The Twelve Days of Christmas

Author: Elsa Chaney

{Music and illustrations cannot be displayed in ASCII text. All captions will be in brackets ({ }).}


Text and Photographs by ELSA CHANEY

Layout and Designs by JEANNE HEIBERG


"THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS BOOK" is complete in itself, giving ideas for the celebration of Christmastide in the home, the parish, school, and apostolic groups.

In addition, however, a companion "THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS KIT" is also available, which provides actual materials for a variety of "things to make" for children young and old.

Text and art for both book and kit are the work of "The Grailville Writing Center," Loveland, Ohio.

Nihil obstat: John Eidenschink, O.S.B., J.C.D., Censor deputatus. Imprimi potest: + Baldwin Dworschak O.S.B., D.D., Abbot of St. John's Abbey. Imprimatur: + Peter W. Bartholome, D.D., Bishop of St. Cloud. May 25, 1955.

Copyright 1955 by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc. Collegeville, Minnesota.



PART 1 Last Days of Advent

"Blow Ye the Trumpet" The Heart and Center of the Christmas Mystery The "O Antiphons" Christmas Novena "Make Ready the Way of the Lord" Preparing the Gifts Christmas Decorations Christmas Greens The Tree Decorations Christmas Crib Christmas Cookery

PART 2 The Vigil of Christmas

"Be Ye Lifted Up" "In the Morning You Shall See His Glory" Decorating the Tree Blessing of a Christmas Tree The Christmas Wreath Christmas Eve Supper No Room in the Inn Enthroning the Child Christmas Eve Prayers The Exchange of Gifts

PART 3 Christmas Day

Christmas Theme Song The Christmas Masses Christmas Music and Stories Christmas Drama for the Home The Christ-Candle The Christ-Guest Christmas Meal Prayers

PART 4 Christmas to Epiphany

The Days Between Christmas and Epiphany Christmas Night Prayers at the Crib St. Stephen's Day St. John's Day The Holy Innocents New Year's Eve New Year's Day

PART 5 Epiphany

"Be Enlightened" The Meaning of Epiphany Epiphany in the Parish Epiphany in the Home Epiphany in the Apostolic Group "The Wise Men"--An Epiphany Legend A Christmas Play



So bright is the radiance of the Light which has come at Christmas, so awesome is the mystery we celebrate, that a single day's observance barely initiates us into the meaning of the feast. Nor does the Church consider stopping with one day's rejoicing as she celebrates the birth of the Savior. Although the commercial world is taking down its trees and tinsel on December 26 to make way for the January white sales, the Church is only beginning a full twelve days of "high feasting" which will reach their climax and zenith on January 6. Then, in the regal splendor of Epiphany, we see another facet of the Incarnation, a facet which completes the Christmas mystery: the tiny Baby born on Christmas night is in reality the King of the whole world. All the expressions of our Advent longing, our pleas for the King and Ruler, "God, the Mighty, Wonderful, the Prince of Peace," may seem extravagant if we keep only December 25 as a feast day and forget the Epiphany, the real fulfillment of Advent expectation for a royal and kingly Savior.

Each year, then, Christians are given two great feast days plus the full season of Christmastide during which the Church would have us savor the mystery of the Incarnation in all its implications. She wants us to absorb it through study and meditation, to re-live it through her liturgy, and finally to begin to make it a part of our everyday lives--so that the Light of Christ which has been given to us may shine out to all those around us--to our family, our neighborhood, our associates in school or office, and out into the larger communities of national and international life.

Today Catholics are becoming increasingly interested in celebrating the Christmas season more fully--not only as completely as possible at the altar--but in their homes and communities, and in the apostolic and parish groups to which they may belong. They feel that through carrying out customs and observances centered in the liturgy, they will be able to penetrate more deeply into the meaning of the Incarnation.

Those who have begun to observe the Advent season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas will be especially interested in a plan for celebrating The Twelve Days. To prolong the celebration of a feast in a fitting way is almost as much of an art as to prepare for it. Mother Church takes our human nature into account when she gives us an Advent season followed not only by twelve days of high feasting but a whole season extending to February 2, the Feast of Candlemas.

It is in answer to the need for concrete suggestions for the celebration of Christmastide that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is presented. This book tries to capture something of the fullness of the Christmas season as it is observed at Grailville and in an increasing number of young families with whom we are in contact. Some of the sources for these ideas and customs are original--life lived with the Church is dynamic, and forms of recreation and festivity begin to develop spontaneously with the liturgy as their source and inspiration. We have also built on many national traditions in our Christmas celebration--but most of them could truly be called "international," for the same customs keep recurring with slight variations in many different cultures. Many of the observances have already been assimilated to American family and community life in some sections of the country. All are capable of being adapted to the American scene.

