Catholic Activity: Religion in the Home for Elementary School: December
This section for the month of December covers the following areas: ADVENT: Preparation, Daily Doings, Acts
THINGS TO DO: The Crib, The Christmas Play, Christmas Carols
LESSON OF CHRISTMAS
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS: Trusting our children to God.
CHRISTMAS SONGS AND HYMNS
BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS
CARDS FOR CHRISTMAS
Nobody can forget the approach of Christmas. Advertisers keep pounding at us to buy gifts, and, as often as not, they reduce us to an unhappy state of mind, either because we cannot buy all we want to, or because we wear ourselves out shopping. Certainly no one should be fooled into thinking that the absurd Christmas rush is a fit celebration of the coming on earth of God Himself.
What shall we do? As for the Christmas rush business, of course each family has to work out a sane and reasonable scheme for itself. Children should be allowed the precious privilege of making some simple object for father and mother. The tree should be hung with little surprises. But our task is to look beyond the gift giving and to remind ourselves that Advent is a short season of preparation.
The old custom of saying 4,004 Hail Marys has one good effect, at least. It impresses upon children that for a very long time the world waited for Jesus, for thousands of years. We wait four weeks! Certainly then we must bestir ourselves to be ready in such a short time.
A short list of things to do follows:
- Attend daily Mass if you live near a church.
- Follow the Mass with a Missal, if possible, as proposed in November.
- Say frequently: "Come, "O Lord Jesus, and do not delay."
- Make acts—at least one a day by each member of the family.
The old custom of making "acts" should certainly be established in our homes. The command "Be good" is too vague. Goodness must be translated into specific acts. "Acts" can be of any variety.
- Sweep carpet for mother.
- Help with dishes without being grouchy.
- Empty trash basket daily.
- Run errands.
Acts of Self-Denial:
- Give up candy.
- Eat unpleasant things with a smile.
- Help sister or brother with lessons.
- Say extra prayers in morning or evening.
- Attend Mass and receive Communion.
- Recite Rosary.
THINGS TO DO
Preparing the Crib should be the work of the children.
The stable can be made out of a box, and figures of our Lady, the Infant Jesus, St. Joseph, the animals, the shepherds can be added if the family has them. A tiny doll laid in the straw is really all that is necessary.
Whether the crib be plain or elaborate, have family prayers said around it daily, until you take it down on January 12th.
The Christmas Play
Christmas plays are very easy to get up. The simplest is the tableau, one scene of our Lady, St. Joseph and the Baby. Most children like to make up conversation. They will have St. Joseph and our Lady talking as they travel to the inn. The scene at the inn is easy to imagine. Then the birth, when an angel comes carrying a doll to represent the Baby Jesus.
Families who have been using pictures will find that the children can make up plays easily, as from the pictures they will get ideas of all the scenes connected with the birth of the Lord.
A pleasant occupation for Advent is practicing Christmas carols. Some of these songs have come down to us from early days and we do not want our children to miss the joy of knowing them. If you live in a small town, perhaps you can keep up the old custom of going round on Christmas Eve early in the evening to sing carols outside the windows of your friends. A cheap set of Christmas carols can be obtained from G. Schirmer, Inc.1
LESSON OF CHRISTMAS
Wise parents will at some quiet hour start a discussion to find an answer to the question: Why was Christ born? Try to make the children get the true picture. God, the great, all-powerful Creator of all things, reigned from all eternity. Man, poor, foolish, unhappy man had been struggling on since the fall of Adam and Eve. Most men had even lost belief in God. Only the Jews remembered Him, and their attitude was one of awe and fear rather than one of love. God was too distant.
But God loved man and He sent His Son as a tiny Baby. Get the children to think why He came as a baby. They will think of good reasons. Lead them on to see that God wanted to be close to us, a little baby in our midst, because He loves us. One of His names, "Emmanuel," means God-with-us.
The point to make clear is that He came for love. Few people take in the fact vividly that God loves us, and that is, after all, the greatest fact in life. If He loves us, we love Him back. We don''t want to displease Him. We thank Him for loving us, knowing that the love of God for us is something so great that we cannot even begin to be grateful enough.
