How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

I’ve been wanting to do something to celebrate the end of the Christmas season for a few years now and this time we finally pulled it off.  There are a few different approaches you can take for having a party this time of year.  First off you can have a 12th night party which is on (you guessed it!) the twelfth night of Christmas.

You can also do an Epiphany party which is technically the day after the 12th night of Christmas but it seems reasonable to celebrate it any time between the 12th night and the following Sunday. Epiphany in the church is a celebration of Christ’s first revelation to the gentiles in the form of the star appearing to the Three Wise Men.

And then on the off chance that you have some connection with Eastern Europe where they still use the Julian Calendar you can also celebrate what we referred to in my childhood as “Greek Christmas” which is on January 7th as far as I can tell. For our party we didn’t really specify but here are the things we did.

First we did not do dinner.  Let’s face it, a dinner party is a lot of work and a lot of expense. After Christmas we just weren’t up for it. Instead we made a King’s cake. Which is typically a sort of sweet yeast bread rolled with cream cheese filling. I was out of cream cheese and didn’t have time to wait for a cake to rise so I made a simple cinnamon swirl bunt cake and though I didn’t try it everyone said it was good and there were no leftovers.

Don’t forget to hide a baby in the cake! This was a tradition familiar to us after spending many winters in Mexico (did you know that kids in Mexico often get more gifts from The Three Kings on Kings Day than from Santa on Christmas?).  Whoever gets the baby is supposed to make the tamales for the next feast but we didn’t hold anyone to it. A more modern tradition is to hide three babies (you can substitute a large bean, or use a fig like I did, the little plastic babies are hard to find, I know it sounds super weird) and whoever gets a bean gets to wear a crown, one for each king.

Second make Wassail, a hot mulled cider which is the traditional drink for this time of year. We had Brandy to add to ours and then hot chocolate, not to add, just for another option.

Third  make Magi crowns.  I found the most basic crown pattern on the internet, print it, cut it out (two at a time, it went fast) stapled two together, spray painted them gold and voila. I picked up some jewel stickers at the dollar store and the kids used them to decorate their crowns. This was a great souvenir, kept the kids surprisingly engaged, and no one got injured with the stapler.

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

Fourth make Magi gifts.  We sent the kids home with three versions of DIY Play-dough mixed with glitter for gold and the others fragranced with frankincense and myrrh essential oils (actually I didn’t have mhyrr so I used Ylang-Ylang and Lavender, no one knew the difference).

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

One more add on which was an unexpected treat that my husband whipped up was a lively family sing along of the first verse of “Here we go a-wassailing” which apparently is a song about poor folks going door to door drinking warm beer, and the “12 Days of Christmas” which was a hit with the kids.

Life has been hard for many of my friends and family this holiday season.  And for some who have had a recent loss Christmas felt like a very low place.  Gathering for ongoing celebrations is an important part of living and grieving  and healing together. This party took us about half a day’s work to pull together and the memories of time spent together finding babies in cakes is totally worth it. So here is to the 12th Night and Epiphany and Greek Christmas and hoping that in 2017 we will always be able to find something to celebrate.

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An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

I’ll be the first to admit I have no business writing this post. I have only attended two Posadas in my life. A Posada is traditionally done in Catholic and Hispanic communities and I am significantly involved in neither.  So if you already know anything about this tradition I encourage you to seek out a wiser source. But for those of you that have never heard of this beautiful tradition I hope I can offer a decent introduction and motivate you to learn more and to consider participating in one next year.

La Posada means “the inn”.  La Posada or Las Posadas (the inns) is an activity typically done in the week or so before Christmas. Churches do them but so do neighborhoods or family groups.  The one we attended this year was at La Posada Providencia an immigrant shelter, so yes it was a Posada at an actual Posada.  La Posada is a sort of theatrical procession where a group follows Mary and Joseph as they go door to door in Bethlehem looking for a place to stay.  They are met by several rejections before finally being welcomed into the last house. Mary and Joseph take the seat of honor and everyone has a party.  There is an official song which everyone has a copy of that is sung back and forth between those in the procession and those waiting inside of each building.