Because this is meant to be something other than a "Christmas in many lands" book, there are few lengthy histories of those customs which originate in other countries. Instead the booklet tries to describe the vital, concrete, practical observances which have grown up naturally in the life of the large Grailville family, and are being used successfully in the smaller families of former students now married, and in parish and apostolic groups throughout the country.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas Book and Kit" are intended to give you ideas for your own fuller, more meaningful celebration of the Christmas season. May you be inspired to translate and adapt some of these suggestions to your own circumstances. May whatever you choose to do spring from a firm, enlightened inner conviction and the fire of love without which even the most meaningful Christmas customs can degenerate into mere "show." And may the observances lead you and yours to a greater understanding and a deeper penetration of the great Christian mysteries which the customs represent in word and symbol and song.


Christmas is the intimate family feast. As families re-unite to observe the birth of Christ, celebrations and activities are naturally centered in the home. The customs and religious prac- tices given here for the first days of Christmas are, therefore, intended mainly for the home and family.

But with Epiphany, the feast of Christ's manifestation and showing-forth, we will go out from the circle of the family to show forth the light we have received to all those around us. Suggestions will be given for the observance of the feast of Epiphany in the parish and community, the school and the apostolic group, as well as in the home.


"The Lord Is Nigh"

Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: behold, He shall come to save us, Alleluia, Alleluia! --Theme Song for the Last Days of Advent from Vespers for the Fourth Sunday

{Opposite is a simple little "theme song" for the days im- mediately preceding Christmas. Other such songs or antiphons are included throughout "The Twelve Days of Christmas Book." It is suggested that they be sung before grace at meal times, at family night prayers and during the special ceremonies, and throughout the day. Children love to sing these little songs and learn them easily.}


If each successive Christmas season is to plunge us ever more deeply into the mysteries of Christ, it is necessary that all our celebrations and customs be an overflow of our participation in the holy Sacrifice of the altar. Moreover, all these family customs and observances in the school, parish, and apostolic group, should lead us back to the Mass and to a more meaningful participation in this great central Act of our lives where we meet Christ and grow in grace.

We meet Christ, too, in the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church, which an increasing number of families and lay apostolic groups today are adopting and adapting as their family and community prayer. The Divine Office with its readings, psalms, hymns and prayers extends the theme and spirit of the Mass through the whole day, enveloping us in the particular mystery which the Church is celebrating.

For the Church not only re-presents the great mysteries of Christ in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Divine Office--but she allows us actually to re-live these mysteries through our participation in her prayer. Her feasts are not merely an historical commemoration of the life of Christ; they are not merely an example to inspire us--they are the re-living of the whole work of Christ on earth by His Mystical Body.

Pope Pius XII explains in "Mediator Dei": "The liturgical year devotedly fostered and accompanied by the Church, is not a cold and lifeless representation of the events of the past, or a simple and bare record of a former age. It is rather Christ Himself who is ever living in His Church...His mysteries are ever present and active; they still influence us because each mystery brings its own special grace for our salvation."

How can we "live the Mass" more deeply during these Twelve Days of Christmas so that our participation in the holy Sacrifice can lead to the unfolding of Christ's life in us? One way to begin is through reading and studying and praying the Propers of the Masses for Christmastide. The Proper prayers of these Masses are rich, deep, and full of meaning. If they are meditated upon and absorbed, they have the power to form our minds, feed our souls, transform our lives. Throughout this book, the Masses of the Christmas season are emphasized as the foundation for the family's celebration--the heart and center of any observances in parish, school, or apostolic group.

As an introduction to the Divine Office in English for family prayer, the antiphons and psalms and lessons of the Christmastide office have been included wherever possible in this booklet. The Christmas Novena, for example, is patterned after Matins; Christmas Night Prayers before the crib are an abbreviated form of Compline.

It is with the Mass and the Office that we must begin our celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Once the genuine keynote, the true and deep theme of the feastday is struck in the morning's observance at the altar and carried through the day in the Hours of the Office, we can be sure that our family customs and our celebrations in community, parish, and apostolic group will be a true "living with the Church" and will help to transform us "unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."



The theme of the Advent season has been one of joyous expectancy as the Church, in vigilant preparation, waited and watched for the first signs of the coming of the Lord. The very name Advent, and the Masses of the four Sundays with their urgent plea to Christ to "hasten and delay not" have reminded us that we are awaiting His coming in grace at Christmas, and in glory at the end of time.

On the evening of December 17 the last and most intensive phase of Advent preparation begins. On this evening is inaugurated the first of the Great "O's" of Advent. The "O Antiphons" are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing as they paint in vivid terms the wretched condition of mankind and his need of a Savior. Addressing Christ with seven magnificent titles, they beg Him with mounting impatience to come to save His people.

