Have you heard of the customary child blessing on Childermas?
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, which is also known as Childermas in Old English.
According to EWTN,
“The Feast of the Holy Innocents, or Childermas in Old English, commemorates the death of the male children in Bethlehem who were two years of age or under. King Herod the Great ordered this to ensure that the infant Messiah sought by the Magi would be unable to displace him on his throne. This is why Saint Joseph was told in a dream to take the Child and the Blessed Virgin and flee to Egypt to escape the persecution of King Herod.”
The Feast of the Holy Innocents, or Childermas, offers a few liturgical living opportunities.
Aside from learning the history of this feast, there are things we can do as Catholics to celebrate in our own homes–especially as parents!
The Youngest Child Rules
Chad Pecknold, resident theologian and professor at the Catholic University of America, revealed a popular custom for this day.
“There’s a great Catholic custom that the youngest child of the family ‘rules’ on Childermas, Feast of the Holy Innocents,” Pecknold explains in his post on X, (formerly Twitter).
There’s a great Catholic custom that the youngest child of the family “rules” on Childermas, Feast of the Holy Innocents.
It’s a beautiful reversal of the most terrifying part of the Christmas story of the first martyrs.
Holy Innocents, pray for us. pic.twitter.com/98hbFDoU57
— Chad Pecknold (@ccpecknold) December 28, 2023
This means that the youngest child in the family decides the meals, activities, and more!
Other sources elaborate, suggesting that if you have more than one small child in your home, you may divide up responsibilities.
Bless Your Children
It is also customary for parents to bless their children on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
How to Bless Your Children
As a parent, you can bless your children!
Of course, it does not take the place of a priestly or sacramental blessing, but it is still a special gift to your children.
As Father Ronald Vierling explains, you can “simply sign a cross on the child’s forehead with the right thumb dipped in holy water,” saying:
“May God bless you, and may He be the Guardian of your heart and mind—the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
An old English name for the feast of the Holy Innocents is Childermas. It is a Catholic custom for parents to formally bless their children on this feast.
Parents can simply sign a cross on the child’s forehead with the right thumb dipped in holy water and say: May God bless… pic.twitter.com/8fY2TAfoYJ
— Father V (@father_rmv) December 28, 2023
You can also begin the feast day as a family with this prayer:
Ye holy Innocents, blest Babes, earliest martyrs of Jesus Christ, the King of martyrs, how bright a life was won by that sharp death! Beautiful little martyrs of the holy Child, your eyes soon closed upon the dull mists of earth, to open upon untold glories. Bitter and short the passage, but oh, how passing sweet the end! How sweet to have died for Him Who came to give His life for you! Pray for me, ye stainless ones, before the Throne, that I too, unworthy and wayward as I am, may come to be with those who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Most Holy Child Jesus, save Thy children.
According to the USCCB, the Church encourages blessing your children daily.
They provide the following to do so:
“One of the following short blessings may be said by the parent at various times, such as when a child is going to play or to school, but especially when the child is going to bed each night. The parent makes the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead or heart and says one of the following blessings.May God bless you.
May God keep you safe.
God be with you.
God be in your heart.
May God bless and protect you.“