Hopefully, you haven’t ditched the Christmas decorations yet because in the Catholic tradition, Christmas is still in full force! Annually on January 6 we celebrate Epiphany, the day when the Magi visited the Holy Family. Over time, they studied the prophesies and the stars in anticipation of the birth of a King who would save the world from its affliction. The timing and alignment of the stars would determine the date and place of his birth. The Magi desired to follow the stars and travel to that destination in order to pay homage to the King. They became the first gentiles to pay homage to the Christ Child, thus revealing him to all peoples as the Chosen One. It’s an event of magnitude that I think often is pushed to the side along with the Christmas decorations.
The Magi had diligently watched the colliding of the stars, so to speak, to form the star – the Star of Bethlehem – that would lead them to the place of our Lord’s birth. Their journey led them through Jerusalem and, thinking Herod certainly would be able to point them to the King of the Jews, they approached him for assistance. Herod didn’t know, but he was intrigued by the Magi’s story and felt threatened by the prospect of another king in his territory. So, he tried to convince the Wise Men to figure out Jesus’ location and then return to tell him. They found the Child on their own, paid him homage and gave him gifts of gold – symbolizing his royalty, frankincense – a symbol of deity, and myrrh – an embalming oil symbolizing death. In a dream, they were warned not to return to Herod, so they returned to their native land.When Herod discovered he’d been duped by the Magi, he got so angry that he ordered the slaughter of all male children age two and under among the Israelites.
It’s a well-known story, but what’s not as well known is that Epiphany wasn’t just for the sake of the Magi but for the sake of all humankind. It was at Epiphany that our Lord’s power and purpose were revealed beyond the Jews and to gentiles of every nation.
That gives us cause to rejoice!
So, how will your family celebrate Epiphany this year? Here are five fun and easy ways to make Epiphany a royal event in your home.
- Make your own Star of Bethlehem and hang it in your prayer corner or above your Christmas Creche. Here’s a YouTube video for a simple star design anyone can do. They use paint and star stickers, but you can decorate yours any way you’d like.
- Serve Star Fruit as a treat while you work on your stars. Star fruit, whose official name is carambola, is a sweet-tart tropical fruit with a citrusy flavor that resembles a mix between apple, pear, and (a hint) of lemon. It grows mainly in Thailand and throughout South East Asia, Australia, and South America and can be found in most grocery stores. When sliced, it cuts into perfect, star-shaped slices.
- Read the Epiphany narrative together as a family. You can find it in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 2 verses 1-12. Take time to visualize the setting, characters, and events and bring them to life in your minds and hearts. If your children are open to it, discuss what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph as the Wise Men approached and paid homage to their Precious Baby.
- Chalk your door. The Epiphany Home Blessing is an old Catholic tradition in which the home is blessed as the door post is marked with the year and the initials of the three Wise Men. All you need is some holy water and a piece of chalk. Usually the prayer is led by a priest or the father or mother of the family but anyone living in the dwelling can lead the blessing. The blessing formula can be found at this link.
- Eat like royalty. Have a favorite meal, decorate the table with special place settings, candles (perhaps one for each Magi), or other festive decorations. If you have the time and adventurous spirit, the web is filled with great recipes for Epiphany foods of all kinds!
There are any number of ways you can celebrate Epiphany in your home. The most important way, of course is by pausing to appreciate the implication the feast has for mankind: Jesus Christ became man for the salvation of all peoples of all nations. That includes you, me, and every member of our families. Blessed Epiphany!
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