The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at the Vesper Hour, before and after our Lady's great song of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office. But in recent years families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of poetry and have used them as part of their family evening prayers, sometimes in conjunction with the "O Antiphon House." This is a little house which can be bought or constructed simply; it has seven sealed windows, each masking an appropriate symbol for the different "O Antiphons," and an eighth window hiding the Christmas scene. These windows are opened one by one each day at the singing of the antiphon. "The Twelve Days of Christmas Kit" contains an "O Antiphon" Tower which the children can cut out and put together. The "O Antiphons" in an English translation follow.

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts; who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Because the idea of making a Novena on the last nine days of Advent appeals to many families, a traditional "Christmas Novena" is presented here, adapted and shortened for family use. Drawing on the rich texts of the Advent season, the Novena also includes the proper "O Antiphon," sung before and after the Magnificat each day. The Novena begins on December 16.

FATHER: Our Father, Hail Mary (silently). O Lord, open my lips.

ALL: And my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

FATHER: O God, come to my assistance.

ALL: O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. * As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

FATHER: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

ALL: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: Rejoice, O daughter of Sion, and exult, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold the Lord shall come, and in that day there shall be a great light and the mountains shall bring forth sweetness, and the hills shall flow with milk and honey.

ALL: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: Behold, He that is God and man shall come forth from the house of David, His father, to sit upon His throne, and you shall see Him and your heart shall rejoice.

ALL: Hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: Behold, the Lord shall come, our protector, the Holy One of Israel, bearing on His Head the crown of a kingdom.

ALL: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: The Lord will descend as rain on the field. His justice shall rise in those days and abundance of peace; and all the kings of the earth shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him.

ALL: Hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: A Child shall be born to us and He shall be called the God of strength. Bethlehem, city of the Highest God, out from you shall go forth the Ruler of Israel, and peace will be on the earth, when He shall have come.

ALL: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the Holy Spirit.

ALL: Hasten to adore.

ELDEST CHILD: The Lord, our Coming King,

ALL: Hasten to adore.

ALL SING: A thrilling voice by Jordan rings Rebuking guilt and darksome things; Vain dreams of sin and visions fly Christ in his might shines forth on high.

Now let each earth bound soul arise That sunk in guilt and wounded lies; See the new stars refulgent ray Shall chase disease and sin away.

ALL SING: Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh; behold, He will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia!

FATHER: Let the heavens rejoice and the earth exult; * praise the Lord, you mountains.

ALL: Let the mountains break forth into gladness * and the hills with justice.

FATHER: For the Lord shall come, * and to His poor He shall show mercy.

ALL: Drop down dew, you heavens, from above * and let the clouds rain the Just One;

FATHER: Let the earth be opened * and bud forth the Savior.

ALL: Be mindful of us, O Lord, * and visit us in Your salvation. FATHER: Show to us, O Lord, Your mercy * and grant us Your salvation.

ALL: Come, O Lord; in peace visit us * that with a perfect heart we may rejoice before You.

FATHER: Come, O Lord, do not tarry; * do away with the offences of Your people.

ALL: Come and show to us Your countenance, O Lord; * You sit upon the Cherubim.

FATHER: Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the Holy Spirit.

ALL: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

ALL SING: Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh; behold, He will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia!


Lesson from Isaias the Prophet. The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise; the glory of Libanus is given to it, the beauty of Carmel and Saron. They shall see the glory of the Lord and the beauty of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees. Say to the faint-hearted: Take courage and fear not. Behold, God himself will come and save you. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free; for waters are broken out in the desert and streams in the wilderness. And that which was dry land, shall become a pool, and the thirsty land, springs of water.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

Sing or pray the "O Antiphon" for the day, beginning with "O Wisdom" on December 17 (see page 17). On December 16, the first day of the Novena, the following is said:

Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel, alleluia, alleluia.

FATHER: My soul magnifies the Lord, * and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

ALL: Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid, * for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

FATHER: Because he who is mighty has done great things for me, * and holy is his name;

ALL: And his mercy is from generation to generation * toward those who fear him.

FATHER: He has shown might with his arm; * he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

ALL: He has put down the mighty from their thrones * and has exalted the lowly.

FATHER: The hungry he has filled with good things * and the rich he has sent empty away.

ALL: He has given help to Israel his servant, * mindful of his mercy--

FATHER: As he promised our fathers--* toward Abraham and his descendants forever.

ALL: Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the Holy Spirit.

FATHER: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

ALL: Repeat Antiphon of the day.

FATHER: O Lord, hear my prayer.

ALL: And let my cry come to You.

