Skip to comments.Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Posted on 12/22/2008 7:54:00 PM PST by Salvation
See the Christmastide Overview page for more on the symbols of Christmas
And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
The long-awaited Messias is born, and His Nativity is filled with Mystery. Did you know that "Bethlehem" means "House of Bread"? Yes, the Bread of Life, the Living Bread from Heaven, was born in a town called "House of Bread" -- and, fortelling His future as the Bread of Life Who feeds His sheep, was laid in a manger. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (a.k.a. Gregory of Neocaesarea), A.D. 213 - ca. 270, describes the significance of the manger in his Homily on the Annunciation:
In the board from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide participation in spiritual sustenance for men who live like the beasts of the earth.
The Feast of the Nativity (see this page for some interesting information on the date of Christmas) is a most joyous one that celebrates the incredible reality that the Second Person of the Trinity was born of a Virgin so He could redeem us. "It was He, the Infant of days, that could appease, O Lord, the Ancient of Days," wrote St. Ephraem the Syrian and Doctor of the Church.
The Eighth of the Calends of January
Octavo Kalendas Januarii
The year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created heaven and earth, five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine:
Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit coelum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono:
From the deluge, the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven:
A diluvio vero, anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo:
From the birth of Abraham, the year two thousand and fifteen:
A nativitate Abrahae, anno bis millesimo quintodecimo:
From Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt, the year one thousand five hundred and ten:
A Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Aegypto, anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo:
From David's being anointed king, the year one thousand and thirty-two:
Ab unctione David in regem, anno millesimo trigesimo secundo:
In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel:
Hebdomoda sexagesima quinta juxta Danielis prophetiam:
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad:
|Olympiade centesima nongentesima quarta:|
From the building of the city of Rome, the year seven hundred and fifty-two:
Ab urbe Roma condita, anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo:
In the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus:
Anno imperii Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo:
The whole world being in peace:
toto urbe in pace composito,
In the sixth age of the world: Jesus Christ, the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months since his conception having passed, In Bethlehem of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary, being made Man:
sexta mundi aetate, Jesus Christus aeternus Deus, aeternique Patris Filius, mundum volens adventu suo piisimo consecrare, de Spiritu Sancto conceptus, novemque post conceptionem decursus mensibus, in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus homo:
THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH!
NATIVITAS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI SECUNDUM CARNEM!
How beautiful it would be to follow up the Proclamation with Psalm 148, Laudate Dominum de caelis:
Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens Praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created. He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all ye deeps: Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds which fulfill his word: Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars: Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls: Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth: Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the name of the Lord: For his name alone is exalted. The praise of him is above heaven and earth: and he hath exalted the horn of his people. A hymn to all his saints: to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him. Alleluia.
Alleluia laudate Dominum de caelis: laudate eum in excelsis . Laudate eum omnes angeli eius laudate eum omnes virtutes eius. Laudate eum sol et luna laudate eum omnes stellae et lumen. Laudate eum caeli caelorum et aqua quae super caelum est. Laudent nomen Domini quia ipse dixit et facta sunt ipse mandavit et creata sunt statuit ea in saeculum et in saeculum saeculi praeceptum posuit et non praeteribit. Laudate Dominum de terra dracones et omnes abyssi. Ignis grando nix glacies spiritus procellarum quae faciunt verbum eius. Montes et omnes colles ligna fructifera et omnes cedri : Bestiae et universa pecora serpentes et volucres pinnatae. Reges terrae et omnes populi principes et omnes iudices terrae : iuvenes et virgines senes cum iunioribus laudent nomen Domini : quia exaltatum est nomen eius solius. Confessio eius super caelum et terram et exaltabit cornu populi sui hymnus omnibus sanctis eius filiis Israhel populo adpropinquanti sibi. Alleluia.
While these beautiful words proclaim Christmas and praise God, the Christmas tree can be lit for the first time. The Christmas tree 4 will remain, like other Christmas decorations and symbols, at least until the Epiphany or its Octave, but more often, and more properly, until Candlemas (February 2). Some families decorate the tree as a family; in others, the parents decorate the tree outside of the children's sight, then darken the room, light candles and the tree's lights, play music, burn incense, and otherwise set a glorious scene before they lead the children into the room to enjoy the splendor, especially as close as possible to Midnight. Some parents have one special ornament that they will put on the tree last, hiding it so that the first child who finds it gets an extra present or privilege. 5
Of course, and most importantly, Baby Jesus must arrive in His crib this night! A ceremony is made of enthroning Baby Jesus in the manger, with the youngest child given the honor of placing the figurine in the manger as his siblings hold candles whose light symbolize the Light of Christ. This is the perfect moment to bring on the Christmas carols, starting now with "Silent Night."
After you've lit the tree and candles, and have enthroned Baby Jesus, tell your children how it is said that at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals fall to their knees in adoration and speak in Latin praising God! It is said that church bells can be heard ringing from the bottom of the sea, and that the honeybees awaken to sing the 99th Psalm!
A psalm of praise. Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy. Know ye that the Lord he is God: he made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Go ye into his gates with praise, into his courts with hymns: and give glory to him. Praise ye his name: For the Lord is sweet, his mercy endureth for ever, and his truth to generation and generation.
The earth's rivers are said to turn to wine, her trees to blossom, and she lets loose of some of her gems, too -- but one must have a totally pure heart to see and hear these things! Shakespeare wrote in Act I Scene I of Hamlet about how malignant spirits and witches are rendered harmless on Christmas Eve:
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch has power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
So holy is Christmas that folklore says that babies born today are considered especially blessed and able to see spirits, and those who die at the holy hour of Midnight tonight are said to enter straight into Heaven.
