The first time I remember hearing the word epiphany was when Dustin Hoffman was correcting Bob Hoskins, who’d said he’d just had an “apostrophe.” Mr. Hoskins clarified his meaning by following up with, “Lightin’ has just struck my brain.”A lover of words even at a young age, I committed the word and its meaning to memory.
Some years later, I discovered American Girl. Pleasant Rowland was a pioneer, making these compelling historical fiction books that were exciting and challenging and educational. Then she threw in large dolls with accessories to act out the stories for a small fortune. She’s a genius. One of the original dolls from my youth (but not one of the original three dolls made, just in case any of you are also uber-fans of American Girl) was a Patriot girl with a Loyalist best friend in colonial Virginia, named Felicity Merriman. In her Christmas story, she attends a ball at the governor’s palace for Twelfth Night during “Christmastide.” It sounded so magical! I thought about how cool it would be to drag out Christmas celebrations for twelve days.
I’ve said before that Christmas decorations are like a dominant gene in my family. That said, my mom always leaves her Christmas tree up for nearly two weeks after Christmas. Whenever I was a child and I wondered why she kept the tree up, she’d say that she did so because her grandmother left it up until “Old Christmas.” I wondered when they’d changed the date of Jesus’ birthday and how that was even possible to do.
Sadly for my faith, these exposures were all that I was aware of about the Epiphany we celebrate on January 6 in the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until much later, into my latter twenties, that I realized what it was all about. I realized that my great-grandmother’s “Old Christmas” was the day after Felicity’s Twelfth Night and I wondered what the correlation was. Fast forward through some research and I discovered that it was a feast in the church called Epiphany and it has many traditions associated with it.
So here’s a little history lesson: Twelfth Night is literally the evening of the twelfth day of Christmas and the night before we celebrate the Epiphany. Similar to Halloween and Christmas Eve, which both hold celebrations in anticipation of the next day’s feast, Twelfth Night is an anticipatory event. It began as a festival in Medieval England, and then all of Europe, where the nobility and the peasants would come together, and for the night, assume the other’s station in life.
The specifics of Twelfth Night celebrations varied throughout Europe, but all of them included a cake, called either a Twelfth Night cake or a Three King’s Cake. It was baked with one bean inside it (or, in France, with a bean and a pea). Whoever received the piece with the bean was declared the king of the feast (until midnight); likewise with the pea, a queen was declared.
This cake was not originally the same as the Mardi Gras King Cake, but it has become associated with the celebration of Epiphany in modern America due to its popularity in celebrations of Epiphany in New Orleans. In that kind of cake, a baby symbolizing Jesus is hidden in the cake for someone to find. Wassail, a delicious alternative to hot chocolate and coffee this time of year, was the customary drink at these festivals. It’s aromatic and warm and delicious—and kid-friendly, to boot.
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
Epiphany itself is a celebration of more than just merriment and peasants being kings. It’s a celebration within the church of the Three Kings, Three Wise Men, or the Magi. Their story can be found in Matthew 2:1-12. According to the NASB Revised Edition commentary in Matthew 2, the Magi in Matthew’s gospel were “astrologers.” It also says that the word magi originally referred to a “Persian priestly caste” but was later used to describe “those who were regarded as having more than human knowledge.”
Their story, summarized, is that a star appeared to them in their native land in the east. There was a belief among them and foretold in the Old Testament (see Numbers 24:17) that a star announced the birth of a new king. They traveled to King Herod in Jerusalem searching for the newborn king of the Jews. This freaked Herod out due him already being king and all. Herod asked his scribes about the child and was told he was born in Bethlehem. Herod then sent them to Bethlehem and asked them to send back word when they found the child. The Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod but found Jesus and paid him homage, bringing him gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense.
It’s a really quick read and I love that respected, powerful, grown men sought out the baby Jesus to honor him. A baby. That’s rather humble, and I think that their humility is a great example for us all.
