Chalking the door

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A Christmas wreath adorning a home, with the top left hand corner of the front door chalked for Epiphanytide and the wreath hanger bearing a placard of the Archangel Gabriel

Chalking the door is a Christian Epiphanytide tradition used in order to bless one's home, as well as a Scottish custom of landlord and tenant law.

Epiphanytide[edit]

Either on Twelfth Night (January 5), the twelfth day of Christmastide and eve of the feast of the Epiphany, or on Epiphany Day (January 6) itself, many Christians (including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, among others) chalk their doors with a pattern such as this, "20 † C † M † B † 12", with the numbers referring "to the calendar year (20 and 12, for instance, for the year 2012); the crosses stand for Christ; and the letters have a two-fold significance: C, M, and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), but they are also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, May Christ bless this house."[1] In some localities, but not in all, the chalk used to write the Epiphanytide pattern is blessed by a Christian priest or minister on Epiphany Day; Christians then take the chalk home and use it to write the pattern.[2] This Christian custom of chalking the door has a biblical precedent as the Israelites in the Old Testament marked their doors in order to be saved from death; likewise, the Epiphanytide practice serves to protect Christian homes from evil spirits until the next Epiphany Day, at which time the custom is repeated.[3] Families also perform this act because it represents the hospitality of the Holy Family to the Magi (and all Gentiles); it thus serves as a house blessing to invite the presence of God in one's home.[4]

the blessing of homes, on whose lintels are inscribed the Cross of salvation, together with the indication of the year and the initials of the three wise men (C+M+B), which can also be interpreted to mean Christus mansionem benedicat, written in blessed chalk; this custom, often accompanied by processions of children accompanied by their parents, expresses the blessing of Christ through the intercession of the three wise men and is an occasion for gathering offerings for charitable and missionary purposes[5]

Chalking of Doors in Scotland: A historical method to notify tenants of eviction[edit]

In Scotland through the mid to late 1800s, chalking the primary door of a tenement was a way of notifying residents that they must move from their residence by a given day.[6]

By custom, leases and other similar contracts began or ended on the Scottish Term Days, Whitsunday and Martinmas. If a landlord wished to evict tenants in a particular tenement, the law dictated that, at the landlords' request, a burgh officer, in presence of witnesses, would chalk the primary door of the tenement forty days before Whit Sunday. The burgh officer would then record the fact that the chalking had been accomplished and this document was signed by the officer and the witnesses.[7]

The chalking indicated to tenants that they must vacate the premises by Whitsunday, when the lease expired. Tenants who failed to vacate by that date could then be evicted on six days notice via a so-called "charge". [8][9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Essick, Amber; Essick, John Inscore (2011). "Distinctive Traditions of Epiphany" (PDF). Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier. 1988. p. 512. ISBN 9780717201198. 
  3. ^ Pennick, Nigel (21 May 2015). Pagan Magic of the Northern Tradition: Customs, Rites, and Ceremonies. Inner Traditions – Bear & Company. 
  4. ^ Mazar, Peter (2015). To Crown the Year: Decorating the Church through the Seasons (Second ed.). LiturgyTrainingPublications. p. 241. ISBN 9781616711894. 
  5. ^ http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html
  6. ^ Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, entry "CHALKING OF DOOR, CHALKING THE DOOR", http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/chalking_of_door, accessed 11 June 2018
  7. ^ Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, entry "CHALKING OF DOOR, CHALKING THE DOOR", http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/chalking_of_door, accessed 11 June 2018
  8. ^ A Dictionary and Digest of the Law of Scotland: With Short Explanations of ... By William Bell, entry "Chalking of Door", p. 139 https://books.google.com/books?id=a6xBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139&dq=scotland+chalking+whitsun&source=bl&ots=pwAY195RX7&sig=VVl5dP2_xBCedpCfrcdD5T-EJL4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj6tYSsiM3bAhVi34MKHQdpDA0Q6AEIPTAC#v=onepage&q=scotland%20chalking%20whitsun&f=false Accessed 11 June 2018
  9. ^ Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, entry "CHARGE", http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/snds1772, accessed 11 June 2018

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chalking the Door". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]