Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Epiphany- or "Christmas ain't over yet..."

This past fall I decided we were going to celebrate "Epiphany" this year.  Also known as 3 King's Day, Epiphany is rarely celebrated in our country, but still widely known other places.  Epiphany means (among other things) "sudden appearance" or "divine manifestation."  Epiphany falls on January 6, 12 days following Christmas Day, and is now celebrated as the day the wise-men apparently made their appearance in Bethlehem to visit the Christ Child.  We know now that it probably wasn't until a few years later that the wise men actually came to Judea, but this is still a fun holiday to celebrate. 

 In our little homeschool classroom, I've been using Epiphany as an excuse to get back on track with school this winter.  There is an urban legend that tells us the 12 Days of Christmas song (counting the 12 days leading up to Epiphany) is really a subversive song describing basic Christian doctrine.  Whether it is or not, this is a great opportunity to teach little ones about the Christian faith.   After taking too much time off for holiday travel, I needed some inspiration.  So, here's what we've been doing:
  • Studying the basic tenets of our faith using the song (and the book, above).  We've been learning that a Partridge in a Pear Tree can also symbolize Jesus on the Cross... so on and so forth.
  • After we sadly demolished our Christmas tree (a New Year's tradition we have involving a bonfire), we began to create an ornament for each of the 12 Days of Christmas to hang on our little lemon tree (you could use a branch or houseplant, too).  For example, we made a little scroll with four birds on it to symbolize the 4 calling birds (symbolizing Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and their gospel stories).
  • There is a ton of material online to help teach the subject of the 3 Wise Men, including the great story of Artaban, the 4th Wise-man, who was waylaid in his journey by people who needed his help.  We've been using his story to learn about ways we can help others in need.  The Russian folk tale of Babushka (top of the page) is another great story relating to the same concept. 
  • This has been a great opportunity to review the numbers (forward and backward) 1-12 and practice writing them!  We're also revisiting the calendar as we count the days to Epiphany.  We could add in some astronomy, too, but I didn't get that organized this year.
  • Finally, we plan to end our study of the 12 Days and Epiphany with a little 3 Kings party!  We'll dress up as kings and queens, have a picnic (indoors) of travel food like hummus, dried fruit, etc. and we'll act out the story of the wise-men greeting the Christ-child.  We'll make sparkly stars to take home as a reminder of the journey the wise-men took and we might even do a little map of our trip (if I get motivated).  The children will leave with small gifts.  
Do you celebrate Epiphany?  What does your tradition look like?  How do you extend your holidays to last a little longer?  How do you teach your children about faith?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Blessings~ Tori

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