FATHER: Let us pray. Stir up Thy power and come, we pray Thee, O Lord, and with great might help us; may our deliverance, which our sins impede, be hastened by the help of Thy grace and the forgiveness of Thy mercy. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

FATHER: Let us bless the Lord.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

FATHER: May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy ofGod rest in peace.

ALL: Amen.


What of the necessary material preparations for the family Christmas observance? If these last days of Advent are to be the crown of our spiritual preparation, how can we manage to preserve their spirit and still attend to the many material details which must be completed before the holydays?

Today there is a growing movement among families across the country to de-emphasize the glamor and glitter of the commercial Christmas and to judge the appropriateness of all the family preparations in the light of Bethlehem's simplicity. In the context of the Child in the manger, the artificial frills drop naturally by the wayside, leaving the genuine, the truly beautiful--only what can be readily integrated with the spiritual preparation. The cleaning, holiday cooking, preparation of the festive decorations and the holiday outfits all can, with ingenuity and forethought, be linked to the Advent call of "making ready the way of the Lord." If frequent Mass and Advent prayer are put first, all the rest falls into proper order, and becomes a charming and reverent game of getting ready for the Christ-Child.

More and more schools, too, are postponing elaborate preparations for parties and Christmas presentations to the Epiphany season. As this idea grows, parents and teachers will be able to complement each other's efforts to make Advent a real preparation for the Christmas mystery.


How can this integration of the spiritual and the material be accomplished practically? One of the most obvious places to begin is with gift giving. Our American custom of generous giving at Christmas can be linked most appropriately to the generosity of the Father who gives His Son to us. Parents can help their children reflect this spirit in preparing gifts for relatives and friends. Children may, theoretically, know the meaning of the gift exchange at Christmas; yet it is sometimes hard for them to grasp that the presents they buy in the department store even if they have saved up their pennies to purchase them--can represent the gift of themselves. Many families are encouraging their chil- dren to make their own gifts, and some of the long Advent evenings are happily occupied with Susie's sewing of aprons and pot-holders, while Johnny fashions bookends or wooden tea trays under father's watchful eye in the basement. In employing their ingenuity and creativeness to prepare their Christmas gifts, the children not only gain an understanding of gift-giving but also realize a sense of achievement which no purchased gift could give them.

Nor are the poor to be forgotten. Preparing gifts of food and clothing can also be a means of helping the children to an outgoing spirit and a concern for others at this that they do not concentrate exclusively on what they themselves are going to "get" for Christmas. The final touches on the Christmas baskets--and their delivery--make fine projects for the vigil morning.


An increasing number of families are discovering another effective means towards restoring the true spirit of Christmas in making as many of the decorations as possible together--the tree decorations, the table centerpiece, the festive dress for window and mantelpiece. We decorate the home to reflect outwardly the inner spiritual joy of the family at Christ's coming, and if everyone has had a hand in creating the decorations, the idea behind their use is understood more easily. And the children can learn much through the experience--not only the satisfaction and joy of working with their hands but valuable lessons in the meaning of the coming feasts.


When one thinks of Christmas decorations, one thinks first perhaps of the Christmas greens which represent the everlasting life the Incarnation has won for mankind. Many beautiful effects can be obtained from the simple, naturally decorative sprays of evergreen, and the children love to work with the spicy, piney branches.

Put evergreens up as a background for the Christmas crib; make sprays for the windows with evergreen, pine cones and red ribbon; make gay Christmas pompons of greens on a potato ball base to hang from ceiling and light fixtures. And best of all, make the traditional round Christmas wreaths of evergreen for the windows and front door, twining the sprays on wire coat hanger bases, and explaining to the children the significance of the circle as the sign of eternity. Directions for making a number of evergreen decorations are contained on a separate sheet in "The Twelve Days of Christmas Kit." If the family has had an outing the previous fall to gather such treasures as pine cones and milkweed pods, they will have some auxiliary materials ready.

Christmas cards which begin to arrive at this time can be used as effective and colorful decorations, symbols of the love that binds us to relatives and friends in a special way at this time of year. Place them on the tree; string them on thick yarn and hang them on a stairway, or tack them to mounting board and display them in the living room.


Tree decorations are another appealing family project. For the smaller children, there are on the market today simple cardboard tree decorations, gaily colored and ready to punch or cut out. In one family nearby, the little boys could not stop talking about "their decorations," even though they had done nothing more complicated than punching them out and hanging them on the tree. For older children there are limitless possibilities, and lately the popular household magazines have been full of ideas on "how to make" home decorations, as even the secular world becomes surfeited with the artificial and sophisticated baubles and longs for a "good, old-fashioned Christmas."

"The Twelve Days of Christmas Kit" contains patterns and directions for a set of meaningful, striking tree decorations to cut out and assemble. When these decorations are hung on the Christmas tree, it is transformed into the "family tree" of Christ, since each decoration is a symbol either of an ancestor of Christ, an Old Testament type, or a prophecy foretelling His coming.

