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Celebrating ADVENT and CHRISTMAS -
a Sourcebook for Families

Sourcebooks no longer in print.

Pope John Paul II has repeatedly referred to the family as the "Domestic Church". In his exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, the pope refers to the home as "the little Church", and speaks of the way families must make God present to each of its members -- parents and children -- and to the world. Each "little Church" must radiate the life-giving power of Faith, the courage and comfort of Hope, and the strength of generous, self-giving Love. For this is how we respond to Christ's command to evangelize -- to bring the "good news" of Salvation to all the world.

In a society such as ours, where the family has been weakened by cultural forces that undermine and threaten its integrity almost daily, it is essential that we Christians accept our responsibility to make the liberating Truth of Christ known first of all to our own families. This is, in fact, our true vocation.

The liturgy of the Church, her work among us, is the principal means by which most of us receive nourishment for our task as Christians. The feasts and seasons of the Church year, in generations past, formed the basis for a Christian culture -- a culture that is rapidly being lost. Modern civilization, for all its many benefits, seems to regard religious belief as quaint, at best; many of our "enlightened" contemporaries regard religious ritual as a survival of ignorance and superstition, which are oppressive and a dangerous threat to human freedom. Those who recognize the power of religious symbols and customs to form the identity of a people, but who reject the Church and the truth she teaches, seek to "demythologize" Christianity, and attempt to supplant the authentic liturgical heritage of Catholic culture with another -- often based on an idea of pre-Christian (or, frankly, pagan) religious practices. It is up to us, who know the Lord and love His Church, to help correct these errors.

And that is where this book (and others in our Family Sourcebook series) may be helpful to Catholic families. Many parents are concerned about the excessive commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. Although giving and receiving of the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind makes gift-giving appropriate, we are only too conscious of the media-hype that almost totally obscures the reason for this activity. Most of us remember Christmas celebrations of our childhood as being high points of our young lives. We want to make the celebration of Our Savior's birth important to our children, too -- for the right reasons.

Several years ago a new icon appeared: a fat, jolly, gift-bearing American Santa Claus kneeling in prayerful adoration before the Baby Jesus. We can see a bit of irony in this image, of course -- American commercialism paying homage to the Inspiration for all the buying and selling during the biggest merchandising season of the year. But the representation of Santa Claus, the beloved Saint Nick of our childhood, as actually worshipping Christ is also a surprisingly novel and rather touching attempt to re-Christianize what has become an essentially secular "saint".

There is no lack of truly Christian symbols, however. Many traditions connected with observances of Christmas have their origins in Christian, not pagan, culture, despite what we often read. Our heritage of holiday traditions learned from our families which we faithfully continue to practice in our homes for our own children helps to "connect" both the past and the future. We can make this vital link even stronger when such practices are informed by vigorous faith that most of us also received, by the Grace of God, through our families.

We have collected here information about Advent and Christmas customs from many cultural traditions. We have included historical notes, prayers and instructions for making truly Christian celebrations in your own little Church, and we hope you will find these ideas useful. We also invite you to make suggestions for inclusion in a future edition.

Because America has been and continues to be, indeed, the melting pot for an immensely rich variety of cultures and ethnic groups (most American families today are a true blend of several distinct cultures), it seemed to us appropriate to introduce this collection to you on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Patronal Feast of our nation. May you and your family ever grow in the knowledge and love of God and His Son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ. This Christmas and always, may "God bless us, every one."

Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 8, 1989

A Note about the Third Edition:

Thanks to many suggestions and requests from readers of the earlier editions of Celebrating Advent & Christmas, we have revised this edition accordingly. Our effort and our goal is to be of assistance to families in transmitting the Catholic faith to their families and to the world; for the witness of a Catholic family to friends and community is an essential evangelizing role -- extremely important in accomplishing the Mission of the Church to bring Christ's salvation to all people.

We hope this book, and the second book in our series, Lent & Easter Sourcebook for Families, will deepen your own understanding of the Catholic faith, and will help you to share your faith with your neighbors, your parish and your community. As always, we invite your comments and suggestions.

The Editorial Staff of
Women for Faith & Family

Sourcebooks no longer in print.

Advent Wreath Coloring Page

Jesse Tree [PDF version]

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