This year, I wanted to do more than celebrate Christmas in Advent and the first and second days of Christmas. That’s new for me. I love that the Catholic Church celebrates Christmas as a full season and not as a day. So I looked through catechist prep guides and different blogs, trying to figure out how to make this year’s celebration of Christmas—real Christmas, from Christmas Eve to Epiphany—something in my own house.
We decided to celebrate Epiphany on its vigil feast, Twelfth Night. Since it’s a new thing for all of us to celebrate, we considered making this a small, intimate, family celebration. But the more we thought about the traditional celebration, we decided to open our home to our friends and family as well. I’m pretty excited about it. I am going to prepare some homemade wassail and bake an allergy-friendly Twelfth Night cake with only a pea baked into it. Since it’s a feast I’m also serving a salad and making grilled chicken provencal alongside green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, and squash and onions.
After eating, we will read the story of the Magi from our family Bible to all who have come to celebrate. We’ve kept out one nativity scene that the kids can play with in the living room that doesn’t have our kings in it yet. On Twelfth Night, they’ll finally make their way to the manger (even though it’s a little early—our Jesus is always in the manger by Christmas Eve, too).
I have a friend who moves the three kings closer to the manger each of the twelve days of Christmas, and we started this on Christmas Day. It’s similar to Elf on the Shelf where I move them in unexpected places as they make their way to the manger…and they sometimes get lost.
They’ve hidden in the m&ms and with our Mickey’s Christmas Carol figurine set, too. They’ve also gotten into Christmas cookies. It’s been fun watching Little Miss find them each morning and seeing her face, and I love that it serves a liturgical purpose. I’m always looking for more liturgical tie-ins in our domestic church.
We will have a crown craft for the children to decorate and wear throughout the night. We’re also thinking of small gift bags with golden chocolate coins, meant to remind them of the gifts the Wise Men brought. Based on RSVPs, we’re expecting only girl children and I’m thinking of having them play Pretty, Pretty Princess, too, as a nod to the treasure brought by the Magi.
How do you celebrate Christmas for the entire season when the secular world tells you not to? Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter today if you haven’t already! We’ll be posting live pictures and more from our Twelfth Night celebration on Thursday, January 5. Join us!
It’s that time of year! The time for new beginnings. That means new commitments and new promises. New unrealistic goals that aren’t measurable… wait, what? People do that?! This year, we’re each launching a “Resolutions 2017” plan.
My 2016 resolutions went out the window, pretty much, because my plans completely changed course when I met my husband, who for the purposes of this blog will be known as Superman. 2016 was a whirlwind of things not planned for both my family and Rachel’s, and we were intricately entwined in one another’s happenings. While I am sure that there will be unforeseen circumstances in 2017, and I’m equally sure that our lives will continue to intertwine, Rachel and I decided to correct the failings of resolutions from 2016 in 2017.
Resolution, when that word pops up I automatically think diet, exercise, travel, becoming a millionaire by the time I am 40. This year though I am going to be doing exercise and a diet but not for my body but for my soul. Sure I would love to be in shape, eat the greenest food, have all the money, and travel to the most amazing places. Those goals wouldn’t mean anything to me without Christ. He should be our cornerstone, our foundation, and our light upon our path.
Yet year after year he’s not any of those things and keeps on being left behind. This year I have a plan, the heart, and gumption to live fully in his light. Here are my thoughts and plans laid out on my Christ-centered life this New Year and for the years to come.
For me, I’ve got a newly established family unit, new family members to consider, and changing volunteer commitments. Therefore, this year, I decided to keep my resolutions segmented (for organization’s sake). I have one personal spiritual resolution, we have a family spiritual resolution, and I have a health resolution that is completely cliché, but…it’s on there anyhow…and I choose to see them all as a commitment to God in 2017.
