Chalking the Door: An Epiphany Tradition

“Chalking the Door” is a short liturgy for marking our homes with sacred symbols and asking God’s blessing upon those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year. In this service, we mark our front or main entrance doors with chalk as a sign that we are inviting God’s presence into the places, relationships, and situations that we call home.

This practice resonates with God’s instructions to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6. In verses 4 – 9, Moses says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (NRSVUE). Chalking the door is a tangible way to honor God in our lives.

The Symbols

A common way of chalking the door is to write these symbols along the doorframe (updating the last two digits with each new year):

20 + C + M + B + 24

The first and last numbers comprise the four digits of the current year (2024, 2025, etc.). The letters “C,” “M,” and “B” come from the three traditional names for the unnamed Magi in Matthew 2: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar (also spelled “Balthazar”). Some also suggest that the letters can represent “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling!” A cross is placed between each set of numbers and letters.

How to Do Chalking the Doors

This rite can be done at homes and at churches. Here are the main steps:

  1. Mark your calendar – Epiphany is on January 6, 12 days after Christmas. In Great Britain, chalking the door takes place on Twelfth Night (January 5), the eve of Epiphany. Many families gather in their homes to celebrate with friends, food, singing, and gifts along with chalking the door.
  2. Find some chalk – Any color will do! Sidewalk chalk is a particularly sturdy option.
  3. Gather everyone together – Everyone should be involved. If you’re blessing your home, gather your whole household. Those who live alone may consider inviting a friend or neighbor. If you’re blessing your church building, invite the congregation to meet at your church.
  4. Pray – Below are some prayers and liturgies that you can use.
  5. Write the inscription – Use the chalk and take turns with those present to write the numbers, letters, and crosses on or above the outside of your door: 20 + C + M + B + [xx] (the last two digits of the current year).

Liturgies & Prayers for Chalking the Doors

The Book of Occasional Services (2018) provides a liturgy for chalking the doors called “The Blessing of a Home at Epiphany.” You can also use the liturgy below. The three prayers were written by Bosco Peters and can be found in “Epiphany Chalk House Blessing 2023” at Liturgy: Spirituality – Worship – Community. Be sure to update the numbers in the liturgy for the current year.

Chalking the Doors Liturgy

Leader: Peace be to this house, and to all who enter here.
All: Amen.

One or more of the following prayers may be said

May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen.

God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten One to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ our Savior. Amen.

Loving God, bless this household. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and abiding in your will. We ask this through Christ our Savior. Amen.

All may take turns chalking the door: 20 + C + M + B + 24

The three Wise Men, [C] Caspar, [M] Melchior, [B] and Balthasar followed the star to Bethlehem and the child Jesus [20] two thousand, [24] and twenty-four years ago. [+ +] May Christ bless our home [+ +], and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

All say the Lord’s Prayer

Printable Chalking the Doors Liturgy

These printables include a version of the liturgy for chalking and blessing a home and another version adapted for chalking the doors of a church. They are designed for printing on 8.5 x 11-inch paper. You are welcome to download, print, use, and share them.

Handouts for 2024

Epiphany Chalking the Doors Handout (2024) – Two half-sheet copies of the liturgy per page
Epiphany Chalking the Doors Handout, Large Print (2024) – One copy of the liturgy per page

Handouts for 2025

Epiphany Chalking the Doors Handout (2025)
Epiphany Chalking the Doors Handout, Large Print (2025)

Handouts for 2026

Epiphany Chalking the Doors Handout (2026)
Epiphany Chalking the Doors Handout, Large Print (2026)

Proclamation of Easter with Chalking the Doors

On his website, Interrupting the Silence, The Rev. Michael K. Marsh offers an additional Epiphany practice: the Epiphany Proclamation of Easter. As Marsh says in several of his “Epiphany Proclamation of Easter” posts, “The ancient Church had a practice of announcing the dates of Easter as well as other feasts and fasts that do not have a fixed date. Since the Epiphany is a fixed date feast (January 6) and also the last major fixed date feast before we enter the Easter cycle which is characterized by moveable dates, it was a convenient time to proclaim the date of Easter and other moveable feasts and fasts. The Proclamation, however, announces more than dates. Ultimately, It proclaims the reality that our lives are to be lived in rhythm with and according to Jesus’ life.”

This practice may be particularly fitting to incorporate into Chalking the Doors at a church. Check out Marsh’s “Epiphany Proclamation of Easter 2022” for a sample template. Make sure to adjust for the current dates. The Lectionary Page is a good place to find the dates you want to include for the current year. Another resource to check out is Church Pension Group’s “Liturgical Calendar Online.”

The liturgical dates for 2024 are:

  • Ash Wednesday – February 14, 2024
  • Holy Week – March 24 – 30, 2024
  • Easter Day – March 31, 2024
  • Ascension Day – May 9, 2024
  • Pentecost – May 19, 2024
  • First Sunday of Advent – December 1, 2024

The dates for 2025 are:

  • Ash Wednesday – March 5, 2025
  • Holy Week – April 13 – 19, 2025
  • Easter Day – April 20, 2025
  • Ascension Day – May 29, 2025
  • Pentecost – June 8, 2025
  • First Sunday of Advent – November 30, 2025

The dates for 2026 are:

  • Ash Wednesday – February 18, 2026
  • Holy Week – March 29 – April 4, 2026
  • Easter Day – April 5, 2026
  • Ascension Day – May 14, 2026
  • Pentecost – May 24, 2026
  • First Sunday of Advent – November 29, 2026

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on January 1, 2011. It has been reformatted, revised, updated, and republished for Epiphany 2024 on December 4, 2023. Special thanks to Bosco Peters for the three prayers in the above liturgy.

Featured image is by Bill Barber on Flickr; it is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


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