Epiphany is here . . . so is your tree still up? It doesn’t really matter if a tree is up as long as you are continuing the Christmas celebration. According to the Church calendar, Christmas continues until Epiphany (some say it ends on Candlemas, even though there’s some ordinary time thrown in there . . . so to your digression).
Here are the books we keep out year round for our family but make sure we read around Epiphany.
We’ve had this book for a few years now. If I had to choose favorite Christmas books for toddlers and pre-K, this would be in the top ten. The pages are simply beautiful. The art and colors pull you into the details, and while the text is simple enough for small children, you can expand for older kids. My 1st and 3rd grader love to read it to their younger siblings and tell them the story. We keep it out for easy reach following Christmas especially.
Originally published under the title “Small Camel Follows the Star” you can still find this book under its slightly shorter title. It follows the life of a small camel from his mother whispering to him what great things he can do to being a part of the caravan the kings took to find King Jesus. Told through the eyes of the small camel, this adventure captures the imagination and is good for all the ages I’m currently reading bedtime stories for. Why do I love this book? They follow the star to find Joseph working as a carpenter and Mary looking after toddler Jesus! It’s far more accurate in timing and told in this lovely storybook.
I have never read this particular legend without a tissue nearby. “Crazy old Befana” will win your heart with how she is crabby with everyone around her, is irritated by a bright star and bakes and cleans. When she is visited by a caravan of kings on their way to find a new king, she sends them on their way rejecting their invitation to join them. She almost immediately regrets her decision, packs everything she had saved from her own baby and a broom (because Mary is a new mother, she needs someone to care and clean while she rests, after all!) and sets out.
She doesn’t find the caravan, but she stops at every house on the eve of Epiphany (to this day) leaving treats for kids and cleaning up with her broom for mothers she finds along the way as she searches. Befana is celebrated especially in Italy.
The Holy Family is fleeing Bethlehem having been warned by the angel that Hared is after them. They come across a cave and need to rest for the night. Cold a weary, they go into a special spiders cave. Spotting danger of the guards sent on the massacre of the Holy Innocents, the spider makes a clever decision. And I can’t spoil the rest for you! If you find a spider ornament on Christmas trees throughout Europe, it’s more than gross or curious, it’s a nod to this legend.
This one isn’t really about the kings at all, but rather a good tie in with the Grumpy Befana from above, and it does depict the Holy Family leaving the site of Christ’s birth. The “Grumpy Old Ox” is a difficult one. He is blind, lame, and alone. However, even he is moved to provide whatever he can for the Holy Family as they come to his stable. His warmth, his space, his water, his manger of hay. He gives all the simple things he has. Later, after the Holy Family departs, he uses the items and is miraculously healed! He jumps and leaps for joy and is so thankful for the Holy Family who visited and changed his life forever.