Celebrate Like a Catholic: Epiphany

The following is a post from my Celebrate Like a Catholic Series. Happy Epiphany!

Hello, Call Her Happy readers!  Let me start with a quick introduction.  I’m Kate, and I’m married to my college sweetheart, Mike.  We’ve been married 11 years now and have three great kids– ages 5, 2, and 1 (and two more in heaven).  Here are some pictures of our family on Christmas morning last year.  Please excuse our pajamas.

Onto the Epiphany celebration–

Our Epiphany celebration has evolved over the years as our faith has matured.  Truthfully, we never thought much about the Epiphany and treated the day much like any other Sunday until we received an annoying letter in the mail a few years ago.  We were living in the greater Las Vegas area at the time, and our homeowner’s association sent us a letter informing us that we were in violation of the HOA rules because our Christmas lights were still up.  The letter informed us that all holiday lights and decorations had to be removed from the exterior of the home by January 1st.

My husband was outraged, “but Christmas isn’t over yet!”

“It’s not?”  I questioned.  “Most people consider the Christmas season as being over on New Year’s Day.”

“But not Catholics,” he argued.  “We celebrate until January 6th, the Epiphany, when the three wise men finally arrived in Bethlehem to greet the baby Jesus and give him gifts.”

I was dumbfounded.  “Really?”

“Yes, really!  Didn’t you go to Catholic school?” he teased.  “That’s the whole symbolism of the lights on the houses– to resemble the star that guided the three kings to Bethlehem.”

“Really?”  I asked again.  No wonder my blog title is The Imperfect Catholic, right?

So, that letter started it all in our family.  From that point on, we started to be more thoughtful about how we celebrated both the twelve days of Christmas and the Advent season leading up to Christmas.  Many new traditions have evolved through the years as a result for our family.

One great resource that has helped us in creating our own family traditions is The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions.  It’s a really nice resource for simple prayers and activities for the entire liturgical year, not just Christmas.

We started celebrating the Epiphany with our children in simple ways.  We started putting up Christmas decorations later and later each year during Advent and kept the decorations up until Christmas was over on January 7th.  We explained the liturgical season to our children and why we were still celebrating Christmas when the rest of the world seemed to be finished on January 1st.

This year we will be reading stories about the Three Wise Men.  Here is one book that we’ll be reading.



Don’t the pictures look beautiful?

For more book suggestions for all of Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas, I suggest you peruse the book list at Shower of Roses.

We will read the We Three Kings book the night before the Epiphany because we treat the actual day as little Christmas.  In the morning, the kids will dress up like kings (either in crowns we made as a craft, those free crowns from Burger King, or old dress up stuff lying around) and try to find baby Jesus (who has been removed from his manger and hidden somewhere in the house).  It’s a lot of fun.  Then, we go to mass in the morning, like usual.


Another tradition we have is throwing a party to mark the Epiphany.  I got the idea for the party from this blog post, “Catholics Give the Best Parties.”  The Epiphany is a great opportunity to celebrate Christmas with friends you haven’t had a chance to get together with yet.  Let’s face it, Catholic or not, most people stop celebrating on January 1st.  Many people are interested in a small party to celebrate the end of Christmas with friends.  We invited just two couples (and their children) last year, and it was perfect.  Since the Epiphany coincides with the feast day of St. Andre Bessette (to whom we are 99.9% sure we are distant cousins), we celebrate both occasions at our party.
I’m happy to say they go together beautifully.  The Epiphany celebrates the three kings greeting the baby Jesus with gifts, while St. Andre served his entire life as a doorkeeper greeting guests at Notre Dame College in Montreal.  For our family, January 6th is all about being together with the people we love.
In the days preceding January 6th, we watch God’s Doorkeeper, a documentary on St. Andre’s life by Salt + Life television as a family movie night.  It’s inspiring to say to our kids, “You can be a saint too, just like cousin Andre.”
On our front door, we hang a picture of St. Andre with a greeting like, “May the spirit of St. Andre welcome you,” since he was a porter.  Here’s a picture of the adults at our Epiphany/St. Andre feast day party last year.


In terms of food, the menu can vary (depending on your tastes and budget).  However, the one “must have” on the Epiphany, in my opinion, is a king cake.  The history of the king cake and the type of cake varies from region to region, but they all contain either a plastic baby (symbolizing the Christ child) or a coin.  The guest who discovers the baby or coin has either special obligations (such as hosting the party next year or providing the king cake for next year) or privileges (such as being declared king for the day or good luck in the new year).  Most cakes are also decorated in royal colors– purple, gold, and green.


You can order a king cake from a local bakery or make one yourself.  You can even order one online and have it shipped.  Here is a picture of a king cake that my friend Teri, of My Everyday, made for her Epiphany party last year.  She gives credit to Pinterest.  As if you needed another excuse to visit that site, right?


If the idea of baking and decorating a king cake seems daunting, you could always bake cupcakes, put a coin inside one, and have the kids decorate the cupcakes as crownsCatholic Cuisine has king cake recipes, as well as ideas for other festive foods to celebrate the epiphany.
As favors for our party guests, we gave out St. Andre prayer cards last year.  They were a big hit.  I didn’t think to get favors for the kids, but I think chocolate coins would be festive for the Epiphany.
Before saying grace, you could also say the Epiphany Prayer–
“Dear Jesus, as You led the Three Kings to You by the light of a star, please draw us ever closer to You by the light of Faith.  Help us to desire You ardently as they did.  Give us the grace to overcome all the obstacles that keep us far from You.  May we, like them, have something to give You when we appear before You.  Mary, Our Mother, help us to know Your Son.  Amen.”
If celebrating the Epiphany with a party isn’t your thing, or if you’re looking to add an element of service (which I would also like to implement in our tradition), you could always go visit someone else (someone who may have had a lonely Christmas) and bring them a gift.  Maybe some star or crown shaped cookies?  Throughout the year (but especially around holidays), our parents (both mine and my husband’s) made special meals and delivered them to the sick or elderly in our lives.  It brightened their day to eat a hot meal and visit with a friend.

To close, I’d like to say that the Epiphany should be a celebration.  We can celebrate in so many different ways, and I think we can do this not only on January 6th, but in the days preceding.  With so many kids with two full weeks off from school and nothing to do, why not bake star & crown shaped cookies one day, make & deliver meals or cookies on another, and celebrate with a party on or close to the 6th.

Happy Epiphany everyone!


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  1. Amanda says

    Lovely post. I know this may sound as if I am missing the point, but because I live in an area where almost everyone lives in a community governed by a HOA, I am dying to know: did you just take the lights down, or did you respond to your HOA?

    • Jenna says

      I talked to her actually, and she said that she never said anything and the HOA never did anything, so it’s just kind of an unspoken thing that they will leave them up now ;)