this is a page for

Browsing Tag: Christmas

Christmas 2017: a (Quick) Photo Review 

Christmas 2017 has officially come to a close with the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord. We thought we’d share some of our holiday memories with you in a photo review!


This one is pretty much a summary of my entire Christmas: church, food, and family.

This is my nephew, Connor, making the punch my Grandma Jean always made for Christmas, as well as my own little serving.

And here I am with my sisters. ❤


That’s Little Miss, practicing to cantor (and then play the tambourine, the chimes, and sing in the choir) at the Christmas Eve Mass.

Our traditional family picture Christmas morning in our PJs (sorry to keep my adorable Little Miss from you…she’s precious, I promise).

And…that’s our Christmas tree, after we opened presents. 

Merry Christmas 2017!

Merry Christmas! 

Christ, our Savior is born!

We pray that Christmas 2017 brings you wonderful memories of family time and brings you close to the Messiah. 

Happy birthday, Jesus!

♡ The Hail Marry Team ♡

Kristi, Rachel, Bridgette (and Superman, the Scientist, Captain, Little Miss, Sweet Boy, and Angel Face)

Celebrating Christmas with the Wise Men

Today’s introduction is in three parts, so stay with me…I promise we’ll get to the Wise Men.


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.

From the 1991 classic “Hook.”
Felicity’s Surprise by Valerie Tripp


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.

Old Christmas

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.

Putting it all together

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.

Epiphany & Twelfth Night: A History

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.


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.

Twelfth Night Party

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).

This is how our Magi began their journey.

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 gotten a bit lost in an m&m swamp.

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.

Here our wise men enjoyed a diversion with the Peanuts crew.

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!


For the Love of All Things Holy: Why & How We Do a Family Meeting

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.


Christmas & Family Time
Merry Christmas from Hail Marry!


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.


The Family Meeting

Here are the five Denoy Family Meeting Rules by which we operate:

  1. Listen fully to the speaker.
  2. Raise your hand to comment and wait to be called on.
  3. Yelling or screaming will cause the meeting to end and the parents will make all decisions.
  4. The parents have final say.
  5. Remember Colossians 3:13—“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”


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:

  1. It’s really important to hear what the person is saying and not anticipate what you think they’re going to say. Listen completely and then respond once you’ve had time to understand what the other person is saying. This isn’t always easy for our family, but we’re working on it!
  2. My family is a family of talkers…all of us. And when we’re passionate or really excited about things, we tend to rush our words and run them all over everyone else’s words. We appointed my husband, as head of the house, to run the meetings, so we wait for him to recognize us when our hands are raised. I feel like this is a small, subtle way that I can live out Ephesians 5 (I know, I know, people aren’t huge fans of this section of the New Testament, but I’m a fan) and model it to my daughter.
  3. Sometimes, when Little Miss disagrees, she makes it known. Loudly. And sometimes not-so-politely. So we wanted her to know from the outset that it will not be tolerated in family meetings.
  4. This goes back to what I said earlier about us not being a true democracy. We are still the parents, entrusted with the task of raising God-fearing, productive members of society (or we’ve failed in our jobs as moms and dads), and this helps remind the Little Miss that while we will listen to her opinions and concerns, we will also make the decisions that we feel are best for our family.
  5. It was important to me that these family meetings be a place to hash out issues we were having, preview schedules, have conversations, and really focus on our God-given gift of one another in this family, so I knew that we wanted a Bible verse to guide us. I love this one because it’s all about how to treat others. In fact, if Little Miss gives us attitude during the week, I have her get her Bible, find this verse and read it aloud. I suppose that if she persisted in being disobedient, we could also have her write the verse a few times. We use it to hold us accountable to one another in between our family meetings.


