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Chalk Over the Door on Epiphany?

Q. Why do some Catholic families write in chalk over the entrance to their home at Epiphany?

A. The centuries-old custom of “chalking the doors” dedicates a home to the Lord and reminds those who enter that it belongs to Him. The formula for the chalked inscription uses the numbers of the new calendar year and the letters C, M, and B, with small crosses between them. This year it reads “20 + C + M + B + 18.”

The letters have a double meaning. First, they are the initials of the traditional names of the Wise Men who came to see Jesus, whose visit we commemorate at Epiphany: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Second, they stand for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless this house.”

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