January. Its an odd month.
The excitement of fresh starts combined with post-Christmas let down can make for a strange mix of emotions. I truly adore the entire Advent season and I absolutely delight in sharing and starting Christmas traditions with my family. I. LOVE. IT. ALL. Then again, its not unusual for me to wake up a few days after Christmas is over and see all the decorations up and think to myself, “All this CLUTTER has got to go!” In a frenzy of New Year’s enthusiasm, the tree comes down, decorations are cleared away, and then I dust, scrub, wipe and mop for the first time in weeks leaving me looking at a sterile and bare home. Last year, I was particularly conflicted. It had been a sad few months and I couldn’t bear to take down ANY of my Christmas decorations because I was FINALLY celebrating in the midst of my grief.
Enter a precious new tradition that began for our family last year. Epiphany!
If you are wondering what Epiphany is, I’ve included a definition from my husband’s fancy smanshy LOGOS Bible software program that he bought as he embarked on his Doctorate of Ministry degree. Have I mentioned how proud of him I am by the way 🙂
EPIPHANY – Term “epiphany” comes from a Greek word which means “appearance” or “manifestation.” In Western Christianity the festival of Epiphany, observed on the sixth of January, celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, the coming of the Magi to see the child Jesus (Matt. 2:1–12). The 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany have often been called the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
If you’ve been following this blog for a while now you know that I’m not a stickler for dates or times! I absolutely didn’t care that we were at least a week beyond the date of January 6th. I’m always more interested in the heart and purpose of a celebration than I am in simply marking the date. Besides, we have enough uncertainites in our of lives and constant interruptions ( like stomach virus’s hitting in the middle of the night, unexpected guests arriving, emergency room visits for stitches from a head bonk – all true stories). Let’s not add the pressure of actually doing things on an inflexible schedule “or else”. Because in my world, “or else” means not happening at all and I’m all for making our intentional parenting something more like “go with the flow and do the best that you can with what you can” kind of intentional parenting. So here it was mid January, and I liked the idea of Epiphany and celebrating the arrival of the Magi to worship the Christ Child! We know they arrived AFTER Christmas anyway, contrary to our neat and tidy and complete nativity scenes 😉
I love how it all came together. I remember walking into World Market and finding these crown making kits!
I remember walking into my favorite local french bakery and just about jumping up and down for joy as I saw the Galette des Rois (Kings Cakes) for sale. These delicious treats also happened to be a favorite January food my husband and I enjoyed during our time in France. Duh…Kings’ Cakes! As in the three Kings and celebrating their arrival to worship the Christ child! Why was I just making that connection now – 16 years later? Each cake has a small fève or charm baked into it. Tradition says the youngest member of the family or gathering crawls under the table as the cake is being served and announces who gets served which piece. Whoever finds the fève in their slice is then declared King or Queen for the day.
I asked my darling poet of a hubby to write up some great rhyming clues for the kids so we could play a game of “Wise Men Following the Star”. The boys donned their kingly crowns and embarked on an adventure around the house following the star clues hunting for the final big star!
The last star clue led them to our still-up Christmas tree. To their surprise, they discovered two remaining gifts, one for each of them, hidden in the far back of the tree. (We’d received a couple of gifts for the boys that arrived after Christmas – wonderful gifts that, quite honestly, eclipsed anything they received from us and this ended up being a fun way to surprise them with!)
They shrieked outright when they discovered the gifts! What? Gifts under the tree weeks and weeks later when the main Christmas event was long over? We tried to imagine what the three king-like wise men must have felt like to have followed the star for so long and to have finally found what they were seeking. They found the best present of all. Jesus! We reminded ourselves that the wise men brought gifts of great value-gifts fit for a king- to offer in worship to the King of kings. Then we sat at the table, enjoyed the cake some more and wrote out on little cards some ideas of what we could offer up to Jesus as our King. The cards were put in a “gift box” and kept on our dining room as centerpiece along with the crowns to remind ourselves all January long about the joy of the best present of all, given to all people in the coming of Jesus, and about what we would offer Him in return as our act of worship to the King of kings!
So now, when the Christmas decorations come down, instead of feeling that post-Christmas letdown as I look at a sterile and bare home, I am instead surrounded by Stars and Crowns and Gifts of Worship. And I remember that Christmas is only the beginning of God’s amazing redemption story!
Some Resources for your own Epiphany traditions:
Recipe for Galette Des Rois (King’s Cake)
package of puff pastry
1 pkg ground almonds (125 grams)
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup milk
Beat eggs and sugar. Mix cornstarch with milk in a pot on the stove. Add egg and sugar mix. Cook until starts to boil, stirring frequently. Once mixtures starts to thicken, remove from heat. Add ground almonds, vanilla, and butter.
Lay 1/2 puff pastry into pie plate. Pour mix into the pie crust. Drop in a heat resistant ( ie won’t melt!) “charm” to serve as your fève.
Cover with remaining puff pastry and squish edges together. Brush crust with egg yellow.
Bake at 375deg for 35-45min until golden brown
Enjoy! Note – warn everyone to be careful about what they are biting into. I don’t want any choking or broken teeth stories!!!
(Kellye – is this really our first RDR recipe? !!!!!)
Happy January! Happy Epiphany!