Once the children grasp this idea, many things become easy. Why the sunsets? Because God loves us.
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS
Let us trust our children to God, saying that He Who so loved the world as to send His only-begotten Son, is indeed worthy of our complete trust.
Any family lucky enough to have a grandmother or a grandfather living, hardly needs to be reminded that the blessing of having them cannot last long. Make them happy. Keep them in the center of things. Take them to Midnight Mass if they are able to go. Make them feel that they "belong" to the family more than ever on Christmas Day.
Start with Midnight Mass or at least early Mass and Communion. This is, of course, difficult unless the work has been planned ahead so that there is a chance for some sleep early on Christmas Eve. The whole day is naturally festive, but some of our mothers think that a little less overeating of heavy food would make the coming vacation week happier.
Apart from the dinner we should try to have a special celebration in the way of a family song-reunion as well as a home-made play or tableau.
CHRISTMAS SONGS AND HYMNS
Either mother or father or an aunt or older sister could train the children to sing Adeste Fideles and have a grand awakening on Christmas morning by letting the children run in to their parents with a song.
Later in the day, perhaps before supper, the whole family can get together for all the Christmas songs. The favorite ones are found in The Catholic Youth's Hymn Book,2 in The Catholic Church Hymnal,3 and in The St. Gregory Hymnal.4 Angels We Have Heard on High, we especially recommend, because in it is included the Christmas song of the angels, Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
If we parents study the programs as announced in the papers we shall find that several Catholic choirs sing Christmas carols over the air. Children are sure to love these.
Before the year ends we want to ask all Catholic parents to make a point of tuning in on The Catholic Hour every Sunday. Anyone who listens regularly and faithfully to that program, sponsored by the National Council of Catholic Men, cannot but receive real education in the Catholic way of life.
BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS
Parents who have not yet been able to secure the books mentioned each month will, we hope, manage to get some of them for Christmas. The custom of giving children books as gifts grows each year, and if a child has a bookshelf of his own, he will love watching his collection grow.
CARDS FOR CHRISTMAS
Since the sending of Christmas cards has become such a widespread custom, naturally all sorts of people have gone into the business of printing cards. The result has been sad. The stores are flooded with pictures of many styles having nothing at all to do with the birth of Christ.
In some parts of the country an effort is being made to induce shopkeepers to get in a supply of cards with pictures of the Nativity. Many of our parents make a point of asking the salesman: "Have you any religious Christmas cards?" or "Have you any cards with a picture of the event we celebrate on Christmas, the birth of Christ?"
If the answer is: "The dealer does not carry that line," get the shopkeeper to agree to tell the dealer that the customers want pictures suggesting the real meaning of the great feast.
Remember that it is the customer who creates the demand. Each of us should take some small part in showing that Catholics know what they want and that they buy intelligently.
1 Old Christmas Carols, edited by S. Archer Gibson, 1st set (No. 4374). New York: G. Schirmer, Inc. [Editor's Note: It is not necessary to get the exact book for Christmas carols, as there are myriads of editions that contain these carols. Choose one that suits your needs. --JGM]
2 Catholic Youth's Hymn Book, by the Christian Brothers. New York: J. Fischer & Bro. [Editor's Note: This hymnal is out of print. A good basic hymnal for a Catholic family is the Adoremus Hymnal, available from www.adoremus.org. I highly recommend the Organ edition (for $24.95) so that one can accompany the song on the piano, plus the CDs can help those in need of more musical help. --JGM]
3 The Catholic Church Hymnal, edited by A. Edmonds Tozer. New York: J. Fischer & Bro. [Editor's Note: See note above.]
4 St. Gregory Hymnal, Singers' Edition. Hymn No. 23. Philadelphia: The St. Gregory Guild. [Editor's Note:: This is now available in two editions. GIA Publications, www.giamusic.com, St. Gregory Hymnal and Catholic Choir Book Compiled by C. T. Andrews, 1979 abridged edition of the original collection edited by N. A. Montani. For 2 and 4 Voice Choirs. Paperback G-2291 8.50, Paperback Spiral bound G-2291-S 9.50. --JGM]
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938