Child carolers take center stage in most successful charity event in Czechia

Traditionally, the arrival of the New Year kicks off the largest and most successful fund-raiser in the country. The Three Kings Collection involves thousands of children taking to the streets in groups of three dressed as the three wise men, singing carols and collecting money for charity.

Photo: Petra Pfeiferová,  Czech Radio

Organized by the Catholic charity Caritas CR, the Three Kings Collection is the largest and most trusted charity event in the country. It was inspired by the Christmas tradition of caroling and, since its launch 23 years ago, it has collected over 1.3 billion crowns for the needy.

Throughout the country thousands of volunteers, mostly young children, take to the streets dressed as Kaspar, Melichar and Balthazar – the three wise men, later known as kings, who followed the star of Bethlehem to find the new-born Jesus. They go caroling from house to house, wishing people Happy New Year and leaving their initials – ‘K + M + B’ – on door frames as a symbol of blessing. The letters also stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (May Christ bless this house) and the chalks they write with have been blessed by a local bishop. In smaller towns and villages, people put their names on lists of households that the children have been asked to visit, so as to make sure they will not be left out.

Photo: Dominik Hron,  Czech Radio

Unlike others, this collection is not just about donating money, it has a spiritual dimension that people appreciate. Moreover, the charity event invites trust because Caritas CR, the largest provider of social services in the country, organizes it and because its main actors are children.

Every year more than 50,000 carolers are involved in the charity, which has also become a popular way of introducing youngsters to volunteer work.

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

Caritas CR reaches out to more than 100,000 clients every year and the donations help different groups of people in need - the physically handicapped, the elderly, single parents and the homeless. Where the money will go and how much will be spent is decided by the local coordinator – the parish and the diocese. Every year hundreds of projects are supported, not only within Caritas’ social services but also for individual one-off aid efforts. The collection’s nation-wide coordinator Gabriela Víšová told Czech Radio that this year the number of people in need is broader than usual.

“This year we will be paying special attention to individuals and families who are newly threatened by poverty. We want to help pay for children’s school lunches, afterschool activities and school outings, which their parents can no longer afford. And in some cases we will help them buy food or essential things for the home which they can no longer finance due to the current economic situation.”

Photo: Jiří Jelínek,  Czech Radio

In addition to direct donations to carolers, who will be making the rounds until January 14, people can also donate money via a donor SMS –(DMS KOLEDA sent to 87 777) from which Caritas receives thirty crowns. There are also charity boxes in churches, shops and some institutions and of course the collection also has its own bank account to which people can contribute all year round. Last year the collection raised 141 million crowns.