By: Deacon Marques Silva
On the twelfth-day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany (the January 6 feast has been transferred to the Second Sunday after Christmas). The celebration of the Epiphany pre-dates the celebration of Solemnity of the Incarnation.While we do honor the three Magi’s adoration of the Christ-child, it originally celebrated the three manifestations of the Lord’s divinity: Christ’s birth, adoration of the Magi, and the Baptism of our Lord. There are a number of traditions families can engage in to celebrate the day:
Blessing of the Home
Blessing the home is a time honored tradition using chalk blessed by your parish priest or deacon. Just ask, he will be happy assist. The tradition is to mark the main entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB; the initials of the three Magi by legend: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this home.” The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+14. Traditionally, it remains over the doorway until Pentecost.
A cultural custom, especially in Europe, is the baking of an Epiphany cake containing a trinket or bean (sometimes two). The one who finds it is King or Queen for the day. This tradition is also related to the Mardi Gras cake. The Women for Faith & Family blog recounts the history:
A common custom in many cultures, is the Epiphany cake containing a trinket or bean, the person who finds it in his piece becoming the king of the feast. Sometimes there are two trinkets, or one bean and one pea: one for a king and one for a queen. In the royal courts of the later Middle Ages, these customs were very popular. Some believe these celebrations derived from pagan Roman customs associated with Saturnalia, which fell at around the same time as Christmas. If so, it can be seen as an example of “inculturation”, or transforming pre-Christian customs and practices by giving them Christian significance. The Roman theme of the lordship of the feast was easily shifted to the Epiphany theme of kingship: that of Christ himself and of the Magi, or “Three Kings.”
Different parts of Europe have different traditional recipes for the Epiphany cake — from the almond-paste-filled pastry, the French “galette de Rois” topped by golden paper crown, to the British fruit-filled, iced and layered confection. Some bakeries feature these cakes during the holiday season.
I pray that that you have a festive day and enjoy the last week of Christmastime. Also, eat something spicy (another tradition) today in honor of the Magi from the East.