J.B., Wappingers Falls, NY
A. The proper way to celebrate Christmas is to return to those days when Catholics understood the meaning of the many praiseworthy customs surrounding this greatest of all historical events since the flood.
Among the first steps to be taken to restore right order in our own conduct, is to understand the meaning and purpose of the four Sundays preceding the feast of Christmas, namely, Advent.
Advent is a time of spiritual preparation; a time of examining one's conscience and making firm purposes to amend one's life. Not just pious prattle and lip-service. A time to make the "firm purpose of amendment" something real; something that actually changes our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. Offenses against God become almost second-nature when the same acts are repeated often. Therefore, a firm resolve to change one's way of thinking, talking and acting to be more conformed to the example given us by Jesus Christ, His Blessed Mother and all the Saints is in order.
We must show that we truly mean what we say by acting out our expressed wishes. Here is where the difference between real and wishful thinking show up. Hell is paved with good intentions because `good intentions' are those formulated by the intellect but never executed by the will.
Remember: We do what we want to do, and not what we know we ought do.
We should have the courage to politely refuse participation in those quasi-orgies euphemistically termed "office parties." They are completely out of place. And, if any of your hedonistic co-workers insist that you offend God as they are doing, then courteously inform such that this is your "cultural" observance of this time.
Actually, you would not be wrong. For, every culture is an expression of the highest values of that group. We should not feel either embarrassment or intimidation for our culture. Our culture is based on the highest and most noble ideals and has not grown out of either cannibalism or human sacrifice. To sink to the level of those "cultures" that exploit the degradation of the human spirit is not worthy of anyone bearing the name "Christian."?
So, the first thing to do is to make that effort to resist following the mindless mob. How? Do not put up and illuminate your Christmas tree until at least suppertime on Christmas Eve. Remember: You are putting up a CHRISTMAS tree. What does that mean?
It means that the evergreen tree is a beautiful symbol of the eternal life, which our Creator gives us through the Incarnate Son, Jesus. That is why we call it a "Christmas" tree and not a "winter solstice" tree.
We adorn the Christmas tree with glittering and sparkling ornaments. These ornaments may be cheap as far as their cost is concerned; but they represent the sparkle of diamonds and precious stones worthy of our King, which we are unable to afford.
It is a source of great jubilation to suddenly see the Christmas tree lit up and symbolizing the true `advent' _ the `arrival' of our long-awaited and prophesied Redeemer. This is the reason for our joy and this is the reason for the Christmas tree. It expresses our profound existential culture in greeting the Author of our existence.
Then, there is the matter of gift giving. In many countries, it was the custom to exchange gifts on the feast of the Three Kings _ Epiphany. This again symbolized our ancient culture of recognizing the historical even when the three kings, or wise men, came to visit the Christ Child. They brought gifts as our historical records tell us. The gifts were those befitting a God-King and Redeemer: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Advent is the season to take time with the children: instructing them as to the great significance of the season of Christmas. Note: We speak of the `season' of Christmas. This `season' is not one day. It does not end with dinner on Christmas Day. It only begins with Christmas Day and extends to the Feast of the Epiphany. It is during the octave of Christmas (at least!) that our joy and jubilation should continue. Our Christmas trees should be kept lighted during all that time.
And, if the Christmas Crib is used, then the figures of the Magi should not be placed until the feast of the Epiphany.
All the different customs that arose are so many little ways to remind us of our sacred culture.
Our culture goes beyond the narrow limitations of hedonists and other flesh-oriented cultures. Just as the value in art transcends the passing fads of each generation to be enshrined in the halls of art and music from generation to generation, so, too, our culture surpasses the fleeting and feeble efforts of lesser cultures. After all, our culture extends all the way back to the appearance of the first man and woman on this earth. It is has developed throughout the millennia, being perfected internally in its organic evolution.
If we do these little things, we will give honor to our culture and will introduce others to its beauty and goodness.
Return to Contents
Return to Homepage.