One of my favorite Christian singers is Francesca Battistelli. She gets it. The girl can sing, and her lyrics call to me. She’s got one song called “The Crazy Kicks In” and it is my 2017 theme song. It’s sung from the perspective of a busy wife and mother (present!) speaking to God about spending a little time with him before everyone else wakes up and goes crazy and life happens. She says “a little time with You, the only way to get me through the day…come meet me in this moment, before it all gets going.” This is true.
Little Miss and Superman have needs and wants and requests that I field in the morning while getting myself ready. It can be crazy. So I am going to get up thirty minutes before my love, start the coffee, and delve into Kristi’s Time with God. If you don’t know the song, check it out here on YouTube (not our video).
I also love Audio Adrenaline, both old and new. On the Underdog album there’s a song called “This Day.” In it, they sing, “I wanna say a prayer before my feet can hit the ground. Lord, I give this day to you.” The concept of a morning offering isn’t new to Catholics. Those living the monastic life have practiced this for years. God has given me everything I have. Every blessing and every cross. It isn’t too much to give him each day.
My friend Cyndi says, and I’m paraphrasing, “If your children don’t see you spending time in the Word of God, don’t expect them to spend time in the Word of God.” Wow. So simple, yet it’s a powerful reminder of many things. It’s a reminder that, as a mother, my child will learn from what I do and will display the behavior which I model. It reminds me that my husband and I signed up to help get one another to Heaven when we said our vows. Don’t I need to know God’s Word and exactly what we’re called to and asked of to accomplish that? I am a witness for Christ. I am his hands and feet. It reminds me that I need to fully know Christ in order to witness to others and to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
This could also mean that in addition to a private morning offering time, I return to a Bible study class. I was going at the end of 2015, then 2016 got a little crazy, and I made it for basically April and May. That’s two months out of twelve. Those numbers aren’t that great. I’m already scheduled pretty tightly on the weeks, but that excuse doesn’t really hold water when you consider the phrase “If it’s important, you make time for it.” God’s pretty important. I’m just gonna leave that right there…
I’ve said before how blessed Superman and I feel that our family was in 2016. Even so, I don’t feel that we gave back as much of that blessing as we could have. Over the end of 2016, I kept being struck by the idea that Jesus died on that cross for me. Despite the fact that I constantly fail in living the life I’m called to live. Now, I know that we all do to some extent, but I feel so grateful for God’s mercy that I decided, perhaps, some additional sacrifice on our part as a thank you for our blessings was in order.
For those of you who don’t know, Catholics give up meat on Fridays during Lent (the period between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday) and on Good Friday as a sacrificial penance of sorts. We abstain from meat in a very meek and small act of solidarity with the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Many Catholics observe the practice outside of Lent, too, as was the custom for many years, on each Friday of the year. This year, we will be abstaining from consuming meat on all Fridays (excepting special occasions such as birthdays, in which we’ll “transfer” our meatless day to maintain this weekly abstinence).
Superman loves the gym. I often joke that the gym is his first wife, and while I knew that he was passionate about it when I married him, I am less passionate about it. I’m a girl who likes yoga and Pilates (but rarely does them). I’m a girl who could just go for walks every day and be content. But, I’m also a girl in near-desperate need of some increased upper body strength and some improving bone density…tightening my core a little more wouldn’t be a bad thing, either. Overall, toning would be very good for me.
I know this. I’m not so thrilled about this, but I know this. And I can see that Superman is chomping at the bit for me to go. I love that my husband is so excited that this is something we can share. And, I mean, we’re already paying for both my membership and the childcare fee, so…really, I need to go. For my health, for my budget, and for my husband.
This is usually the trendy resolution and it’s also one that has a track record of failing, time and again. But I choose to make this more than an attempt to lose weight and tone my body. While toning is definitely a byproduct I hope to achieve, I choose to see it as the following:
We’ll be checking in with you guys throughout the year to share how we’re doing on our resolutions and to see how yours are holding up, too. So tell us: what are some of your New Year’s Resolutions? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear them—and maybe pick up some new ones for ourselves!
