Catholic Activity: Christmas Music and Stories
Christmas carols and stories are always favorites of everyone in celebrating Christmas. The suggestions for Christmas stories by Elsa Chaney are some older, classical stories. Most of these books are out of print, but would be fun to search for used copies to share with your children.
In some homes Christmas carols are never heard until the Eve of the feast — instead, the poignant Advent music which seems to convey the spirit of the season in its melodies is sung until the vigil day. And then the Christmas carols are fresh and new. Even those families not accustomed to sing together find the Christmas music an excellent beginning for family song.
Most carols can be sung by the whole family, but it is a good custom for older children to prepare and present a program of the more difficult or less common ones. This is a wonderful opportunity, too, for those members of the family who play a musical instrument to make a contribution by accompanying the singers, presenting a special solo or joining one another to produce a grand ensemble.
Nearly every family has several favorite Christmas stories which are cherished. Children always enjoy hearing again familiar legends and stories, especially towards the end of an exciting Christmas Day. Some families like to build up their repertoire of Christmas literature by trying out one or two new stories or poems each year. There are an increasing number of excellent Christmas stories available today in libraries and bookstores. Some suggestions are listed below and on the following pages.
"Dulci Donum," from The Wind In The Willows, by Kenneth Graham. Christmas spirit on the river bank from one of the best animal books for children ever written.
"The Crib of Bo'Bossu," from The Long Christmas, by Ruth Sawyer. Viking Press, New York, 1941. A French tale of a hunchback whose heart is set on carving a beautiful crib for our Lady's Child. Good to read with the children around the crib.
"The Gold of Bernardino," from The Long Christmas. An ancient legend telling how the first crib scene came to be placed in a Spanish church. Charming in its simplicity — and perfect for reading aloud the night the Christmas crib is set up, for it explains the significance of offering ourselves to the Child.
"The Voyages of Wee Red Cap," from The Long Christmas. An Irish fairy tale to be read on the Eve of St. Stephen, when the "wee folk" show an Irish "Scrooge" how to shake loose from his gold.
"The Shepherds," from The Long Christmas. Across the skies on that holy night rings the sound of combat as Archangel Michael defeats Satan, and a little Spanish boy leads the shepherds to Bethlehem.
"Legend of the Christmas Rose," by Selma Lagerlof, from The World's Greatest Christmas Stories, ed. Eric Posselt. Prentice-Hall, New York, 1950. The well-known Swedish legend about the forest that is transformed at the miraculous hour of Christ's birth.
"Which of the Nine?" by Maurus Jokai, from The World's Greatest Christmas Stories. How can a poor shoemaker decide to give away one of his children? Why, even the songs they sing are more precious than all the gold in the world. Could be read to set the mood for an evening of singing together.
"The Oak of Geismar," by Henry van Dyke, from Christmastide, ed. William J. Roehrenbeck. Stephen Daye Press, New York, 1948. How the Gospel and the green fir tree were brought to the heathens of Germany in the eighth century by a band of English pilgrims.
"The Noel Candle," by Clement C. Moore, from Christmastide. The custom of lighting a candle in the window on Christmas Eve may have originated in this way.
"The Holy Night," by Selma Lagerlof, from Christmastide. Like the shepherd, we too could see the angels that fly down from heaven on Christmas Eve if we only had the right kind of eyes.
"The Ox and the Ass at the Manger," by Jules Supervielle, from The Greatest Bible Stories, ed. Anne Freemantle. Stephen Daye Press, New York, 1951. A completely charming character study of the two most envied animals in history.
"The Nativity of Our Lord," from The Golden Legend, by Jacobus de Voragine. Longmans, Green and Co., New York, 1948. An example of the freshness and simplicity of medieval devotion.
"Where Love Is, There God Is Also," by Leo Tolstoy, from What Men Live By. Pantheon Books, New York, 1944. The story of a poor shoemaker who wondered what he would do if the Lord came to be his guest.
"Christmas on the Village Square," by Henri Gheon. A Christmas presentation by a band of gypsies. Delightful for an informal reading.
Activity Source: Twelve Days of Christmas, The by Elsa Chaney, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1955