Mass is obligatory on Christmas, and this can be fulfilled by going to any one of three Masses:
The Midnight Mass, though, is the one most Catholics clamor to attend. If the family attends the Midnight Mass, it might be a good idea to have the children take naps after supper so they'll be alert for it and for the placing of Jesus in His Crib, the lighting of the Christmas tree, etc.
Gift giving is done differently by different Catholic households and in different (formerly) Catholic countries. Some families present gifts on December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas Bishop of Myra after whom "Santa Claus" was partly modelled. Many Catholics (such as Italian Catholics) present gifts on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, in imitation of the Magi. And some exchange them on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Stories are told to children to explain who brings the gifts, and they vary greatly around the world:
|Italy||La Befana (on the Epiphany)|
|Austria and Switzerland||Christkind|
|Mexico and Spain||the Three Kings (on the Epiphany)|
|United States||St. Nicholas (Santa Claus)|
|Poland||Mikolaj or St.Nicholas (on St. Nicholas's Day)|
Parents should be extremely careful with any stories they might want to tell their children in this way. If it is done in a very obvious manner of pretending, if it is done is such a way as to keep Christ the focus of the day, then fine. But one must be careful not to let one's children confuse fantasy with eternal Truth, to focus on the former more than the latter, or to get greedy. One option is to give one small gift to the children on 6 December (in honor of/"from" St. Nicholas/Santa Claus), another larger one on 25 December (in honor of/"from" Baby Jesus or "Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus"), and another small one on the Epiphany (in honor of/"from" the Magi or La Befana). One benefit of doing this is that you can still give to your children things they'd love to have, but Christmas won't be a deluge of commercialism; another is that the Feast of St. Nicholas and Twelfth Night (the Vigil of the Epiphany) will be more memorable for them.
In any case, though, as said, if parents tell stories of mysterious strangers who leave gifts, they really need to be careful not to conflate them with the Truth; there should be a most definite difference in the way these two things are spoken of, and of course, Christ should hold first place in the celebrations, with any fairy tales a very distant second. Parents shouldn't spoil their children too much either or allow them to become overcome by a spirit of greed. Christmas in the Western world truly is becoming seen as a secular day of merry-making and lust for material things; the holy meaning of this wondrous day needs to be restored. Limiting the number of gifts, limiting the prices of gifts, insisting only on homemade gifts, spreading the gift-giving out over St. Nicholas's day, Christmas, and Twelfthnight as mentioned above, etc., are some ways to defeat the intense commercialism.
Christmas Day is spent with family, feasting, enjoying one another's company, singing songs, playing games, telling stories...
What is better than being told a story? Below are links to the texts of a few classics you might want to download and share with your children. They are in Microsoft Word .doc format with a 1.6" left margin so they might be easily "hole-punched" and put into a notebook:
See also: The footnote on the page about the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen for an interesting legend positing a connection between Mary's midwife and the Magdalen's ointment.
Note: 25 December is also one of the 4 English "Quarter Days," days which fall around the Equinoxes or Solstices and mark the beginnings of new natural seasons (i.e., Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall) and which were used in medieval times to mark "quarters" for legal purposes, such as settling debts. The other days like this are: Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation) on March 25, the Feast of St. John on June 24, and Michaelmas on September 29.
1 An unscented candle can be scented by burning it a while, and then adding a few drops of fragrance oil (not essential oil, which is rather volatile) to the melted wax. For your Christ Candle during the 12 Days of Christmas, why not try cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and/or cedar and other pines?
2 From R. Chambers's "The Book of Days" (1869)
3 Some families decorate trees outside with foods that will keep the birds happy. Hang garlands made of strung popcorn, cranberries, raisins, other dried fruits, orange halves, etc., and decorate further with suet balls or other items treated with suet. You can make such suet treats by mixing together warm, melted suet fat, bacon grease, or lard with corn meal, oat meal, raisins and other dried fruits, chopped nuts, 1-2 T. peanut butter, sunflower seeds, etc. Dip pine cones into the mixture, or let cool, form into balls, wrap up in mesh, and let harden.
4 Tips for Christmas trees:
5 There's a relatively recent American custom regarding the hiding of a special ornament for children to find. It's become not uncommon for parents to hide a green glass ornament shaped like a pickle -- and called the "German Pickle." This practice poses as an old-country German tradition, but is actually a charming German-American one -- and a clever one, too, in that the green pickle is challenging to spot among the green branches.
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Merry Christmas a couple of days early!
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A Blessed Christmas to you and your family.
Merry Christmas! Thanks for all the wonderful threads you post.
I AM OUTTA HERE ~ the Catholic threads ~ TILL SOME TIME AFTER CHRISTMAS!
You all have a wonderful and blessed one!
Thank you Lizol, and a very merry Christmas to you and your wonderful Poland. May God Bless you all at this Holy time.
Oops wrong reply button but Merry Christmas just the same.
May you and all of Poland forever rejoice at God's gift to all mankind!
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Wesolych Swiat i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku!
Thanks for all of your postings and pictures. They are much appreciated.
We were discussing today — is creamed herring more for Christmas Eve / Christmas or is it more a New Year’s tradition?
Christmas Eve, defintely :-)
All the meals served during traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper are fasting ones (no meat, no poultry). And various kinds of fish are the most popular (usually herring and carp - served in many, many ways).
Most beautiful work of art. Thanks so much for posting. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Thank you Lizol, and a blessed Christmas to you.
I love the picture you posted!
Merry Christmas and many blessings for the new year.
Thank you for the wonderful work you do on FR!
Thanks and Merry Christmas FReepers!
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Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment
Merry Christmas to you and to all at Free Republic!
The custom I was taught was that if you ate creamed herring at midnight on New Years Day, you would have good luck all that year.
A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and all on FR!
Blessed Christmas and thanks for all your efforts.