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas


An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

Depending on how far you are walking you may sing a few traditional Christmas carols intermixed with the traditional song. We ended ours with a party and a special time of prayer for immigrants and refugees around the world who are living out the quest for Posada everyday.  It was especially moving to go through this production with our group of immigrants several who are well known to us by now and with a Mary and Joseph who have come from opposite corners of Africa seeking the hospitality of strangers in the US. There was the shedding of tears of grief and of joy especially by those from central America for whom the tradition of La Posada was a familiar homecoming.

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas


An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

La Posada is a beautiful way to focus the celebrations of Christmas on the incarnation of Christ, to learn hospitality and to become mindful of those in our midst who are seeking shelter. I highly recommend you make this part of your Christmas traditions.  For a simple kid’s book about La Posada check out Tomie de Paula’s The Night of Las Posadas.

If you are looking for a Posada to participate in consider checking in with a Catholic Church that has a Spanish service or congregation.


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Seven Tips for Keeping the House a Little Bit Cleaner

Because to say I am actually keeping it clean would an overstatement.

I am not naturally inclined to be clean or organized (and while I’m at it I’m not much for home decor either) but we love to host and I recently realized that one of the ways I could make our guests feel comfortable was to give them a clean place to sit down.

Before I go into the gory details, I’ll add an interesting piece of Liturgical calendar history.  Did you know that lent is traditionally a time for house cleaning?

I’m not sure if it is reflective of a deeper spiritual reality or if the timing just happened to coincide with spring cleaning or it may be because on the Thursday night before Easter the alters across the world are stripped and cleaned before everything is replaced for the celebration on Easter Sunday. In any case it is the time of year for cleaning so here are my tips:


Seven Tips for Keeping the House a Little Bit Cleaner:


1.  Clean up as you go.

Sounds simple, feels impossible. I mainly apply this one to the kitchen. I have no dishwasher and detest the clean up of a messy kitchen after a relaxing meal.  My goal is to have every pan washed and the counters wiped before we sit down to eat. Then after dinner there are just a few plates and a serving piece or two.  I often utilize the low setting on my oven to keep dinner warm while I finish washing up, sometimes the food is a little cold but with practice I’ve gotten to where I can usually serve a  warm meal in a clean kitchen and it feels great.

I have tried and failed so far at getting my daughter to clean up as she goes. Her daily games are one unending activity that really does involve all of her stuff at the same time.  When I have the energy, spending five or ten minutes at night helping her (lets face it, it is easier to have her dad distract her with a story so I can clean up her stuff and don’t have to argue with her about how she is still using that and that there is no way that those paper scraps can go in the trash) get her toys put away, it really does pay off.


2.  Clean up after meals.

Unoriginal I know.  In the past I would get the dinner dishes washed and stop there.  Now after a meal (or at least after the last meal of the day) I wash the dishes and wipe the counters (this is easy if you have gotten the hang of step #1) but I also wipe the stove, and table, sweep the floor and on a good night run around with a rag and wipe up any splatters off the floor (I haven’t actually mopped in years).

We all have some point that we have decided is an adequate stopping point, for some it is just getting the dishes off the table, for others it is into the sink, for some it is  washed, dried and put away. Adjusting my “stopping point” to include all of these other tasks pushed me to get the kitchen truly cleaned up for the evening.  I find the space much more enjoyable than ever before.


3.  Clean for company and have company often.

I have tried a million different routines and schedules with plans of cleaning bathrooms on Monday, dusting on Tuesday blah blah blah, none of them ever stuck.

