Kraków's Main Square outside the cathedral.
Each procession represents what is traditionally held to be the native continent of the king leading it: Red signifies Europe, green represents Asia, and blue indicates Africa. Each caravan is also replete with people in traditional Polish garb and elaborate costumes. Children dressed as angels accompany the star mounted atop a tall flagpole to lead the Magi.
As the processions marched along the streets of Kraków, carols, hymns and traditional Polish folk songs were sung. Kraków's Aux. Bp. Robert Chrząszcz celebrated Mass at Wawel Cathedral and, standing by the king's side, accompanied the red procession.
When the throngs arrived in the Main Square, statues of the Christ Child, the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph were there waiting for them. In honor of the birth of Christ, local musicians and singers performed on a stage. Priests, friars and religious sisters wandered about, passing out packages of incense and paper crowns matching the colors of the different processions. Each of the three kings was introduced and applauded before offering his gifts to the Christ Child. When the clocks struck noon, Bp. Chrząszcz led the crowd in praying the Angelus before offering a blessing.
A small group of protestors was also present, handing out playing-card-sized pamphlets promoting abortion and encouraging others to leave the Church. Some were dressed as nuns and wore deformed face masks.
Pro-life counterdemonstrators quickly showed up with a banner (much larger than a playing card) depicting Christ crucified and weeping over an aborted infant.
After the Angelus and more carols, some of the revelers migrated to a live Nativity scene. This allowed many small children raised in urban, metropolitan Kraków the rare opportunity to pet and feed live farm animals.
In Poland, Epiphany is a holiday, and most places of business are closed. The Christmas season is taken seriously in the Eastern European country, and festivities and celebrations of Christ's birth may last for days or even weeks.
Unbeknownst to many Catholics, the three kings — variously called the three wise men or the Magi but named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar — are actually honored as saints in the Catholic Church.
Although an essential feature of any classic Nativity scene, the three kings are perhaps best known for the gifts they brought to the Christ Child: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are no mere trinkets provided by rich bachelors without a clue what children appreciate; they were specially picked based on the identity of the child the kings set out to worship.
While the Feast of Epiphany often goes overlooked, at least the Polish celebrate the holy day with pomp, joy and grandeur befitting a king.
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