In this charming photo (Geneva, Christmas 1967) Michael Schade may look like he is wearing his Idomeneo crown , or preparing for a gig with the baker's guild in Die Meistersinger, but in fact he was all dressed up and ready to go out into the night as a Sternsinger.
The charming Epiphany custom of the "Star Singers", inspired by the travels of the Three Kings, is still very much alive in Bavaria and Austria. From New Year through January 6, children, dressed as the kings, and a child holding up a large star, go from door to door, singing about how they are really excited that Jesus was born. They bless the house and its inhabitants for the new year, and for this they receive money or sweets. Formerly the collected donations went to unemployed craftsmen and veterans, today they go to charities of the church or the Third World.
But what about the unusual necklace? Michael Schade explains:
"Christmas time with my parents always meant celebrating the local traditions of the places where we lived and our own traditional German Christmas celebrations. In this photo of me, I can be seen with a traditional Swiss sweetbread around my neck. Another one, that we ate, had a porcelain figure of one of the three kings hiding inside it. The sweetbread gets sliced into pieces and whom ever has the king in their piece is King for the Day – and that was me! Hence I am wearing the second sweetbread and being crowned!"