Happy New Year!
Kristi & Rachel
We are SOOOOOOOO excited to announce that coming soon in January will see the addition of something new and exciting to Hail Marry! Rachel and I will be adding a podcast to the lineup starting January 6, 2017!
Inspired by Mary’s powerful “yes” to God (her fiat), we’re calling our podcast Fiat: Faith in All Things. We’ll be bringing you ideas for your marriage, your home, and your faith through conversations with one another and interviews from other Catholic women in short 15-20 minute chunks that you can listen to on the go. We hope to inspire you to see that, if you look around, faith really is in all things, and we, too, can say “yes!” to God.
If you haven’t subscribed to our blog yet, make sure you do so before January to ensure that you’re not missing out on new episodes of the podcasts.
Kristi & Rachel
Professionally, I am an office manager and the human resources director for my company. When we hire someone new, they undergo an onboarding process that includes a few weeks of a “crash course” in our industry and company procedures/specifics and then they’re assigned a mentoring supervisor to see them out of the trainee period. They also receive a company handbook.
Parenting is not quite as straightforward…I didn’t have a class filled with how to be a mom by today’s standards, including the points of vaccinating my daughter (or not), breastfeeding (or not), the recommended screen time guidelines, or the “proper” age to continue rear-facing her in the car seat. Unless you count What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I didn’t have a handbook, either. There was no mentor assigned to me at her birth (although I do have a fabulous mother who has been a wonderful asset in my parenting arsenal).
There are YEARS of experience there, from both genders and a vast array of ages and abilities. Rachel and I are fortunate enough to be in a wonderful group of women (single moms, new moms, veteran moms, moms with blended families, and spiritual moms) called Moms & Mentors. We meet monthly in our homes, alternating the meeting place.
We’re all Christian women (most of us wives) who are trying to navigate the journey of motherhood without a map. It’s so nice to be around like-minded women, who understand the values I’m trying to instill in my children. It’s like they’re signs along my journey, pointing me in the right direction. It is so valuable!
Sometimes this Mommy thing is fantastic. Little Miss will see something for the first time and her reaction is priceless. Or hilarious. At times it’s inspiring. Or enough to bring me back to when I first saw the same thing. Sometimes this Mommy thing is enough to make you want to scream into your pillow. Maybe it’s the eleventh consecutive Mickey Mouse episode. Maybe it’s the teenage attitude that’s exiting your elementary school-aged child. And it’s exhausting, and leaves you emotionally raw. Then you wonder if you’re giving your child a complex.
Either way, it’s always the best job ever. And you’re rocking it. But you don’t have to rock it alone. Look in the parish bulletin, or call the church office, and see if there’s a mom’s group offered. Maybe there is one, but you’re a working mom and can’t make it there. Might I suggest looking at other local parishes?
The group that Rachel and I attend isn’t our parish. It isn’t Catholic. When Little Miss was small, she attended an amazing preschool program at a wonderful Baptist church. They are such wonderful women, and the director of the program, as well as the music teacher and the children’s minister at the church, are all my friends since Little Miss attended. I’ve gone to special events at the church as well as Bible studies there. Little Miss attends their Vacation Bible School every summer. I wouldn’t trade our group.
They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I am a firm believer that it really does. My daughter is influenced by me and my husband, our siblings, our parents, and my extended family comprised by close friends and our parish church family. She has all of those adults to help guide her. And I love it.
So, too, do we need other people to help guide us. To be a springboard for particularly challenging parenting situations. Or to nod in solidarity and offer a shoulder. Or even to call us out when we need to be called out. To hold us accountable. Parenting is, after all, a big deal.
So Mama, we just want you to know, you’re doing fine. More than that. You’re killing it.
We want to hear from you, ladies. Tell us all about your experiences with mom’s groups. Does your parish offer one? What does yours do really well? What do you feel like is missing from yours? How has being in your mom’s group helped you through a sticky parenting situation? Can’t find a mom’s group that fits you yet? Check out Catholic Mom for inspiration until you do.
