We still have six days left – let’s enjoy them!
We still have six days left – let’s enjoy them!
Celebrating Christ’s birth with saints of the faith during the actual Christmas season.
A wonderful essay on exactly what it says: the importance of celebrating the real Twelve Days of Christmas!
Sometime in November, as things now stand, the “Christmas season” begins. The streets are hung with lights, the stores are decorated with red and green, and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and the glories of Santa Claus. The excitement builds to a climax on the morning of December 25, and then it stops, abruptly. Christmas is over, the New Year begins, and people go back to their normal lives.
The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in 12 days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany.
The “real” 12 days of Christmas are important not just as a way of thumbing our noses at secular ideas of the “Christmas season.” They are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation means in our lives. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history—the entry of God into the world he made, in the form of a baby.
The Logos through whom the worlds were made took up his dwelling among us in a tabernacle of flesh. One of the prayers for Christmas Day in the Catholic liturgy encapsulates what Christmas means for all believers: “O God, who marvelously created and yet more marvelously restored the dignity of human nature, grant that we may share the divinity of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” In Christ, our human nature was united to God, and when Christ enters our hearts, he brings us into that union.
… and much more wonderfulness. Read, mark, learn , and inwardly digest!
Throughout the last few hundred years, Europe has been a place where one could observe the most magical of Christmas scenes… to illustrate just how far we’ve fallen, it’s worth pointing out that one would find a more archetypal Christmas celebration in the Syrian city of Aleppo, rather than Frankfurt or Stockholm.
I have said for some time that while Bashar al-Assad is not exactly a saint or a schoolboy, he enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of his countrymen, probably in part – maybe in large measure – because he is a secular, rather than militant Islamic extremist, ruler, who may not tolerate much in the way of dissent, but in exchange protects all of his people, including women, and minority religions like Christianity. And at the moment, it looks like he’s doing a better job of it than most European countries…
Throughout the last few hundred years, Europe has been a place where one could observe the most magical of Christmas scenes. From Germany’s bustling markets, to the snow of Scandinavia and the rich religious celebrations of the Catholic and Orthodox countries, it was never difficult to find a scene worthy of valuable postcard. Today, of course, things are much different. And to illustrate just how far we’ve fallen, it’s worth pointing out that one would find a more archetypal Christmas celebration in the Syrian city of Aleppo, rather than Frankfurt or Stockholm.
That’s right; Syria’s once war-ravaged city is today the scene of an archetypal Christmas. They erect a huge, wonderfully lit tree in the city’s central square, as various groups in Santa costumes and elf imitations are busily engaged in entertaining the children. Even the churches are full, with vicars and priests holding open, welcoming public services including midnight mass and family services on Christmas Eve. There are no barriers to prevent truck attacks, very few visible security officers and certainly none armed to the hilt, as we could easily expect to see in Birmingham or Berlin.
Of course, there was once a time when many wondered if Aleppo would ever celebrate Christmas again. From 2012 to late 2016, the city was occupied by “rebel” forces – such as the US-backed Free Syrian Army, and the internationally acclaimed White Helmets – who, despite their western supporters’ claims to the contrary, were effectively Sunni extremists in the mould of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Christmas was strictly forbidden, and Burkas rigorously enforced. Under the guise of “pro-democracy” demonstrations, the so-called rebel groups had established an Islamist regime in which Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities were treated no better than slaves.
Yet on 22nd December 2016, the Syrian Arab Army finally recaptured the city in its entirety. After permitting the rebels a route out of the city – when most commanders would have been more inclined toward total annihilation – Assad’s forces finally flushed the remaining Islamist pigs from the city, with the assistance of the Russian Air Force. And what was the first act of the authorities once liberation had been secured? Renovating the Mosques? No; celebrating Christmas. Reopening the churches, decorating the square, erecting the tree – all courtesy of Assad’s regime…
And the trend continues, this year, as the above Tweet indicates. As a different Twitter commenter posted,
Sadly, no, I do not.
Her Majesty’s Christmas Broadcast for this year! I love her characterization of herself, as she recalls her first Christmas broadcast: “the presenter has evolved somewhat…” HM The Queen is a wonderful person, which fact is indissolubly linked to the fact that she is a remarkable Monarch. May God continue to bless her, and grant her long to live!
Home and family: curcial keys to the well-being of us all, “commoners” as well as Royals, and not just on Christmas, either. Blessings to her for her expression of her Christian faith! And prayers for the upcoming Commonwealth Summit.
~ by Sir Walter Scott (1808)
Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone:
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While Scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.
And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death to tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry makers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.
And from an earlier tradition – Christmas carols, songs, and motets from the Renaissance.
Carols of the Christmas season, from the classic English choral tradition.