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.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

7 Reasons to Join the Liturgy of Life Reading Group A Year on the Body and Spirit

Our bodies have become a political battle ground.  We are rattled with concerns of pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, racism and refugees. And then there are the more subtle issues of divorce, promiscuity, human cloning, and transgenderism just to name a few.  If we call ourselves Christians then the way that we understand our skin and bones and the life that dwells therein informs our conversation in nearly every controversial issue of our day.

If we want to be informed or engage in a thoughtful discussion on any of these issues we must first deal with the body, the human form where these issues are played out, and we must examine what it means for Christ’s body to be broken for our bodies.

Is the body simply a collection of cells, like algae? Is it an inert container for a soul? Or is our physicality essential to our spirit? Is it a source of disdain for not being as strong or thin or capable as it should be?  Are eating and sleeping and having sex pleasures to delight in or are you eager to be free from the body’s sensuous provocations and base impulses? Is Christ dwelling in us a physical reality? Can He really be found in the flesh of our neighbor or a beggar or a child?

Enter in the 2017 Liturgy of Life Reading List. I have no promises that this reading list will answer all of those questions but I do hope it will give us a start. In 2017 we will look at death, care-giving, family, at sexuality, then at the sacredness in all things as experienced through the act of cooking and eating and finally at how our bodies are connected to other bodies through social justice.

We will do this through the lenses of two Catholics, an Anglican, a Russian Orthodox, a Presbyterian and one of our founding church fathers, from texts that were published as recently as 2012 and as distantly as 329.

I have tried to make book choices that are manageable in length and in difficulty (i.e you don’t have to have a college degree to get through this list)  each offering a unique perspective on the body.

As you read along I hope you will be challenged and will end this year with beneficial insights into the realities of body and spirit.  So on to the seven reasons,

1. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy (February)

Don’t be intimidated by the name Tolstoy. This book is short and the style is straightforward. Ivan Ilyich will be our introduction to the body. We will be reading this as we approach lent which is traditionally a time of reflection on our own mortality (I got you excited huh? Betcha can’t wait to start thinking more about dying . . . sorry, but I think in the end it will be good for us).

2. Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen (March)

Nouwen packs big ideas into simple stories. This book will take us from death into care giving and help us to explore the meaning and purpose of our physical life and death.

3. What is A Family?, Edith Schaeffer (April and May)

I’ll admit that Schaeffer’s style can be a bit tedious but Schaeffer, in her unique fashion, will help us look at the family through different lenses. She will transition us from thinking about our individual bodies to our bodies in more complex relationships. Family is our initial and most essential connection to the physicality of others. On the surface she gives advice and perspective on family life but she will also build a bridge to the deeper ideas of our bodies being indwelt with Christ and our ability to minister to the people closest to us through Him.

4. At the Heart of the Gospel, Christopher West (June, July and August)

Three months for this one. It has some deep and essential ideas about the sacramentality of the human experience, specifically in the context of sexuality. I figured since we will be reading it over the summer we will probably move at a slower pace. Of all the books on the list I think this one is the most important to read given the issues facing our modern world. If you don’t happen to be Catholic don’t let West’s multiple references to Catholic documents and officials confuse you, he is digging into some great ideas that have value for all of us.

5. The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon (September and October)

In some ways this is the lightest but also the most tedious read especially if you don’t share Farrar’s love of cooking. It is 98% cooking and 2% theology. And yet the 2% wouldn’t mean anything if it wasn’t for the 98%. This book could have been written about any type of work, more than being about cooking (though it really is mostly about cooking) it is about the value of paying attention. When we put forth the energy to work with care, whatever interaction we are having with the world leads us to experience God.

6. On Social Justice, St. Basil the Great (November)

This book was written only 300 years after Christ walked the earth in the days when the Church was still newly established. It is perhaps the founding document on Christian social justice. You will be amazed at how readable and also how applicable this book is to our modern life. If Christ in us then we are truly His hands and our work is to extend Him to the rest of the world.

Well I couldn’t come up with a 7th, but still I’d love to have you reading along.

We will plan on kicking off the first book in the beginning of February and I’ll be posting about twice per month specific to our current read.

To follow along in discussion make sure to check in out our facebook discussion group.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

linking up with some other quick takes today, check them out.

 

A Giving Party and other Ideas for Teaching Kids to Give at Christmas

The Christmas spirit is still going strong around my house. I didn’t have time to share these ideas before Christmas but I’m hoping they will make it to your Pinterest boards and be there ready and waiting when next advent rolls around.

So much of a child’s experience of Christmas in America is around receiving gifts. There is no denying that it is truly delightful to watch a child’s eyes light up with the arrival of a long desired special toy.  But we tend to underestimate the joy that our kids can experience by giving gifts as well. We adults know far better the anticipation of watching a loved one open a gift that we have worked hard to bring them.  Our kids can participate in the satisfaction of giving too and the more we practice the more pleasure they will find in it. Below is a list of some ideas that we did in my family or that our friends did this year.

 

A Giving Party:

It has become popular among adults to gather together for fundraisers or to even use one’s birthday as a chance to raise money for a good cause.  But these sorts of events usually require that the kids stay home with a babysitter. This year we decided to get our kids together and have them make a simple gift they could give away themselves. They all brought ingredients for a trail mix.  We read A Baker’s Dozen,

which is a story about generosity  and St. Nicholas. Then they mixed their ingredients and assembled gift bags. Each child made three bags. They also had a chance to make a card or label and choose who they were going to give their bag to. It was a simple idea and both kids and parents enjoyed it. There are so many different types of giving parties the possibilities are endless.

A Giving Party and other Ideas for Teaching Kids to Give at Christmas

A Giving Party and other Ideas for Teaching Kids to Give at Christmas

Buy a Gift for a Stranger:

Around the holidays there are always opportunities to buy gifts for a stranger. Talk to your local foster home, family shelter or other social service agency and they often have lists of children and adults who won’t have anyone buying for them. Take your child along, encourage them even to spend some of their own money towards picking out something really special for someone they don’t know.

A Nursing Home Visit:

My daughter and I took candy canes to a nursing home this year on St. Nicholas day (growing up this was always a day that we did a church service project so I wanted to maintain the tradition).  It took essentially zero preparation we just showed up with a smile and had a wonderful time visiting with the residents.  It was a good reminder that even little kids who can’t do much in the way of work can offer a lot just through their presence.  This is something we are hoping to start doing with our moms group a few times throughout the year.

 

A Secret Secret Santa:

One of my daughter’s friends brought over an unexpected gift. His mom had written the names of their friends on slips of paper and had them each draw one. The kids then got to pick out a gift for their person.  There was no gift for them in return just the fun of delivering a surprise package to a friend.

 

Include Kids in Shopping:

It  may be as simple as bringing a child along to shop for a sibling or parent. Or encourage them to save a few dollars and purchase a thoughtful gift on their own.

 

Random Gifts for Neighbors:

Another friend had her kids assemble small gift bags mostly of candy and cookies that had begun accumulating around the house. Once they had 15 or so bags they went door to door knocking and introducing themselves to neighbors, many of whom they had never met before and passing out the gifts.  It was a simple way to connect with new people and spread some Christmas cheer.

 

Making Gifts at Home:

Including kids in the creation of gifts is one of the best ways to get them excited about giving. If they are small they can make a card or drawing. As they get older they can create ornaments and all sorts of handicrafts. Getting started on these early in the year is key so that a child actually has time to finish a gift themselves.

 

What else have you done to encourage your kids to give around the holidays or any other time of year?

 

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

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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.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

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