Many people complain today about how commercial Christmas has become. Many years ago, we became disenchanted with the whole Santa thing, and found good resources to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” By using the senses of taste, smell, hearing, sight and touch, the real Christmas story can come alive.
Let’s take a look at some of the symbols of Christmas. A candy cane was originally made by a candymaker in Indiana who began with a stick of pure white, hard candy to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus; hard to symbolize the Solid Rock- the foundation of the Church, and the firmness of the promises of God.
The candyman made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Saviour and also represents the staff of the “Good Shepherd” with which He finds His sheep and lambs who have gone astray.
It has three small red stripes to represent the scourging Jesus received- the stripes by which we are healed! The large red stripe was for Jesus’ blood shed on the cross so that we have the gift of eternal life.
An Advent Wreath is a ring made of evergreens to remind us of life everlasting. The candles help us to mark the weeks; three are purple to represent penitence and waiting, and one is pink to remind us to rejoice for the Lord is near. In some countries, the candles are red, gold and the natural colour of beeswax to symbolize the precious busyness of our lives as we prepare for the coming of the King.
There are several saints’ feast days during the Advent and Christmas season that we can celebrate to help us prepare for the coming of the Christ-Child. Of course, St. Nicholas on Dec. 6th is a favourite in many countries. It is a good occasion to give the goodies without taking away from Jesus’ Birth.
Dec. 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is a great day to celebrate Our Lady. An “all-white” supper consisting of fish or chicken, mashed potatoes or rice, cole slaw made with winter cabbage and vinaigrette, milk, and a white cake or angel food cake with white frosting can certainly provide a great opportunity to talk about Our Lady
The Christmas tree is actually a Christian symbol. Green represents nature, the colour of life and living things. The evergreens symbolize eternal life that we find through Jesus. The different coloured balls represent all the different cultures and peoples of the world giving God glory. The lights remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. Once the tree is decorated, the family can pray a blessing on the tree, remembering the “Tree of Life” that eventually became the cross of Jesus.
Dec. 13th is a reminder of Saint Lucy, a brave young girl who was martyred for having helped hide fellow Christians in the catacombs and underground caves. She would put her oil lamp on her head to free her hands to carry the food to them. Traditionally, the youngest girl in the family would wear a crown of candles, and carry a basket of freshly baked buns called “Lussekatter” or “Lucy-Cats”, with hot chocolate to distribute to her family, who were still in bed (the only time of the year that the whole family gets breakfast in bed!)
In Hungary, they celebrate December 13th, the feast of St. Lucy by planting a handful of wheat seeds which represents Jesus. It is planted in a wide flowerpot, and kept in a warm room with daily watering, The person who waters the wheat prays: “All ye things that spring up in the earth, bless the Lord!”
At Christmas, this pot of new green wheat is placed at the foot of the crib, and remains there until Epiphany.
One tradition in our family is the five-day walk to Bethlehem. We read somewhere that Nazareth was approximately 70 miles from Bethlehem. This would give them an average of 14 miles to walk every day. At night, they probably had to find an out-of the- way corner or a shelter of some kind. Some of our children spend these four nights sleeping on the floor, as a penance, uniting their discomfort with that of Our Lady who suffered much more because of the imminent birth. Sometimes, they even talk us into letting them sleep in the barn for a night, and they come in with a much greater appreciation of the warmth and comforts of today!
Our favorite tradition is our Nativity play held on Christmas Eve at sunset outside. Every year we try to look at this age old story from a different perspective, that of the shepherds, townspeople, Mary, Joseph, etc. Our family and friends join us as we follow Joseph and Mary to the different innkeepers, hear the shepherds and the angels, and end up in the stable, where Baby Jesus is surrounded by angels, shepherds and guests. With as many animals as possible in the scene, we get the sights AND smells of the first Christmas. This particular tradition helps remind us of what Christmas is really about. Midnight Mass with goodies following gives a chance to celebrate with fellow parishioners the wonder and awe of the Christ-Child.
Before we open gifts, let us say a prayer to the Giver of all gifts, and thank Him for the bounty He has provided as well as the Greatest Gift of All, Jesus.
Epiphany brings the Three Kings and a blessing for the house. The Feast of the Holy Innocents gives a good chance to pray for the Unborn, and the Feastof the Holy Family, a special family day.
BLESSING OF THE HOME
Father: Peace be to this house.
All: And to all who dwell herein.
All (Antiphon): From the East the Magi came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures, they offered costly gifts: gold to the great King, incense to the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.
Mother: Read Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
(Father sprinkles home with holy water, other members of family may process around with him.)
All: Repeat Antiphon
Father: Bless O Lord, almighty God, this home that it be the shelter of health, chastity, self-control, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to the commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May blessing remain for all time upon this dwelling and them that live herein. Through Christ our Lord.
Father marks the lintels (above the exit doors) with blessed chalk in this form:
20 + C+ B + M + 08
The 20 and 08 represent the year, C, B, M are the three Magi, Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchoir. (1)
It is also fun to reenact the story of the Three Kings. King Herod can be an imposing figure and one year we studied the emotions expressed by all the participants. The Wise Men were awed, and Herod was perturbed. This word has somehow stuck in our memories for many years!
By observing these saints’ days, and doing something to help us remember that these are not just stories but living people who walked this earth, we can keep the focus where it should be, on Our Lord! There are many excellent resources to give ideas, crafts, recipes, and meditations on our website. Make Christmas a family affair and Keep Christ in Christmas!
Resources for this article:
(1) Nazareth Family Newsletter 1993