Mantoan Family Traditions – January

In my ongoing desire to catalogue and organize a bunch of stuff I decided to do regular posts that record all (most? some?) of the traditions our family does each month, or season. Most will be liturgical stuff, some things will probably overlap with the online cookbook posts, and some will be collections of archive posts and ideas we did back when all the kids were little, but perhaps do less now. Regardless, this series of posts will be a collection of traditions that I might want to do with my grandkids, or hope to inspire my kids to do in their own homes. It won’t be like a book that contains everything you can do every month because, no family can do everything, but it will show how our family has tried to create a family culture based on our heritage and the liturgical year. On to the traditions!

January 1 – Eat pork and sauerkraut.

Explained in this post.

January 5, 12th Night and January 6, Epiphany

We keep the Christmas tree up until Epiphany, and we spend most of the time between Christmas and then visiting family, watching Christmas movies and generally doing all the stuff most people do before December 25. When all the kids were homeschooled, we were off school until after Epiphany as well and Tony takes a long vacation during this time. Our last major hurrah is usually for 12th night. We’ve sometimes celebrated with other families, or organized potlucks at our church, but even when it’s just our family, we try to have a nice meal and a king cake for 12th night. Whoever finds the token in the cake is the king or queen and gets to pick a family movie. Tony has been known to whip up a batch of wassail and try to coax everyone to join him in singing, with mixed results.

Since we attend the traditional Latin Mass, we go to Mass for Epiphany on the 6th (the Novus Ordo calendar moves the feast to the nearest Sunday). There is Epiphany water and blessed chalk available, which we take home to sprinkle around the house and mark the doorways. The ceramic wise men, which have been winding their way through our house finally arrive at the nativity scene. In the past we’ve given a large “family gift” on Epiphany, like a game or outdoor toy, but we haven’t done that in recent years. Many of the Christmas decorations come down shortly after Epiphany, but we keep the nativity up until Candlemas and usually I leave out a couple vintage ceramic trees. (In searching through all my archives and saved photos, I can’t find any from a 12th night party, or of us marking our doorways. Something to remedy next year!)

January 24 NO Calendar, 29 TLM Calendar- Feast of St. Francis de Sales

Since I chose St. Francis de Sales as my confirmation saint when I joined the church in 2001, I like to observe his day by not cooking dinner. I will also try to go to Mass.


If Easter is early, Septuagesima will sneak in at the end of January (like this year). Although not on the Novus Ordo calendar, Septuagesima was traditionally regarded as a time to get ready for Lent. Entering this season does get me thinking about what I want to take on for Lent, though there have been years when Ash Wednesday arrived and I still wasn’t prepared. It also leads to some good conversations with the kids about their own Lenten plans.

  • College Reunion Delay (I was very surprised to find I actually had a blog post that briefly mentioned Septuagesima.)

So January is a quiet month for our family once you get past Epiphany. But that’s just as well since we tend to have a lot going on in the fall. What family traditions do you observe in January?


  1. We are Eastern Orthodox on the Julian calendar, so January is nuts for us. There are the two feasts of Nativity and Theophany (Jan 7/19), the 12 days fast-free in between, plus in our family, we have a birthday and two namesdays in there too. Our church does a big Christmas party the weekend after Christmas called a ???? (yolka) that has a program and is geared for kids. This year our church also did a program in the afternoon of Christmas day as well.

    We also have another namesday on 2/3 and then Presentation in the Temple on 2/15 so it feels like our holiday season runs from January 1-Feb 15. Water is blessed on Theophany and candles on Presentation, plus we try to get a priest in to bless the house sometime after Theophany (which involves a big brush and holy water).

    I don’t put up our tree/decorations until eve of St. Nicholas on 12/19 and everything comes back down again on eve of Theophany, so it is all up about a month, which feels about right for the number of people in our tiny house. We listen to Christmas music and do Christmas things during the 12 days. (And if you are counting, you’ll notice that there are 13 days from 1/7-1/19, but 1/18 is always a fasting (vegan) day to observe the eve of Theophany, so the 12th day is the 19th.

    Pascha is late for us this year, so the Triodion doesn’t start for a few weeks yet (the three weeks before Clean Week have their own rhythm and liturgics and form the Triodion, and then you are into Lent proper after Forgiveness Sunday).

    1. Loved reading about all your traditions-thanks for sharing. Makes me wonder, why would anyone choose the secular world’s celebration of Christmas over the Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox? So many wonderful feasts, and fasts!

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