How We Run Our Meetings

  1. We do these meetings once a week. We voted on the day (Sunday) as well as the location (living room or dining room). We meet at our dining table and usually do them after church and before dinner.
  2. The husband runs the meetings and I act as a secretary during them, so we can refer back to it if need be. We also decide ahead of time (by Saturday morning) what the agenda will be (family members tell me what’s on their minds and what they’d like to discuss).
  3. We decided to set time limits for our meetings as well, and try to keep them around 30 minutes in total.
  4. We open with a prayer and a reminder of the rules. We also close with a prayer. The closing prayer is said by whichever family member volunteers to do it. I love it when Little Miss chooses to do this. Children’s prayers are so sweet. Sometimes I think that we adults can learn a thing or two from our children’s prayers.


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.


To help you get started on your own family meetings (or tweak what you’ve got), here’s a printable version of our HailMarry Family Meeting Rules as well as a Hail Marry Family Meeting Template.


Blessings and Merry Christmas!



5 Ways to Celebrate Advent & the Christmas Season

Advent and Christmas is here and all is calm in my household. This is my favorite time of the year, the waiting, the anticipation, and the solemn focus on our Lord and Savior. The advent and Christmas season is always a growing process for me. I had such different ideas from a child, to a teenager, to a young adult, to my late 20’s, until today. Each Year I seem to add and grow my outlook on the Advent and Christmas Season. I love to prepare for the biggest birthday party in the world. I decorate, bake, shop, visit family and friends all for the coming of Our Lord. During the season I love to do all my favorite activities, here are my top 5.

My Advent Wreath
  1. Advent Baskets

Advent Baskets could be filled with a number of things depending the ages of your household. We keep the basket out all season long so that we can share and have joy waiting for our Savior to come and celebrate when he is here. I have a mixture of games, Paper Doll Nativity Sets, Color Sheets, Prayer Journals, Holy Stationery, and Advent Books.


Nativity Bingo

Christmas Dominoes

Advent Pear Tree to Pear Tree, same rules as Apples to Apples (download the Pear Tree to Pear Tree Nouns here and the Pear Tree to Pear Tree Adjectives here to play at home)

                Paper Doll Nativity and Activity Sets

I actually just Googled it, printed it out, cut it out, and have all the pieces in an envelope for the kids.

               Coloring Sheets

As a teen and adult I still love to color and create. You can get a ton of awesome coloring sheets online.

               Rosary and Prayer Journals

We love to do a family Rosary, we like to take prayer requests and write them down in our prayer journals.  We keep these prayer journals out so when we have quiet time we have them at our fingertips. We also like to reflect and writing it out helps sorts out your requests to God and your feelings.

               Bible Verse Stationery

I like to use these to write letters to others. Letters bring encouragement and heartfelt prayers, good wishes, and are a statement of love. So when I have free time I will sit down and get out my list of people that I would love to correspond with. This is also great for kids no matter the age, to communicate in a way that is not tech heavy.  Get your Bible Stationery Luke 2 10 here now!


There are tons out there I just get free eBooks or even go to the library and pick them out. What a great way to spend time with the family then to read a book out loud.

  1. Hot Chocolate Bar Bible Study

I put together a Hot Chocolate Bar that is easy to put out and to clean up after. I get individual packets of hot Chocolate, marshmallows, peppermints, and caramel to put in bowls. We like to read the birth of Jesus through the book of Luke. So everyone will get their hot chocolate, discuss and read through the birth of our Savior.

  1. Watching Christian Christmas Movies

We watch a mixture of both Christian and NON Christian Christmas movies. We love holiday movies and there are an abundance of them. We like to go to the Library and rent them for free!!

  1. Make a treat box for a neighbor or someone who might need cheer.

We like to bake or write a letter to someone we know that is having a hard time. You don’t have to spend money to bring cheer and joy to someone.

  1. No Cell Phones after a certain time to spend time as a family.

This gets really hard for our families. Cell phones, iPad, and game systems are all the rage. We noticed that when we put our phones down; we tend to focus on each other more. Our marriage needs that time to help make our relationship strong. It is also giving us opportunities to make memorable moments. Some of the activities we like to do are puzzles, crosswords, talk, pray, listen to music, and craft.

Favorite Ornament


What are your favorite things to do this Advent and Christmas Season? Leave us a comment and subscribe!!! If you missed Kristi’s take on keeping Advent holy, check it out here.