We know life gets busy (especially with after-school commitments and mom’s groups meetings), so we want to help you get organized in 2017. Comment below with answers to our questions above (if it isn’t working, please visit our Facebook page) to be entered into a giveaway for a large, spiral-bound planner, some fun accessories, an Our Lady of Guadalupe rosary, and a HailMarry custom bookmark. The giveaway closes on Friday, January 6 at 5:00 p.m. CST. The winner will be notified via email by Monday, January 9.
First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS from the HailMarry family!
Rachel and I are so happy you’re with us on this journey, so again let me say merry Christmas!! Christ, the Savior is born! Let us rejoice! I hope that your Christmas Day was filled with love, fun, traditions, deliciousness, and family. Ours was a little extra special this year because it was our first Christmas together. We celebrated on Friday night as a family, then on Saturday with my side of the family, and Sunday with my husband’s side. There was a lot of baking and eating and laughter!
This holy time of Christmas makes me feel all warm and tingly inside. It’s that feeling that you get when you come clean with God about your sins. Or when you happen to steal a sideways glance at your husband when he isn’t looking. Or when you see a squishy baby sleeping. But I digress.
I also get that feeling when everything is going exactly as planned. I’m definitely a list and planner girl, and I like to have back-up plans for my back-up plans. As my daughter gets older, I’m finding that that isn’t always going to happen. Sometimes she forgets to tell me that something was due until the day it’s due. Sometimes I forget to read her folder. Sometimes I request the completion of a simple, mundane task from her and it sets off quite the emotional storm.
When I found that said emotional storms were appearing with more frequency and when we were all adjusting to the change from being an all-girl family of two to a heterogeneous family of three, we implemented a family meeting. It keeps us centered and focused as a family on our goals, our weekly agendas, and any concerns that we have. Because of it, we work as a team. And together, we strive for holiness.
The husband and I decided that, prior to our first family meeting, we’d hash out the ground rules. We wanted it to be a place that will encourage growth and honest discussion in our family, but we didn’t want it to be a total democracy, where we are all equals, either. We are the parents in this family and felt that there should be a distinction.
Here are the five Denoy Family Meeting Rules by which we operate:
After reading these aloud the first time, we all signed the rules, to show that we all agreed to abide by them.
The rationale behind the rules are as follows:
I’ve been amazed by how a topic that usually elicits a strong reaction from Little Miss when NOT in the meeting can be discussed calmly and rationally by her when IN the meeting. We have excellent conversations and we do come to solutions.
These meetings are so helpful. We know, clearly, what the expectations of us for the week are, what events are scheduled…sometimes, we even go over the meal plan (a post on meal planning is on its way in January!). We are better when we have them. We are less harsh, less quick to jump, and more joyful.
From where I sit in these meetings, at one of the heads of the table, facing a crucifix and a statue of the Holy Family, I try to imagine what their family dynamic was like. Like my own family, they were a family of three. With one out of the three people being God, I would initially guess that their dynamic was calmer than my own family’s. But…Jesus was also man, and while I know he was sinless, I know how kids can be. In this moment, I find comfort in the story of Jesus being lost, with Joseph and Mary worried sick, looking everywhere, only to find him teaching in the temple. I kind of feel like they would have had family meetings, too.
These meetings are organic. It’s going to be interesting to see how they continue to grow and change as Little Miss gets involved in more activities and as she gets older. It’ll change again when additional members are added to our family, too. I imagine that there will be years of more laughter, tears, tension, relaxation, and all that’s in between as we continue these. I also imagine that there will be more bonding and memories made, too. And I know that I’ll never have enough of those.
What about you ladies? Rachel and I love feedback and getting ideas from other wives and moms. Do you have family meetings? How do you run them? Be sure to let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to HailMarry so you’ll never miss another post.
Blessings and Merry Christmas!