Thus there are decorations like Noe's Ark, since Noe was a savior and the father of a new race, prefiguring Christ, the Savior who fathers a race of new men in the supernatural order, sheltering them in the ark of the Church. There is the "Sun of Justice," a favorite figure of the psalmist; there is the flower rising up from the root of Jesse, as Isaias had foretold in his prophecy of the Incarnation, and a dozen others. The "Jesse tree" as this very special Christmas tree is sometimes called, is becoming increasingly popular, and the making of the symbolic decorations is an opportunity for a meaningful, instructive family project. The illustrations at the left give an idea of these Jesse tree symbols. A brief explanation of each one is contained in the "Kit."


Making the crib figures is another family project to consider. Figures of modelling clay; Mary, Joseph and the Child carved in Ivory soap, or even cardboard cutouts which the children can make are just a few of the possible mediums. What if good St. Joseph smiles a bit hideously from behind his beard, or if our Lady has a definite cross-eyed look as in one crib on proud display--in a home where a wise mother and father did not try to improve on their children's efforts. To these children their crib was more beautiful than the most elaborate carvings, and they set the figures lovingly in place with the conviction that their work had given honor to the Christ-Child.

A full set of crib figures to paint and punch out are printed on sheets of thin cardboard in "The Twelve Days of Christmas Kit." They are folded back to give a three-dimensional effect. (Full directions are printed on the pattern sheets.)


Most families have already established traditional menus and dishes for the Christmas season, so only a few recipes will be included in this book. The leading home magazines today are full of many good ideas for Christmas cookery, and they are easily available. Christmas is the ideal time to introduce the traditional dishes of other lands, especially those foods which are linked with the religious significance of the feast. Florence Berger's "Cooking for Christ" gives some excellent recipes along these lines.

Mrs. Berger also makes an interesting observation on holiday cookery. She points out that we, as American Catholics, can choose the best of the cultures of all nations and make them ours in Christ. "We can call the songs, the stories, the dances and the foods of all peoples our own," she writes, "because in our American heritage there is blood and bone and spirit of these different men and women."

Ideally, everyone in the family has a share in the Christmas cooking. The children help by shelling nuts, patting down and cutting out cookie dough into different shapes or sprinkling sugar trim on freshly-baked cookies. Even Father likes to mix the candied fruit with his favorite fruit cake dough and flavor it with his best brandy.

Christian peoples of all lands have special bread for this season's feasting. It is no accident that bread plays a sig- nificant part in the Christmas festivities since Christ was born in Bethlehem, which means "house of bread." Bread, too, symbolizes God's gift to us, the holy Eucharist, which is possible only because Christ became man. So from Bethlehem stems "the living Bread which comes down from Heaven." The Christmas spirit of unity and love is ex pressed in people breaking bread together--the loaf which was one and whole is given, received and shared by all present. Below are several recipes for bread which are particularly suitable for Christmas.


Stollen is a German sweet bread whose shape when baked resembles the swaddling clothes of the Infant in the manger. This effect is heightened by covering the Stollen with a thin white sugar frosting, flavored and decorated with candied fruit.

1 cake yeast 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon sugar 2 cups scalded milk 6 cups sifted flour 1 cup butter 1 teaspoon salt 1-1/2 cups sugar

Dissolve teaspoon of sugar and yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Cover. Combine 3 cups flour, salt, nutmeg and sugar. Add scalded milk (cool to lukewarm before adding). Add melted butter. Add yeast mixture, beat thoroughly. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Now add remaining 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Knead until smooth.

Put bread dough on board and knead in the following fruit mixture:

1/2 cup chopped almonds 1/4 cup citron 1/4 cup candied cherries 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Cut the dough into three equal strips and braid them together. Bake in moderate oven for 45 minutes.


Christmas fruit bread is a rich, dark date and nut loaf--an excellent substitute for fruit cake if you didn't manage to make any in time to age for the Christmas season. Many countries have fruit bread in one form or another for this season.

5 cups sifted flour 2 teaspoons soda 2 teaspoons salt 2 eggs 1/2 cup raw sugar 2 cups brown sugar OR 1 cup molasses 3 cups sour milk 1-1/2 cups chopped dates 1-1/2 cups raisins 1 cup chopped nuts 2 tablespoons shortening

Combine sifted flour, soda and salt. Add dates, raisins and nuts, mix thoroughly. In separate bowl beat eggs, add sugar. Beat well. Alternate milk and dry ingredients to sugar mixture, then melted shortening. Pour into loaf pans, three-quarters full. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake in moderate oven for 50 to 60 minutes. This recipe makes three loaves of fruit bread.


