A procession of Three Kings - a re-enactment of the journey of the Three Wise Men to visit the infant Jesus - annually marks the end of the Christmas festivities in Prague. The event, which has an eleven year tradition, was the brainchild of a Spanish priest and missionary who came to Prague 13 years ago. Priest Alberto Geraldo aimed to bring a spiritual note to a holiday that has become increasingly consumer driven and, at the same time, to help the needy.
Several hundred people turned out to watch the procession of three kings on camels make its way from Prague Castle to the nearby Loretto Square, where a live nativity scene had been set up. They were followed by pages bearing gifts for the baby Jesus and servants who were distributing chocolate gold coins among the crowd. The place was packed with round-eyed children for whom this performance was the closest they would get to seeing the Christmas story unfold. Some of the older kids were proudly taking part. Twelve year old Michal had this to say:
"We are the pages who bear the kings' gifts for baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. I love being dressed up and I am glad that this tradition came all the way to Prague."
In addition to the fine spectacle that the Three Kings' Procession provides every year, there is another important aspect - charity. Many parents now help their children to wrap up gifts for the baby Jesus which they hand over during the ceremony. These are later distributed among children who have spent Christmas in hospital. Also in the days preceding the Kings procession, children dressed as the Three Kings go around Prague asking people to make a small contribution towards a good cause. Many people who wish to make a contribution to the needy at Christmas wait to give it to the three kings. Sister Marie has taken part in this charity event for five years now:
"We do this for our parish. Usually children take part and there is always one grown up with them who is responsible for the collection. The money is raised for a different cause every year - this year it is for an old people's home and a home for single mothers. The kids love dressing up, but what I like most about it is that it reflects the true spirit of Christmas - helping the needy, helping to improve someone's life."