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Austrian Twelve Nights
Weihnachten: or wih-nights (pron. V-EYE-NAW-CH-tuhn) is thirteen nights long and the space between one year and another. The Twelve Nights between December 25th: Christmas and January 6th: Epiphany: To Appear [Greek language] were called Smoke Nights in earlier times, because incense was burned. Today this is done on January 6th. The head of the household moves through the farm with incense to smoke out the evil spirits. Holy water is sprinkled on house, grounds, and barns. The head of the household then marks the doors with the initials of the Three Wise Men in chalk - K(aspar), M(elichor), and B(althasar) and the number of the year. These letters replaced the pentagram chalkmark in preventing evil spirits from entering the home. Hans Sachs’ poem Das wutend heer der kleinen dieb (1539) describes the wod-host with ravens flapping above to pick out the eyes of the dead. In Pomerania and Westfalia doors are closed to keep children from being carried off. (4)
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