A Polish dish used to celebrate festive occasions is Pierogi. Pierogi is not a bread, but uses an unleavened dough as a covering for a delicious surprise within.

First boil potatoes and mash; add salt, pepper and a plain cheese or cottage cheese and mix together.

Make a batter of unleavened dough, knead it, and roll it out like a sheet about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out circular pieces with a glass about three or four inches in diameter. Place a tablespoon of the potato mixture on each circular; fold, and pinch ends together to form a crescent shape. Place one by one in boiling salt water for about 10 minutes. Stir constantly so the Pierogi will not stick together. Take out of water--the salted water can be used for another batch if necessary. Melt butter, with onions if desired, and pour over the Pierogi so that they will not stick together. After setting the Pierogi out on a plate, they can be garnished with a bit of parsley or green celery leaves. A traditional dish for the Christmas Eve supper.


"In the Morning You Shall See His Glory"

Be ye lifted up, O Eternal Gates, and King of Glory shall enter in. --Theme Song for the Vigil of Christmas from the Offertory of the Vigil Mass

With the vigil Mass Advent seems to draw to a close. Our weeks of longing and waiting are replaced by an assured confidence that "This Day you shall know that the Lord will come and save us; and in the morning you shall see His glory" (Introit of the vigil Mass). A hushed tone of cheerfulness pervades this day of vigil, subdued only by the holy fast which the Church gives us to prepare for the "day of rejoicing." The spirit of the Mass induces a spirit of silence--the family responds to the joyful restraint of the Church with a great hush of expectancy. Even the children will sense the peace which surrounds the awaited festivities if an air of serenity and stillness fills the house.

The natural excitement which overtakes the children as the Great Event draws near can often be calmed by giving each child a special task for the day, explaining that this is his way to prepare for the Christ-Child: helping with the final dusting and sweeping, shining shoes for the family, getting the clothes ready. This is the day, too, for decorating and distributing the boxes for the poor. Where there are older children, they can undertake this delightful task with only a final check by the mother.

If most of the material preparations are completed before the vigil--the shopping, cooking, gift-wrapping, etc.--we can more easily give our attention to celebrating some of the many Christmas Eve customs through which we can enter more fully into the spirit of this holy night. The observances and practices for this vigil are so numerous that it would be an exceptional family which could manage to carry out even all of those given here. But a careful choice of two or three will be a powerful aid towards drawing the children's interest and enthusiasm to the real heart of the Christmas celebration: the Child in the manger. All the customs given below are intended not as ends in themselves, but to prepare the family for a fuller participation in the mysteries of this most holy night, at the altar of the Midnight Mass where Christ is truly born again.


The children love to help decorate the tree, and this is a fine occupation for the vigil afternoon. Or if the family prefers to wait until the evening, the tree-decorating becomes a festive family project. Families living close to the spirit of the liturgical season do not, on any account, set up the tree and the other decorations ahead of time. They do not want to spoil the last lovely days of Advent longing and expectation by starting Christmas too early. Instead, they attune their family life to the rhythm of Mother Church and heed her wise psychology: "Prepare well," she says, "and then you will doubly enjoy the twelve full days of feasting which your Mother gives you."

The decorating of the tree is an opportunity for the mother to explain its symbolism. In medieval times the evergreen tree was used in one of the Mystery plays about the Garden of Paradise--a fir tree was hung with apples, and represented the tree of Eden by which Adam and Eve fell. When the Mystery plays were banned from Church, the tree began to appear in homes at Christmastide, and gradually became the symbol of Christ, the true tree of Life. In some places it was even hung with wafers, representing the holy Eucharist. Thus, says Father Weiser in "The Christmas Book," the tree which had borne the fruit of sin for Adam and Eve, now bore the saving fruit of the Sacrament, symbolized by the wafers. But the original symbolism of the tree decorations is obscured today--the wafers gave way to all kinds of pastries cut in appropriate shapes...stars, angels, bells; other fruits were hung side by side with the meaningful apples, and gradually since real fruits spoiled on the tree, they were replaced by the shiny glass Christmas balls, decorations which bear only a slight resemblance to fruits. The candles signifying Christ, the Light of the world, are almost universally set aside in favor of the safer electric lights--still in the shape of flames, but perhaps not often connected with their original meaning.

But rich as is its symbolism, the tree is still only the "background" for the Bethlehem scene, which should be given the most prominent place. An overly-elaborate tree set in the place of honor and a cheap plaster crib set relegated to the second best spot, inevitably educate children in a wrong sense of values.

