Catholics marking their homes with chalk during Epiphany is a tradition that dates back centuries, signifying their homes are homes where Christ lives.
Usually, families gather around the front door of the home, saying a prayer before a family member makes a mark on the lintel or doorpost of the home. The family member then passes the chalk to another member of the family to make the next mark.
The traditional markings of “CMB” refer to the names of the three Wise Men who visited the Holy Family at the Nativity Caspar; Melchior and Balthasar who gifted the infant Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh. “CMB” is also an abbreviation of the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates to “May Christ bless this home.” (Is this not curiously coincidental?!) The numbers preceding and following symbolize the year, with crosses in between.
Chalking the doors draws similarities with the celebration of the Feast of Passover, when the Israelites were instructed to put blood on the door posts. This reminds us of liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Holy water is also used to sprinkle the house during the blessing which reminds us of our Baptismal call to live and love in witness to the Gospel.
The blessing of a home is a means to proclaim Christ in the world, a sign to all who come through his door that his home is a home for Christ. Chalking the door to our home serves as an outward sign of our faith and can even be a conversation starter for delivery people as well as all who enter.
This beautiful ritual to share with family and friends also becomes an opportunity to speak to others about Christ and His Church.
May this inscription remind us of the brightness of our Christmas throughout the New Year and serve as an inspiration for us to create “the world that Christmas promises.”