Epighany singing

Around Epiphany (6 January), groups of schoolchildren in Catholic areas dress up as the Three Kings and make door-to-door visits. They sing new and old Epiphany songs in unison or in several voices, and include in their repertoire religious melodies from the 17th century. The composition of the group and their entourage varies in each community, often including a star bearer, servant or soldier. The singers wear colourful costumes and gleaming crowns as they walk through the night. The star, attached to a pole, is usually lit from inside and normally rotates. Instead of being rewarded with gifts in kind, the singers collect money for children’s charities. Sometimes CMB is written on the top of doorframes to bless the home.

In the southern valleys and in Ticino (for example in Capriasca), the Three Kings sing the song “Noi siamo i tre re” in homes in the evenings, and in some places there is a mounted procession (“cavalcata”). “Epifania” is also associated with the noisy custom of heralding the start of carnival with bells and other instruments.

Detailed description

Sternsingen (PDF, 389 kB, 28.06.2024)Ausführliche Beschreibung


Social practices




Epiphany singers in Medel Curaglia: Nus essen ils sabis vegnin digl Orient (Kurt Mikula) © Kurt Mikula/ Aufnahme: Björn Sundin, 8. Januar 2011

Connected traditions


Riscopriamo insieme «A cantà ra Befana». In: Mosaico. Periodico della Scuola Media di Tesserete no. 6 (dicembre). Tesserete, 1991

Babania, Buania. In: Dicziunari Rumantsch Grischun vol. 2, Ed. Società retorumantscha. Chur, 1947-1957

Franco Ferrari: Quando si andava a cantar la Befana. In: Giornale del Popolo, 7 gennaio 1997

Walter Heim: Volksbrauch im Kirchenjahr heute (Schriften der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde Band 67). Basel, 1983

Alfons Maissen: Dreikönigsbräuche in der Surselva. In: Brauchtum, Handwerk und Kultur (Romanica Raetica 14). Ed. Societad Retorumantscha. Chur, 1998

Gion Arthur Manetsch: Ils treis sogns retgs en tiara romontscha. In: Das Jahr der Schweiz in Fest und Brauch. Zürich, 1981

Aldo Morosoli: Sulla via dei Re Magi. In: Rivista di Lugano no. 52, vol. 70. Lugano, 2008

Dietz-Rüdiger Moser: Bräuche und Feste durch das ganze Jahr. Gepflogenheiten der Gegenwart in kulturgeschichtlichen Zusammenhängen. Freiburg, 2002

Hans Moser: Volksbräuche im geschichtlichen Wandel. Ergebnisse aus fünfzig Jahren volkskundlicher Quellenforschung. München, 1985

Silvio Savi: Feste e tradizioni della Pieve Capriasca (Ticino). In: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde vol. 36. Basel, 1938

Cantare i tre re e cantare la Befana, In: Documenti orali della Svizzera Italiana: 5 Capriasca, Val Colla e sponda sinistra del Cassarate. Prima parte: Capriasca, a cura di N. Arigoni e M. Vicari, Bellinzona 2015, pp. 247-254




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