Thursday, January 6, 2022

Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire

C + M + B

During the time I spent in the Czech Republic, I got used to seeing the letters ‘KMB’ chalked on doorways. They refer to the three magi, traditionally named Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, although in Matthew’s Gospel, the only one of the four to mention their visit to the infant Jesus, they are not individually named. They do, however, occupy a longstanding space in Christian iconography, often appearing in Nativity scenes and in paintings, carvings and stained-glass images specifically portraying the Adoration of the Magi. I posted about a stained-glass Adoration during the Christmas period some years ago, but it is one of many in English churches.

In the Czech Republic, Epiphany is celebrated as the day of the Tři králové (Three kings), and children dressed as the three kings or magi travel the streets, collecting charitable donations. The letters K + M + B (for the Czech spellings of the names, Kašpar, Melichar and Baltazar) are chalked up on the doors of houses that the kings have visited.

I was surprised to see the initials of the magi chalked in an English church when visiting Mitcheldean last year. But apparently the idea of ‘chalking the door’ with the initials is catching on in England and other countries these days. Here it is not necessarily linked to donations to charity, but to ceremonies or prayers designed to remember the three kings, to bless the house or location, and to express one’s hopes for the coming year. I’d like to express my own hope that the new year brings my readers good things. Or, in the roughly translated words of the Czech ‘kings’: ‘We three kings are coming to you and wishing you health and happiness.’

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a lovely idea ... where are my chalks? And I wish you travels and a good camera as well as health and happiness in 2022.