Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Feast of Epiphany 2016

We don't have a solidly established tradition for the feast of the Epiphany in our family yet: I continue trying to note the day, treat it as a "little Christmas," and make it festive.

Breakfast muffins

Some families give gifts on Epiphany, and, in fact, in some cultures no gifts were given on Christmas but they were all given on Epiphany. The families who mark the day with gifts today have various traditions: some give three gifts per child, or three gifts to the family as a whole, or give only religious gifts, and so forth.

This year, I tried my hand at giving gifts to the family as a whole and making the gifts loosely represent gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Gold: "Pot of Gold" chocolates by Hershey!

Frankincense (perfume or incense): Since we are increasingly enjoying drinking tea and the process of "having a tea," I bought for us high-quality loose leaf tea (so much more flavorful than bags of tea), as well as a beautiful tea strainer. Tea is aromatic: get the connection?

Myrrh (anointing oil): Some of the children have Mama's sensitive, thin, pale skin so I bought us a jar of unrefined shea butter, which I hope to whip up to make easier to apply to raw, chapped hands. Anointing our skin, see?

Also, a grandparents' gift of some fabulous Usborne books arrived belatedly, so we gave those as Epiphany gifts too. So fun!

Mama is getting slightly wiser year by year: I realized this year that I actually have to choose between doing our normal routine (school, chores, music practice) and celebrating a feast day in such a big manner, but I couldn't do both unless I wanted to be a sourpuss, angry, shouting Mama. I know I'm not alone in that accepting that I can't do it all is very hard for me.

I decided to take the morning off of school and make our Epiphany preparations a family affair, which I hoped to be enjoyed by all. Isn't that more lovely than trying to cram it all in, staying up way past my bedtime to do the preparations by myself, feeling resentful because I did slavish efforts which my kids couldn't possibly appreciate enough?

Unfortunately, maybe the devil was after us this morning because there was much disobedience, bickering, and Mama's Bad Booming Voice.

The cake stuck in the Bundt can despite much butter and flour to prepare the pan

When my Epiphany cake was "ruined," and there was no more cake mix, time, or energy left to bake a new one, I had to call on every trick I know to keep myself from having an adult-sized tantrum. Instead, I bundled up the four children like the younger brother in "A Christmas Story" and sent them outside to play in the 30-degree weather.

John noting which poems he hoped to read at tea time

We had an "Epiphany Poetry Tea." This was supposed to be a Poetry Tea with a Christmas theme, but then Daddy spontaneously took my big kids to Atlanta for four days and used up the last of our Christmas octave. There went my tea! So, I decided that Epiphany marked the end of the twelve days of Christmas, so we could still read Christmas poetry, as well as some Epiphany poetry. I had put in some considerable time over the Christmas octave seeking out beautiful, serene, meaningful Christmas poetry (that excluded all mention of Santa because that's how we roll around here).

Table set for tea

I don't have a matching set of anything, so I've come to view my table settings like a field of wildflowers: most items are individually pretty, some are plain, but all the riot of sparkle and color come together to make a pretty effect.

Years ago, my aunt hand made me this beautiful card for Epiphany, and it contains the poem "The Magi" by T.S. Eliot, so I use it to this day as decoration.

The Magi have arrived!

After the conclusion of tea time, we sang "We Three Kings" as a family, then opened engrossing books from the grandparents before sitting around for a while reading them in the den.

Mary reading fairy tales to Margaret

John reading a book of vehicles to Joseph

How boys read versus how girls read

Knowing that we would have had a Poetry Tea in the afternoon plus Daddy and the older children were going to an exquisite orchestral solemn high Epiphany Mass at night, I didn't want to plan a huge dinner. Instead, I planned for a spread of appetizers for our dinner meal.


  • Sister Shubert's sausage-stuffed rolls (store-bought)
  • bruschetta
  • English muffin pizzas
  • crackers with cheese, hummus, pepperoni
  • grapes
  • quiche muffins

Not everything has to be perfect or even excellent to be sweet. Today did not feel like a grace-filled day to me: these pictures do not capture my ugly facial expressions as I raised my voice way too often when the kids were particularly squirrelly all day. Just as everyone sat down to my beautiful tea time, the baby woke, frustrating me, and as I walked up the stairs to retrieve him, I heard my two-year-old smash something, so I had the walk up and down the stairs to calm myself, "Nothing on the table is more valuable than me keeping my composure about Joseph's accident." As I tried to start serving everyone in a gracious manner, the baby for the zillionth time daily spit up profusely all over my clothing. The poetry I picked to read during tea time was too mature for the children because, in my excluding of all Santa poetry, the only thing left were beautiful classics that were above children's heads. The tea I brewed was way too strong because it was my first time using loose leaf tea, so nobody drank it but me. Fights broke out over the chocolates.

But, will the children remember those "failures" when I tuck them in tonight? I could be wrong, but I think that mostly they won't. They will just remember a sparkly table, fancy tea, doing something grown-up, and opening presents, before going to an exquisitely beautiful orchestral Mass.

We mothers have to soldier on and try our best: don't let perfection be the enemy of good! We can't let the devil ruin or undermine our efforts to live the liturgical year and give honor to God.

Margaret nearing five years old got to attend her first night Mass
with John and Mary! She shrieked with joy.

As Catholics, we are so blessed to have December 25th mark not one day of celebration but the beginning of a long story of God sending his son, the first step in re-opening the gates of heaven which had been closed since Adam and Eve's original sin. This is a story worth telling and celebrating for many days. I enjoy taking advantage of it!


  1. I think you are right. They will only remember how special the day and evening were thanks to your efforts. The poetry tea table was certainly inviting and especially meaningful with items like your Aunt's card with the TS Eliot poem. What a beautiful keepsake. Never mind that the poetry was advanced for their age perhaps just the sound of the words was like music. All the best to the Lauers in the New Year!

  2. If you haven't heard it already you might enjoy hearing a recording of Eliot reading "Journey of the Magi" at .