Chalking the Door: An Epiphany Tradition

“We celebrate the themes of this season and once again to seek God’s blessing on their homes and on those who come and go through its doors.”




What is Chalking the Door?
This short liturgy is a way of marking our homes, usually at the front or main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols as we ask God’s blessing upon those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year. In Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood so that the Lord would pass over their homes; but in this service, we mark our doors with chalk as a sign that we have invited God’s presence and blessing into our homes

In Great Britain, the service commonly takes place on Twelfth-Night, January 5th. This date is, of course, the eve of Epiphany (January 6th), commemorating the visiting of the Christ Child by the three Magi (Wise Men) with their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. On Twelfth-Night in Europe, many families gather in their homes to celebrate this feast with friends, food, singing, and gifts. It is at these Twelfth-Night celebrations that “Chalking the Door” is most often observed.

The inscription written above the door is as follows:

20 + C + M + B + 16 

(Change the last number to the current year)

What do the numbers and letters mean?
The numbers at the beginning and end of the inscription simply refer to the current year – in the picture above, 2008. The letters C M B come from the traditional names for the three kings: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Some also suggest “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means, “May Christ bless this dwelling!”

Why Chalk?
Chalk is used in this service as an ordinary substance made of common elements of the earth, put to holy use. Chalk will not permanently mark the dwelling. As its image fades from view over time, those who participated in its original placement will remember it and the purpose for which it was intended. In doing so, they may rededicate themselves to that purpose. After a year passes and a new Epiphany arrives, they will have the opportunity once again to celebrate the themes of this season and once again to seek God’s blessing on their homes and on those who come and go through its doors.

Liturgy, Prayers, and How-to for Chalking the Door
Click the image and link below for a free PDF on chalking the door. This printable and sharable document contains prayers and a liturgy that you can use to chalk the door at your home or church.

chalking the door

Epiphany Chalking the Door:
A Home Practice from Building Faith


Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.

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10 Responses to “Chalking the Door: An Epiphany Tradition”

  1. Bethlehem, Christmas, Gather, Mark, Thousands, birth of jesus christ, birthplace of jesus, birthplace of jesus christ, christian pilgrims, christmas eve midnight mass, church of the nativity, peace and reconciliation, southern californians says:

    […] Crowds in Bethlehem hear message of peace The Middle East’s senior Catholic cleric called for peace and reconciliation in a Christmas Eve midnight mass in the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Read more on thewest.com.au Further you can see this related post: http://www.buildfaith.org/2011/01/01/chalking-the-door/ […]

  2. […] and parishes who are looking to enhance their formation offerings. With the Epiphany tradition of Chalking the Door, Building Faith shares a wonderful way to mark this time of year with an intergenerational […]

  3. […]  Chalking the Door – An Epiphany Tradition In this article, Sharon explains the European tradition of chalking the door on Epiphany. Households gather to write a special blessing above the door of their homes or churches. A fun and meaningful practice for all ages. […]

  4. […] We’ll be chalking the door at our home this year for Epiphany this year, our first time experiencing this tradition. A set of instructions and brief liturgy can be found at Building Faith. […]

  5. […] For the prayers and more info about how to “chalk” your door, check out this article fro… […]

  6. […] communion inside the church and handed out chalk and prayer cards to parishioners to perform the “chalking the door” blessing at their homes for […]

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