Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gifts of Christmas: Will They Last?

We do our best, as parents, to offer our sons a life of faith and fun. We talk to them about our beliefs and they see us living our faith, however imperfectly, every day in the ways in which we work and love and encounter friends and strangers. Will this faith "stick?" Will they learn to weave this ancient faith of ours into their hearts so it becomes their own? Will they come understand that Christ's birth is not a sentimental event but rather a daily reality?

Over the years we have gradually changed how we celebrate Christmas; my husband and I focus more on the experiences - both secular and religious - that we have as a family, instead of on the gift giving.

This year we made a big deal of sharing Advent dinners, baking gingersnaps, watching old movies together as well as inviting a large group of friends to a potluck on Dec. 23. We will be visiting with grandparents and aunts and uncles later in the week.

And of course, we attended Christmas Mass. My sons and I walked a bridge over a moonlit river and into a clear, star-filled night to Midnight Mass. My husband drove over so we could all head home together.

As Pope Benedict XVI said in his Christmas address: "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light,"

Both our sons asked only for one gift each for Christmas and didn't expect any more. (Though they received more in the form of books and clothes.)

I was moved, too, that our 15 year-old bought me a hand-knit wool hat from a young lady down the block with a fledgling home business. I have been wearing it all day, even indoors.

Finally, my husband and sons conspired to give me an overnight vacation at the local Hyatt with my husband. We will go see the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the State Theater and the boys will go to sleepovers with friends.

Today I pray our children and yours will continue to cultivate their relationships with the Infinite and I pray we are planting seeds that will bear fruit as they continue to move away from us and into adulthood.


  1. God bless you and your family. Christmas Day in my native Ireland used to be, above all, a family day. For some it has ceased to be such. Today's Irish Times tells of people lining up at 5pm on Christmas Day outside big stores for the opening of the winter sales on St Stephen's Day, which is still legally a holiday in Ireland. However, this is the third year that sales have started on the 26th. To me this is capitalism and consumerism at their worst, as if many Irish - and British people whose sales also opened yesterday - had reverted to what Scrooge was before his encounters with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

    Here in the Philippines, despite the vibrant faith of many, Christmas Day is just like any other day for a huge number of people. On Christmas Day last year, while on my way to celebrate Mass for a mostly middle-class congregation, I saw men working in sugarfields. Department stores are open. However, the culmination of Christmas for Filipinos is the 'Midnight' Mass on the 24th, followed by the 'noche buena', the traditional family meal.

    Back in the late 1980s, I think it was, the bishops brought forward the time of the Midnight Mass on the nights of the 24th and 31st for safety reasons, since there are fireworks, etc. Back in the days of Martial Law soldiers and police often fired their guns in the air indiscriminately, leading to deaths.

    A Happy New Year!

  2. The lovely walk over the bridge reminded me of going to midnight Mass in Quebec, in a small church next to the river.

    I, too, hope that for my sons it is the gifts of incarnation and presence that they will cherish!