Catholic Activity: Christmas Eve Supper
Christmas Eve is a festive time to enthrone the Christ Child in the manger, open gifts, and share in a special meal. Here are some suggestions, based on the traditional Polish Wigilia (Christmas Eve Meal).
After a day of fast and abstinence [Editor's Note: Fasting and abstaining are no longer required since Vatican II --JGM] — the spirit of which is kept by the children through simple one-dish meals and no nibbling on the Christmas goodies in-between — the Christmas Eve supper often assumes a festive air, especially in families where Christmas Eve is the traditional time to lay the Child in the manger and open the gifts. The supper table is beautifully set, but includes a handful of straw in the center, covered by a white cloth — a symbol of the manger. On this is placed a plate containing a large round piece of unleavened bread, a sign of Christ the living Bread come down from heaven to be born in Bethlehem, "The house of bread." The father of the family tells the meaning of the wafer — how the One Bread of Life makes us one in Him and in love of each other, and then he might read the Church's blessing for bread before he breaks and shares the wafer with each member of the family:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, bread of angels, living bread unto eternal life, bless this bread as You blessed the five loaves in the wilderness, that all who eat it with reverence may through it attain the corporal and spiritual health they desire."
After this, a special meal follows. If the family desires, the unleavened bread may be substituted by any of the Christmas breads made in the home.
Activity Source: Twelve Days of Christmas, The by Elsa Chaney, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1955