Sunday, January 4, 2009

Preparing for Tuesday, January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany

Do you have your blessed chalk yet?

I'm hoping that when our son, Kevin, drops his brothers off in Omaha for the semester he can bring us back some chalk (which has undoubtedly been prepared by the Bishop) in exchange. I don't know that it's a fair trade, but it'll be better than nothing ~ and will facilitate our Epiphany celebration on Tuesday.

The Formalities

When we get our chalk, Dan will lead a procession of youngins around the house, blessing the house as he goes with Holy Water. Then, he will write the initials of the three kings above the chief doorways of our house, with the year upon each side, like so:

20 G+M+B O9

You can find the entirety of the The Epiphany Blessing at Fish eaters. If you haven't got blessed chalk, plain old chalk will do just fine, and it isn't necessary to go to the extreme of procuring incense. Remember to go through the blessed doorways for the first time on your right foot, though!

The Feast

After the blessing, we'll have a Mediterranean-inspired meal to commemorate the land of Jesus' birth. We imagine that Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthesar may have found the fare of the lands through which they traveled quite unusual ~ and so, I expect will we, though the recipes we have planned are not too wild. Here's what I have in mind:

Then we'll have the traditional Epiphany Cake or the Magi Bread we found on (our constant favorite) Catholic Cuisine. In light of certain New Year's Resolutions, though, we may take the Magi Bread idea and alter it by using the recipe for Stevia Sweet Bread we just ran across.

Regardless of which recipe we end up using though, a foil-wrapped ring will be hidden and baked inside. Rumor has it that the the lucky recipient will be particularly blessed in the New Year. But, I think I may add my own caution to the tradition: the ring-finder will also be responsible for spreading blessings throughout the coming year in honor of the Three Kings.

The Fun

Part of the fun of celebrating the Epiphany is the decorating. To honor the day, we like to build a tablescape. First, we'll put a gold-colored tablecloth on the old farm table and sprinkle it with glitter and gold stars. Then we'll pull out our "treasure chest" for a center piece. this is just a small wooden box that looks like it may have started out in a miniature pirate ship.

To represent the Gold, we'll fill the chest with all the fake gold jewelry the little girls can find lying around in their secret, little girl stashes. And because there has to be chocolate involved somehow, we'll throw in some chocolate gold pieces. Then, to get little brains working in good directions, early in the day the children will write down all the spiritual treasures they can come up with ~ things like the virtues, the fruits and gifts of the Holy Ghost, etc. ~ and they'll write them on small scrolls to put in and around the treasure chest.

For the myrrh, we'll find a small glass vial and let the little girls go to town finding good-smelling things to fill it with. Myrrh was used at the time of Christ for medicinal, as well as ceremonial purposes, and is distinguished by its pungent aroma. It is associated with Jesus' Kingship along with gold because of its great expense (more valuable than gold in Christ's day) and as a portent of Jesus' mortality, suffering and sorrow, because of its use in funerals.

Frankincense was also a valuable substance like myrrh and gold, so also praised the Christ Child's Kingship. It was a sweet smelling incense, signifying prayer, sacrifice, and Jesus' divinity. To symbolize Frankincense, we'll add a sweet smelling candle to our Epiphany tablescape.

Other Fun Things To Do:

* We'll read about the symbolism of the gifts and then we'll read our copy of The Story of the Three Kings. And if I can get it at the library, we'll watch The Fourth Wise Man (which is also a wonderful short story to read aloud!)
* Make crowns to wear in honor of the Three Kings, fancy , fancydancy, or simple, depending on how much time we have.

* Make Potpourri Sachets in honor of the Gifts of the Magi
This requires a little bit of preparation, and we haven't been quite on-the-ball enough (Not Even.) to get the supplies in time this year. But, I'm making a note to myself for next year.

You can purchase Frankinsense "tears" from herbal suppliers (like Mountain Rose herbals) and in apothecary supply stores that can be found in most moderate-size cities (This is one we have in the Denver area, for instance).

"The three wise men, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, kneeled at the crib of the baby Jesus bearing gifts. Recreate the gifts of the Magi in a potpourri filled with simple symbolism. You’ll need to make or purchase small sachet bags. The Magi were elegant and wealthy, so make the sachet bags of fine satin, rich brocade or tapestry in regal colors. Tie closed with gold cord. The potpourri follows:

1. Frankincense tears – a resin that flows in drops from trees in Yemen, East Africa, and the Red Sea Countries. Balthazar offered his gift of frankincense, often used in religious ceremonies and symbolized prayer and sacrifice.
2. Myrrh – an aromatic gum, myrrh was believed to strengthen children. The wise man, Melchior brought the baby Jesus the gift of myrrh.
3. Gold – use gold glitter stars to represent the gift of gold that Caspar offered to the babe in the manger as well as the star of Bethlehem that they followed to find the manger.

Place the gold, frankincense, and myrrh in the beautiful sachet bags, and offer as gifts to holiday visitors. Open to release the luxurious fragrances of exotic lands. "
The Finish
Now the Christmas season is almost over. Almost.
We still have until the octave of the Epiphany for the official closing of the Christmas chapter for this year. And the Church continues to observe Jesus' Holy Childhood until the Feast of the Purification ~ Candlemas Day ~ on February 2nd. Since we worked up to Christmas day, building our Nativity and decorating our house bit by bit, we'll take it all down gradually, too. The day after the Epiphany is when that fun begins for us. Doing it a bit at a time makes it a little less daunting a task. We'll likely take down our felt Christmas village first and all the outer trappings, ending up with the dismantling of the the Nativity Scene. Lots more fun putting that up than taking it down! But, we'll serve hot chocolate on the last day and choose a movie to watch to brighten the melancholy.
And, then we'll start thinking of Lent and Easter.


GrandmaK said...

This was great and most informative,too. We never did the Blessed chalk. Daddy would just bless the rooms with Holy Water and mark over the front door with Holy Water in lieu of Holy Oils, Cathy

Aubrey said...

Sorry--this has nothing to do with the Epiphany, but your header pictures always take my breath away! This one made my jaw drop; it's beautiful! :)

SuzyQ said...

Wow! The beautiful way you teach your children about the feasts and days of the church inspire me so much!
It's really wonderful. You give me so many ideas! Thanks for sharing this.