Every year, the week after Christ the King’s feast, Christians all over the world begin a season of waiting, hoping and praying for the Savior who is to come. Four weeks of Advent followed by twelve days of Christmas ends with the feast of Epiphany on Jan 6th, which the Church now celebrates on the first Sunday after New Year.
In the season of Advent, the wreath plays an important role in aiding the family to prepare for the birth of Jesus. The wreath has four candles, lit on each Sunday and symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. The circle with its evergreen leaves symbolizes the eternal love of God.
In the week before Christmas, there is an ambience of carol-singing as family members gather to prepare sweets and decorate their home. The star is placed in the balcony, the Christmas tree is adorned with bells, tinsel and other ornaments, and the nativity scene is assembled near the altar or sometimes in an open space outside for people to admire.
Come Midnight and suddenly in the silence the church bells peel out their joy, heralding the dawn of new life – the birth of the Messiah. Tis Christmas, tis Christmas, come all to the manger to see the baby that will soon be king, they seem to say. After a prayerful church service, the community fellowships with some cake and coffee whilst merrymakers whisk off to enjoy some dancing at a local venue.
Christmas morning vanishes in a round of sweet distributions to well-wishers and friends amidst phone calls and smses to all near and far around the globe, then the family sits down to a wholesome lunch prepared with much love by the Mama of the house.
The twelve days of Christmas are usually spent in making those visits to relatives that never got done throughout the year. These days are also spent in prayerful reading of the birth narratives of Jesus from the Gospels. Family day is celebrated in parishes with a function for families where they can meet, play games and fellowship.
And at the end of it all, before the star is put off and the crib and tree put away, the feast of Epiphany is celebrated to remember the wise men of the East who came to worship the king of the Universe.
In our home, this season holds a special place because it gives my husband and me an opportunity to teach our children about the Christian faith that we hold so dear.
Every Sunday of Advent, we go to a different cross and light an Advent candle there, then we visit some known family in that area. The Advent wreath is lit at home during Rosary time. This year, the children hand-painted wreaths made from throwaway paper plates: each time they did a good deed, a heart was stuck onto it.
The children made decorations this year instead of ready-made ones and helped with marzipan and milk toffees. Nathan, my 7-year-old son, had prepared a good deed box for his Cathechism class, which he insisted we keep near Baby Jesus on Christmas day.
The crib was made from used plastic bottles, dried mushrooms from the colony compound, discarded thermocole, soil from our pots, etc. in keeping with the motto Wealth from Waste. This we had seen when we went to the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa for the star and crib competition.
The twelve days of Christmas were spent visiting one family a day. The children wore Santa caps and sang carols at each home. We also attended the Family day function in our parish and had a gala time.
And as a grand finale, we organized a children’s party for Epiphany. That night the star was lit for the last time as the wise men were kept for the first time in the crib in a solemn procession. The children enacted the Magi story, costumes et al (my 7-month-old boy was Baby Jesus). We prepared Christmas treats for them to take home.
All in all, an ACE season of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany for us Goans to renew ourselves, revel in the joy of Jesus’ birth and restore faith in Him for all mankind to savor.
Published on 8th Jan 2012 in Herald.