When Raegan Hoyt takes a piece of chalk and writes on her door every Epiphany, she is participating in an ancient tradition.
“We did it at church in 2020,” she said. “I’d never seen it before, but I thought it was a good way to welcome God in and ask him to protect us and walk with us through the year.”
The Rev. David Turner, rector in the Parish of Hampton, Raegan’s parish, found the chalking tradition on a website a few years ago and was intrigued. He chalked the doors at St. Paul’s during a worship service, said a litany he’d found on the site, and passed out sidewalk chalk for parishioners to chalk their own houses.
He also posted it on the parish Facebook page, which generated interest. That led to people posting their house chalking photos.
House chalking has become so popular at St. Paul’s that people were asking about it around Epiphany this year.
“People still had their chalk and we gave out the prayers,” said David.
Chalking your house, nicknamed ‘Holy Graffiti,’ is the practice of writing letters and numbers on your home’s door, invoking the blessing of God on your home and its inhabitants. It’s most often done at Epiphany.
The entire message looks like this: 20 + C + M + B + 22. The 20 is the first two digits of the year; the letters C, M and B are Latin for ‘Christus Mansionem Benedicat’ which means “May Christ Bless this Home,” although some websites mention they also stand for the accepted names of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
The message ends with the last two digits of the year. Each of the letters and numbers is separated by a cross (or plus sign on a keyboard).
While it’s only catching on in North America, Europeans have been doing it for centuries. It can be done simply with a prayer, or more elaborately with songs, processions, incense and holy water, says a story on the Episcopal News Service (https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2020/01/06/for-an-epiphany-blessing-chalk-the-door-with-holy-graffiti/).
David cautions that this is not a superstition or a magical spell. “It’s a reminder — a sign of blessing of our homes in the new year,” he said. “It’s a very simple thing we can do, an easy tradition to repeat. It’s a great reminder of God’s presence and grace as we go in and our of our homes.”
It’s also a family event, with the children in both the Hoyt and Turner households taking part. “We all say the prayer together,” said Raegan. “They like it. There’s comfort in it.”
Not only comfort, but enduring tradition, she said.
“There’s a symbolism to it. It reminds me of the Bible story when the Israelites marked their doors with blood. I know it’s not the same thing, but I like the tradition. I like the ceremony.”
Raegan chalks both sides of her exterior door.
“Most people don’t notice it, but it’s an outward symbol inviting God into our year and our home,” she said.
The house chalking prayer, provided by David, is as follows:
Almighty God, you led the Magi to the humble dwelling of the Holy Family in Bethlehem to bless their home with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We ask you to bless our home with the riches of your grace, with the righteousness of your son, Jesus, and with the presence of your Holy Spirit.
May this chalk be a reminder of your blessings to us, and may our lives be marked by the peace and love of our eternal home with you in your everlasting kingdom, where you reign with Jesus, your son, and with the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
1. Kate, Ezra, Isaac and Molly listen as Silas Turner reads scripture during the family’s house-chalking activity at their home in Hampton.
2. Molly and Silas Turner watch as their dad, the Rev. David Turner, chalks the door of their house in Hampton. David has implemented the practice in the Parish of Hampton as an Epiphany activity, and it’s caught on with parishioners. The practice is a way of asking God’s blessing on the house and its inhabitants for the coming year.
3. “20 + C + M + B + 22” is chalked on the Turners’ front door, indicating the year and the abbreviation for ‘Christus Mansionem Benedicat’ which means May Christ bless this home.