How to end the holidays with a bang!

(This post was meant to be much earlier in the year but life has been a bit more hectic than usual around the Living at Wit’s End abode.  I hope it will spark some ideas for you, for next year.)

Our family has a lot of traditions throughout the year, but especially during the holidays.  Lately I’ve explained one of our traditions a lot.  Since so many people seem to be interested in the idea I thought I would share it with you as well.  My kids aren’t sad when the holidays are over, mainly because very soon after New Years we celebrate again.  On January 6th, Epiphany, we have a great party to celebrate the three kings visit to see Jesus.
On Epiphany we start the day by going to mass together.  In the evening we have a nice dinner (no real traditional meal), sometimes it is party finger food and other times it’s a little more formal, sit down, dinner.  That all depends on how busy we have been during the week and or how tired I am.  After dinner we have King Cake.  Some years I’ve made a homemade Bundt cake, and others I’ve bought a pre-made Angel Food Cake.  Either works fine.  The idea behind the King Cake, is that it looks like a crown, and most importantly that three beans (in our case 2 black beans and 1 white, to represent the color skin of our king statues) are baked into it.  With the homemade cake I randomly place the dried beans in the batter and then bake the cake.  If I buy a pre-made cake, I turn it over and stick three dried beans into the cake, in random places.  Before it’s served I let the kids decorate it with icing or whipped cream, fresh fruit and candy, like berries, smarties, spice drops or anything that will look like gems on a crown.
As everyone eats their cake, carefully, we anxiously await to see who will get the beans!  For the ones that find the bean in their cake, are the ones that get to carry the Kings on the long journey to see the baby Jesus.  After cake is consumed and we know who will be carrying the kings, our procession/treasure hunt begins.  Whoever is carrying a king dresses up in king garb, with crowns, strands of plastic beads and a royal costume.
 Each person in charge of a king, chooses their king statue based on the color bean they got in their cake.  In full costume, carrying their king, they lead the procession (youngest child to oldest child).  The entire family follows the king procession looking for the first clue.  The procession proceeds in this manner, following clue to clue until we finally find the baby Jesus.  Once the baby Jesus is found, a person not carrying a king, heads up the front of the line and carries the baby Jesus back to the manger, followed by the kings and the rest of the family.  Once baby Jesus is placed back in the manger, the kings are placed appropriately in the manger as well.  Then everyone shares the chocolate, coin, treasure that was found with the baby Jesus.  (You can find these at party stores or at your local supermarket in the Jewish food section.  My oldest kids always comment on the Menorahs’ imprinted on the candies, when I get them from the supermarket.)
After our procession/treasure hunt, the entire family heads outside with chalk and holy water to bless the house for the New Year.  We all process, The Director first, and everyone else following, singing We Three Kings.  Outside, at each door that enters the house, the following prayer is said “O Lord, grant that the names of Thy saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar may, through their merits and petitions, bless our home and bring physical health and spiritual protection for all who enter here.  Amen.”  While the prayer is being said, The Director writes the following 20+C+M+B+ whatever the year is, (in the case of this year, it would end with 12, so the end numbers change each year), above the door in chalk.  It stands for, the beginning and ending numbers are the current New Year (this year read 20+C+M+B+12) the letters can stand for the three king’s names but we believe, they represent “Christus mansionem benedicat” or “May Christ bless this house.”  Then The Director sprinkles a bit of holy water on the threshold of the door.  We then continue the procession, singing from door to door, praying, writing above the door and sprinkling holy water, until all the doors have been blessed.
We finish up the party by picking a spiritual gift out of a basket (each spiritual gift is printed on a shape that is reminiscent of the Wise Men like a camel or a star or a crown), such as faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience, a spirit of cheerfulness, simplicity of faith, open heartedness, or childlike faith.  We say a short prayer asking the Holy Spirit to guide our choice, and then each family chooses from the basket without looking.  Whatever spiritual gift is chosen, that’s what we focus on throughout the coming year.  The card chosen gets hung up where the recipient can see it daily and focus on incorporating into their daily lives.  I have found that each year when we do this, the gift chosen is often one that I particularly need to work on or need to spend more time in prayer about.
When everything is said and done all the Christmas decorations come down until next year.  I find it is a fantastic way to celebrate the end of the Christmas season, and it makes putting the decorations away, a little easier for the kids.
I wondered how long this tradition would last in our family, but even as the older kids get older, they love this tradition.  So much so, that this year at bible study, The Organized Child shared how much fun it was, and that it was the best part of her week.  All the other high school kids, at bible study, asked how they can become a family member and get in on the deal.  As I get older, I’m realizing that no matter how old your kids are, they still like parties, to have fun and traditions with their families even if they put up a front and act as if they are not that interested.  I think it is so important to continue family traditions and fun no matter what your kids ages, it is something they will remember always and it makes for great family bonding!
Some fabulous tools to help celebrate holidays and holy days.
A Treasure Chest of Traditions (For Catholic Families) by Monica McConkey (from what I can tell this item is out of print but if you can get your hands on a used copy I highly recommend it)

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