It is a time-honored tradition for many Catholics throughout the world to bless their homes during the liturgical Christmas season, symbolizing an open invitation and desire for the Lord’s presence and blessing over the household (or workplace) throughout the upcoming year.
A unique and centuries-old custom known as “chalking the door” is especially common in Germany. On the Feast of the Epiphany, Catholic children to dress up as the three kings and go from door to door singing Christmas carols, collecting donations for charity, and offering a blessing for each home. As the home is blessed, an inscription is placed – in chalk – over or on the front door.
The inscriptions will include the year, separated by a star, three crosses, and the letters C, M, and B. The star signifies the star of Bethlehem, and the crosses represent the cross of our Lord. The letters carry dual meanings. First, they are the initials of the three wise men, Caspar, Malchoir, and Balthazar. They are also the abbreviated version of the Latin prayer Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ bless the house). Each year they are updated, so this year would look like:
20 * C + M + B + 22
With time, this practice has spread and families all over the world now bring this special tradition to their own homes and workplaces. There are many parishes that offer blessed chalk, holy water, and incense on Epiphany for families to use, but this is not required to begin this special custom in your own home. All that is needed is chalk (alternatively a marker or even stickers can be used). The inscription may be accompanied with a simple prayer, or can be elaborated into a prayer service to include special readings, songs, incense, and holy water. St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa, AZ offers these wonderful examples of possible prayers to use, but the possibilities are endless and may be personalized to include your family’s special intentions.
The key element is to use this moment to gather the family together to welcome and invite Jesus to be present in our homes and lives this year. The chalk markings are meant to be an outward sign of the faith in our hearts and an invocation for God’s presence and protection (much like the Israelites).
May the Lord bless our homes, families, and friends this year. May He guide each of our hearts with the brightness of that special star, and may we open our eyes and hearts to follow His light like the Magi.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
Mary, our Good Mother, pray for us.