The only time I’m motivated to clean is when we have company coming. I know that most of my company doesn’t care if my toilets are scrubbed or my silver is polished (that’s a joke, I don’t have silver and if I did I doubt I’d polish it). And in theory I want to keep the house clean for my family even if we don’t have guests. But for me knowing that guests will be arriving soon tips the scales and I stop finding excuses not to clean. Plus I’ve usually cleared some time in the afternoon when we are expecting company so I seize the opportunity.  We have diner guests nearly every week, in those extra minutes before they arrive I dust and vacuum and even scrub toilets and honestly this is the cleanest my house has ever been.


4.  Everything needs a place.

I am not good at organization. When we moved into this house I stood around stuffing things into my kitchen cabinets and then taking them out again for a day before I finally asked my husband to help me.  He had it done in a few hours.

I have learned that whatever doesn’t have a place will end up making a pile of junk on my counter. I started paying attention to what was causing my clutter, old receipts, mail that needed to be dealt with, mementos I didn’t want to part with and then I painstakingly found a designated place for this stuff, now I have no excuse.


5.  Aim for empty surfaces.

It is easy for me to let clutter accumulate and I it still happens when I’m in the middle of a project. But my goal is to have our tables, and counters cleared off. Sure I still have the microwave and the fruit basket but it’s not okay to let other odds and ends accumulate there. When my standard is an empty counter  I deal with clutter early on rather than let piles accumulate.

How to keep the House a Little Cleaner. Liturgy of Life.

6.  Invest in storage systems.

I have only recently been okay with spending $14 for a silly metal rack to hold my pans. It still pains me to spend the money but I have found that it is worth it. I have a rack to hold my baking sheets and other small shelves to divide up my cabinet space as well as lots of baskets and bins for things in the closet.  The upfront cost of these always feels too much but the enjoyment of not having to dig through a pile of baking sheets makes it totally worth it, helps me to stay organized and gives me more functional space.


7.  Keep cleaning supplies handy. 

I have hanging baskets on the inside of my sink cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom here I keep a roll of paper towels (and cloth rags, I try to minimize my use of paper towels but for glass and occasional nastiness I do use one) and a cleaning spray (usually homemade but at least something non-toxic). This means in two minutes while my daughter is in the bath I can wipe down the bathroom sink and even the toilet. It’s no deep clean but it does keep the space looking tidy.


This is totally an area where I am still learning and trying to develop good habits. What works for you?


This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are currently reading, Let us Keep the Feast.

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Monks, Napkin Rings and
An Intentional Table

Visiting a monastery can be a bit disorienting. Everyone walks around staring at the ground, wearing Medieval garb,  and no one talks. Not exactly a place where the average American feels at home unless maybe you are my husband who is more of an introvert than anyone I know. Still, even to him, entering into a community that exists mostly in silence feels isolating until, he says,  you arrive at meal time and find a seat with a card marked with your name on it.  It is a simple thing but it lets you know that you were expected and that there is a place for you here.  With that little card which is laid out with a napkin and napkin ring the heart of monastic hospitality is conveyed.
At the monastery you get one napkin, it is switched out when laundry is done at the end of the week. You keep your napkin and name card tucked into its ring. And while some elements of this routine feel a bit stiff and formal it is exactly the formalities of it  that give you a sense of place, an understanding of how things work and clarify your role in it.

.   .    .    .

We took up cloth napkins pretty quickly in our house mostly because it felt practical. I am not one to take up anything fancy. I don’t want ruffles or  anything that will break. I don’t even have more than three dishes that match. But give me something that is reusable and that saves me a few pennies and the earth a few trees and I’m all for it.

This week in the Liturgy of Life Reading group we read through Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art of Homemaking. In typical fashion she takes what seems like an exceptionally trivial topic, “flower arrangements,” and turns it upside down. In it she reminds us of the power of beauty to communicate and help foster communication between others. She challenges us to look for the little everyday things and turn them into something special, to seize exactly those mundane moments and use them as occasions for beauty that will inspire and delight our families and prepare us all to live in appreciation of the world around us.

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