In other homes the children do not see the tree until it is decorated. A special "Christmas room" is set aside which no one is allowed to enter all day. Behind closed doors, mother and father "help the Christ-Child" decorate the tree and prepare the crib under it. It is not until evening that the children are called to the room. Then they view for the first time the beautiful tree, resplendent in all its colors and ornaments.

Mrs. Therese Mueller, commenting on her own family's Christmas traditions, points up the importance of preserving this element of surprise, particularly in the case of small children. "It is poor psychology to anticipate Christmas," she writes, "to break up the great climax into all kinds of little climaxes, until on the feast itself we are bored and tired of it all...even of the tree, lighted prematurely for small occasions instead of being a sudden symbolic revelation of the fullness of light in the Holy Night."


Sometime in the evening the tree is blessed by the father of the family, and afterwards the festive lights are lit for the first time. The following form may be used for the blessing.

FATHER: O God, come to my assistance.

ALL: O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

FATHER: Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for He comes.

ALL: Sing to the Lord a new song; * sing to the Lord, all you lands.

FATHER: Sing to the Lord; bless his name; * announce his salvation day after day.

ALL: Tell his glory among the nations; * among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

FATHER: For great is the Lord and highly to be praised; * awesome is he, beyond all gods.

ALL: Splendor and majesty go before him; * praise and grandeur are in his sanctuary.

FATHER: Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; * give to the Lord the glory due his name!

ALL: Bring gifts, and enter His courts; * worship the Lord in holy attire.

FATHER: Tremble before him, all the earth; * say among the nations: the Lord is king.

ALL: Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; * let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!

FATHER: Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for he comes; * for he comes to rule the earth.

ALL: He shall rule the world with justice * and the peoples with his constancy.

FATHER: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

ALL: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

FATHER: Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for He comes.

MOTHER: Lesson from Isaias the Prophet. Thus saith the Lord: The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Car- mel, and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord and the beauty of our God.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

FATHER: And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse

ALL: And a flower shall rise up out of his root.

FATHER: O Lord, hear my prayer.

ALL: And let my cry come to You.

FATHER: Let us pray. O God, who hast made this most holy night to shine forth with the brightness of the True Light, deign to bless this tree (sprinkles it with holy water) which we adorn with lights in honor of Him who has come to enlighten us who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. And grant that we upon whom is poured the new light of Thy Word made flesh may show forth in our actions that which by faith shines in our minds. Through Christ our Lord.

ALL: Amen.

Besides the historical explanation given above, there are of course many beautiful legends and much symbolism behind the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is a sign of the great Tree of the Cross; it is noble because it is by a tree that the whole world has been redeemed. The splendor of the Christmas tree reminds us of the redemption of even the material creation by Christ--and recalls the lovely legend that all the trees on earth blossomed forth on Christmas night. And the evergreen is traditional for the Christmas tree, for it reminds us of the everlasting life that Christ won through His Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection.


If there is an Advent wreath in the home, it now takes on a new character. The purple streamers are replaced by Christmas red--a symbol that our preparation is now over and the time to rejoice is at hand. The candles on the wreath no longer remain purple or white, but take on the festive color, and above the evergreen boughs are seen the long red tapers that will be lighted at breakfast on Christmas morning.


After a day of fast and abstinence--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.


The nine days before the feast of Christmas have a very special character in many Latin and Latin-American countries. Each evening the parish or neighborhood group meets together and, bearing statues of Mary and Joseph, the people proceed through the streets with their pastor at the head. Stopping at all the "inns" (homes and even shops), they ask for admittance. Each night they are refused until, on Christmas Eve, they are allowed to enter the last inn (the Church, in some sections) where the crib has been prepared. With great rejoicing the Child is laid in the manger.

The Las Posadas, as it is called, is a custom easily adapted to the family. On Christmas Eve the family gathers--perhaps before dinner if the family wants to enthrone the Christ-Child in the crib later on in the evening--and two of the children carry the crib statues of Mary and Joseph. As the family follows, the children walk from room to room, knocking at each door, and at each they are told by some member of the family stationed within the closed room that there is "no room in the inn." At last the procession reaches the living room, where it is allowed to enter and the children place Mary and Joseph in the stable.

Where two or three families who are trying to live with the Church are close by, this beautiful custom is worked out in a more dramatic way. As soon as it is dusk, one couple or a boy and girl of high school age dress as Mary and Joseph. Carrying lanterns, they lead the procession from house to house, knocking on each door and inquiring for room. The same answer is heard, "No room in the inn." At the last "inn" the innkeeper offers his stable (the garage) to the holy couple, and the procession follows Mary and Joseph to the door. Joseph enters, sees that there is straw and a manger, and beckons Mary to come. Before the "live" Bethlehem scene, all stand while one person reads the Gospel from the Midnight Mass. Children especially enjoy this "journey to Bethlehem"--and as they are rejected from the many inns, they sense the hardships Mary and Joseph underwent in that first journey--and in the stable they feel the nearness of the Child who is born poor to make us rich.

