There are many beautiful ways to celebrate the Holy Season of Christmas! If you are like me, I am always trying to find ways to make the season holier and less secular for my children. Some of the traditions below you may be familiar with and practice. Perhaps you will find some new traditions or twists to the traditions that your family will enjoy for years to come!
The Christmas Crib or Crèche
The crib used in the manger scene in it’s present form is credited to Saint Francis of Assisi. The animals in the nativity scene, usually the ass and ox, are traditionally part of the picture. Saint Francis was following tradition when he had these animals placed near the manger.
You can involve your family by waiting until Christmas Eve to place the Christ Child in the crèche. Leave your nativity scene set up through Epiphany. On the Feast of Epiphany add your wise men to the scene. Family members, especially children, will look forward to this tradition!
If you don’t have statues, use pictures. Set up a Christmas “bulletin board” and place the pictures at the appropriate times. You might want to play a game to determine who gets to put the Christ child into the crèche or on the board.
The Christ Candle
Light a large candle on Christmas Eve to symbolize the coming of Jesus. Let it burn throughout the night.
Let your children help you pick out a “Special Candle” for your Christ Candle. It can be very large or very beautiful and unique. Something that stands out.
The Christmas Tree
The origin of the Christmas Tree goes back to medieval Germany. One popular form of entertainment at that time was the “mystery play”. One of the most popular “mysteries” was the Paradise play. The Paradise play represented the creation of man, the sin of Eve and Adam, and their subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden. A fir tree hung with apples represented the Garden of Eden. The tree symbolized both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of Discernment of Good and Evil”. After the suppression of the mystery plays in churches, the Paradise Tree, found its way into the homes of the faithful.
Today in Germany, Christmas Eve begins in the late afternoon. The family gathers to decorate the Christmas tree, using real candles. The candles are lit after all the other ornaments have been hung. There is usually music around the tree and a nativity play in which is preformed early in the evening. After presents are exchanged, the family has a Christmas Dinner together. The children go to bed and are then awakened in time for Midnight Mass.
Let your children put on a Christmas Program for your family in front of the Christmas tree. The older children can help the younger ones. They can make a “program” with Christmas Carols for all of the adults to sing. If there is a piano player in your family, “draft” him or her to help out.
Today Mass is said on Christmas because it is generally believed that Christ was born at that hour. The Church has never officially stated that Midnight is the time for the first Mass, it has only prescribed that the Mass be said “in nocte” (during the night).
If you are worried your children might be too tired to attend Midnight Mass, give them a nap earlier in the day! The excitement will build all day that they will be attending Midnight Mass with Mom and Dad! In some churches Confession is offered right before Midnight Mass and would be a wonderful time to make that last offering of yourself to Jesus before the Celebration of His Birth.
Exchanging Christmas Gifts is a combination of two old European customs. The first custom was that the children would wake up and Christmas presents would be arranged under the Christmas tree. They believed that the Christ Child had come in the night of December 25th or on Christmas Eve and left the presents. The second custom, which most Americans celebrate, is that of Saint Nicholas. Traditionally, children looked forward to Saint Nicholas coming in the night of his Feast Day on December 6th. He left gifts in their stockings; they were usually hung on the fireplace to dry.
Most Americans celebrate the tradition (with a few modifications) of Saint Nicholas. We call him Santa Claus and he comes on Christmas Eve.
This year, find out about the life of the Actual Saint Nicholas. Pray a novena to him as a family or have your children draw pictures of him. Find Saint Nicholas Prayer Cards and put them in the stocking this year with the other goodies.
If you open gifts on Christmas Day, exchange one gift every Christmas Eve. Talk about how gifts of the Christmas Feast were given to the baby Jesus by the wise men. Bring Jesus into the holidays every chance you get!
The Poinsettia, also called the “flower of the holy night”, is a native plant from Central America. It is widely used in churches and homes at Christmastime, because the flaming star of its red bracts resembles the star of Bethlehem. The Poinsettia was named after the United States Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. Upon his return to the United States, he brought this flower with him to his home in South Carolina, where it flourished.
Happy Birthday Jesus
A wonderful way to celebrate Christmas with young children is to have a Birthday Party for Jesus. This is usually done on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Bake a cake and decorate it with “Happy Birthday Jesus”. Sing happy birthday and then exchange a special gift in his honor. If you have a wooden statue of Jesus that is small, bake it into the cake. You children will be thrilled when they find it!
A beautiful Austrian Tradition is to write a letter to the Christkind, the Christ Child. These letters are written by children and adults. They contain resolutions and wishes for gifts.
Be sure to ask your guardian angel to deliver your letter to the Christ Child! The Austrians believe they are delivered in this manner!
My wish for all of the Catholic Moms and friends who visit this site is a very beautiful and Holy Christmas Season! Keep Christ in the center and you will build memories and treasures in your children’s hearts.
Have a Blessed Christmas,
CatholicMoms.com and SaintsMarket.com
Leave a comment and let us know what some of your favorite traditions are!