Christmas is finally over. And since the New Year, the whole family has been shuffling through one ailment after another, starting with my trip to the ER on New Years Day (poison ivy rash resulting in such severe swelling on my hands that I couldn’t use them) to Mike’s bout of food poisoning late last week. Having both adults in a household containing small-to-medium sized children semi-incapacitated is not a picnic.
But last Monday we finally finished up Christmas, a whole week late. The king cake was made and consumed. The house was blessed. Epiphany gifts had already been opened in their proper time, because 1) I am not a cruel mother, and 2) they were a useful distraction while people were itching and sneezing and being otherwise pretty sick.
And this week, when I looked back, like I do every year, at how Advent and Christmas went from the technical perspective (what worked, what didn’t work, what was enjoyed, what was endured, what failed and why) I had my own epiphany.
David doesn’t think Christmas is over until we’ve properly celebrated Epiphany.
The king cake must be assembled and baked and eaten. The house must be blessed. If we are a full week late, so be it. If the house is a disaster zone of trash, new toys, and partially disassembled Christmas decor, so be it. And if all the grownups are too sick and/or pregnant to attend to any of these necessities in their proper time, David will wait with the patchy patience of the 8yo until they can be achieved. He’ll make sure you don’t forget.
Now, it would be a tremendous fib to pretend that this has completely resolved all my Christmas related anxiety, and that I will, from this moment on, always rest easy, through whatever liturgical or social or familial provocation I am offered, secure in the knowledge that my kids know when the twelve days of Christmas are. No. Every year will have the stress of us leaving our home and traveling back to our own towns, for the family enrollment. There won’t be any room in the inn. On some particularly rocky and emotional years, we will need to flee to Egypt. Familial expectations angst we shall have with us always.
But then we go home again. And, days after the world is back to business as usual, but inevitably before we’ve had the physical time in our own house to unpack the bags or pick up the trash or take down the decorations, there’s another feast. And for this feast, we must be at home.
Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world; both to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and to all the world, by the Baptism in the Jordan. And our own home is our own place in the world. Messy or clean, peaceful or chaotic, it is the place where Christ manifests to us in the ordinary things, and through us to the broader world. It is the the octave of the feast of the Holy Family, it is feast of the domestic church.
So we do Epiphany big, although we’re still sorting out exactly what big means and how it works. We bless the house at night, which involves processing around it in the dark with candles singing We Three Kings while Mike chalks the blessing up over all the doors, even the garage door. This year Raphael was old enough to hold his own candle and he chirped ‘oh boy!’ excitedly through the entire blessing. We eat king cake. And the kids have some last presents. One last feast to celebrate returning to our ordinary place and ordinary time.