This song is part of the Advent custom called 'Herbergsuchen' (seeking shelter). It's common to sing this song on the nights leading up to Christmas. People go house-to-house asking for shelter (like Mary and Joseph looked for shelter in Bethlehem). The people in the house (in the role of the Innkeeper) sing one role while the carolers sing the other part. Sometimes the carolers are given food and drink or money.

In some towns there's a tradition where the carolers carry a picture of Mary - who becomes the "guest" of the house for a day, before being brought to another house on the following night. While the picture of Mary is in the house, the family sings carols by it. At Christmas Mass, the picture of Mary is returned to the church.

These traditions vary by region.

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Notes

This song dates back to the 19th century and is from Tyrol.

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In the video below you can see the custom of the carolers bringing the picture of Mary to a house where she will stay for a day, before being brought to another house on the following night. Holiday songs are sung by the picture.
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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Translated by Lisa Yannucci. Thanks to Monique Palomares for help editing the translation!

Image: Josef und Maria auf Herbergsuche attributed to Carl Rahl circa 1865.

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