Epiphany ends the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is the day we celebrate the three Wise men coming to see Jesus. Traditionally, this is a time when Catholics will bring in a priest to walk through the house and bless the home for the New Year. It is at this time that we also find a small basket of blessed chalk at the back of our church, which we take home and use to mark our doors with:
20 C+M+B 22
"with the "20 "being the millennium and century, the "C" standing in for the first Wise Man, Caspar, the "M" standing in for Melchior, the "B" standing in for Balthasar, and the "22" standing in for the decade and year. It is also popularly believed that the Kings' initials also stand for "Christus mansionem benedicat" (Christ bless this house)."
On this day we traditionally try to give our children (or family as a whole) a spiritual or religious type of gift such as an icon, a new missal, a saint book, etc. However, as the years go by, you find that you have enough religious articles and icons and saint books. So this year, we decided to do something different. We decided to write letters to our children.
Epiphany ends the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is the day we celebrate the three Wise men coming to see Jesus.
We thought they would accomplish a couple different goals.
With these letters, we wanted to:
Let our children know how much we love them and in what ways we've been proud of them this year. Sure ... we could have just told them, but children's memories are short. A letter, sealed, written well, is something worth keeping and something they can come back to year after year.
Let our children know the ways in which we’d like to see them improve and grow this year. We were very specific here as abstract admonishments like "work harder" don’t mean much. But something specific like, "After you take out the garbage, we want you to consistently put all the garbage cans back in their places around the home." would give them a clear direction and goal to strive towards.
Encourage them to remain faithful to God, their Church, and their family.
January 6th arrived, the children awoke and we sat under the tree where there lay a family gift to open. Then we pulled out the envelopes containing the letters and gave them to each child. The response was interesting and varied. The oldest two kids were quiet. They read the letters, nodded a few times and put the letters away. The next two, my 12 and 10 year olds, read portions of their letters out loud, asked questions, and thanked us. My 8 and 5 year olds sat down with me and went through their letters line by line, and we talked about their year and where I want them to grow this year. The youngest two, well, they were too young and we'll just keep their letters for a later year when they can understand them.
Overall, I'm happy with how this went. I think the older children were quieter because their areas of growth were very specific, whereas with the younger children I was a bit more general and perhaps not as serious. As always, there’s room for improvement. I believe we weren't specific enough in our praise. Rather than being "proud of them," we should've written "We are proud of because ..." These are some of the things we’d like to change for next year.
In the end, it was a meaningful way to mark Epiphany and to begin the new year. Perhaps as we carry on this new tradition it will become something the children all look forward to.
Kenton E. Biffert
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about the Epiphany blessing, I encourage you to check out this page.
Kenton is a writer and speaker, and works at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College as an adjunct professor and the Dean of Students. Together with his wife, they homeschool their 8 children, explore the wilds of Ontario in the canoe, and read voraciously. To learn more about the art of fatherhood, visit Kenton's personal page.