Why celebrate Epiphany?
For our family, we celebrate the day the wise men arrived at Jesus's home on January 6th. I didn't celebrate Epiphany growing up, and I don't have rich, theological reasons for doing so now. As my children grow and we study this more as a family, I might have more to say about the "why." For now, I just like extending the wonder of the Christmas season a little further and closing the holiday season in contemplation of the kingship of Christ. A little toddler boy was visited by wealthy, educated men who traveled an enormous distance just to gaze at him and place expensive gifts at his feet! Not because they were deluded, but because the boy was a king! I think we can't really grasp the significance of Easter without the centering on the "Who" of the Advent season, and celebrating Epiphany helps our family do that.
When we set out our nativity set before Christmas, we only put the shepherds up at first. Then Mary and Joseph appear somewhere else in the house and slowly make their way toward "Bethlehem." On Christmas morning, baby Jesus arrives. A few days later, the wise men appear at another far corner of our home and start their own rambling journey toward Jesus. By January 6th, everyone meets up at a slightly new location, Mary and Joseph's home. My kids love this, and are always on the look out for moving figurines. They know I move the nativity people, I'm sure, but it doesn't stop them from gasping in excitement whenever they discover Mary and Joseph two feet closer to the stable. (Yes, baby Jesus is a clothespin in this picture. No, I don't know why.)
Epiphany includes the idea of light bursting forth after the long, dark Advent season, so any kind of star-related activity seems like it be appropriate here. I sort of hate crafts, like any normal, insanely busy homeschooling mother should, but this painting project wasn't too bad. We painted the night sky with light at the center to show how bright the star was, and to remind us of the light Jesus brings to the world through himself, and through us. I found this idea here on Pinterest, although I skipped the little poem because it's inaccurate.
Art teacher tips:
1) I think this project is easier if you paint from light to dark. Put a little bit of white paint on your palate or plate and instruct your attentive pupils to paint a circle in the center. You can make circles yourself for very young students. Add a bit of blue to your white, paint a larger circle around your first, and then paint in between your two circles. Continue until you get to the edge, where you can either use the blue you've made, or another dark blue.
2) If painting in circles and steps sounds crazy-making to you, just show an example and turn your kids loose with white and blue paint. My two year old was quite happy with this arrangment.
3) While your painters are working, you would make me very happy if you casually mention that mixing white with a color makes a tint. More info on tints, shades, and other color terms here.
4) Shiny wrapping paper makes a super shiny star like the one in Wyatt's painting below.
The kids and I also made star-shaped gingerbread cookies. (Making roll-out cookies is something I positively hate doing, by the way. All that rolling of dough and fighting over whose turn it is to push down cookie cutters. Also, gluten free cookie dough generally does not transfer well, so getting the cookies to the pan is always a dicey operation. So making these cookies was really a treat for my kids. Poor kids.) Then we ate them while watching unrelated You-tube videos.
Thank You Cards
We give gifts at Christmas to celebrate the gift our God gave to us through his son Jesus. The wise men came bearing gifts to honor the new King. Epiphany makes a great time to honor others with thank you cards for those lovely Christmas gifts. Mr. Cyrus and I are always looking for ways for the kids to practice their gratitude muscles. We have a big extended family and my kids had a lot of notes to write. They are also still beginning writers, so we have been working on the cards two at a time.
If you don't own a nativity set. . .
If you don't have a nativity set, here's an awesome, free printable from MadebyJoel. There are even more pieces to this set than shown in my photo.