When we carry out "No Room in the Inn" at Grailville, the families and children from nearby join in our procession, and we make it a real journey by setting off down the road to the neighboring houses.


Our Advent expectation is drawing quickly to a close! During the stillness of this holy night, the long-awaited Savior shall appear. In families where the children have experienced the longing of the past four weeks, the birth of Christ is a vivid reality. Many of these families have adopted the custom of laying the Christ-Child in the crib with a special procession and ceremony on Christmas Eve.

The family gathers together in one room of the house, and the youngest child is given the statue of the Christ-Child to carry to the crib. Earlier his mother has told him what a privilege it is to bear the Child, and often during the day he has been reminded of his responsibility to be good in order to live up to this honor. He leads the procession through the house, flanked by an older brother and sister bearing lighted candles. Appropriate Christmas carols are sung as the procession makes its way towards the living room.

When the family reaches the living room, all stand around the crib while the father reads the solemn proclamation of the birth of Christ from the Roman Martyrology. The proclamation and a suggested form of Christmas Eve prayers are given on the following pages. The blessing of the crib, becoming popular in many families, is included.


"While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Your almighty Word, O Lord, came down from heaven from Your Royal Throne" (Introit for Sunday within the Octave of Christmas).

FATHER: From the Roman Martyrology:

In the twenty-fourth day of the month of December; In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood; In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham; In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses; In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king; In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel; In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome; In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus; In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace--


eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been con- ceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished, (all kneel) was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man. The birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

(The Child is now placed in the crib by the youngest child, while all sing the following antiphon.)

ALL SING: This day Christ is born; this day the Savior hath appeared; this day angels are singing on earth, archangels are rejoicing. This day the just are glad and say, Glory to God in high heaven, alleluia.

ALL: (All pray Psalm 109, one of the great Messianic psalms.)

The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand * till I make your enemies your footstool."

The scepter of your power the Lord will stretch forth from Sion: * "Rule in the midst of your enemies.

Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor; * before the day-star, like the dew, I have begotten you."

The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: * "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech."

The Lord is at your right hand; * he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

He will do judgment on the nations, heaping up corpses; * he will crush heads over the wide earth.

From the brook by the wayside he will drink; * therefore will he lift up his head.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

ALL SING: This day Christ is born; this day the Savior hath appeared; this day angels are singing on earth, archangels are rejoicing: This day the just are glad and say, Glory to God in high heaven, alleluia.

MOTHER or ELDEST CHILD reads the Gospel from the Christmas Mass at Midnight.

ALL: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will. We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We adore Thee. We glorify Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou only are holy. Thou only art the Lord. Thou only Jesus Christ, art most high.

With the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

FATHER: O Lord, hear my prayer.

ALL: And let my cry come to You.

FATHER: Let us pray. O God, who made this most holy night to shine forth with the brightness of the true Light, grant we beseech Thee, that we who have known the mystery of His light on earth, may attain the enjoyment of His happiness in heaven. Who lives and reigns with Thee forever and ever.

(The last window of the Advent Tower, masking the Christmas scene could be opened here.)

Crib Blessing--Optional

FATHER: Bless, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, this crib (he sprinkles it with holy water) which we have prepared in honor of the new birth in the flesh of Thine only begotten Son, that all who devoutly contemplate in this image the mystery of His Incarnation, may be filled with the light of His glory. Who lives and reigns with Thee forever and ever.

ALL: Amen.

FATHER intones a familiar Christmas carol to end--appropriately "Silent Night" or "O Come, All Ye Faithful."


Almost every family has unconsciously or consciously established a traditional time for opening the gifts. The gift exchange is always a "family event"--no one ever thinks of opening his gifts alone. This is an occasion when all are united, and there is community rejoicing over every present.

Christmas Eve is an appropriate time for the exchange of gifts, after the Christ-Child has been placed in the manger, and the special prayers before the crib--and a round of Christmas carols- -are over. If the gifts are given out before the Midnight Mass, the children can concentrate more easily on the great mystery which is celebrated, when the Greatest Gift is given to all alike, even those who have received no material expression of Christmas love. And then, too, Christmas Day with its two additional Masses can be devoted more to the contemplation of the Christmas mystery and the demands of Christmas hospitality.

But other families like to wait until the return from Midnight Mass, when gifts are opened before the family retires for the rest of the night. Christmas morning remains the rule in still other homes as the time for the gift exchange.

In some homes, parents suggest that the children immediately choose one of their favorite gifts to be given to the poor, as a special sacrifice of gratitude to the Christ-Child--but a sacrifice done with a radiant face and a joyous spirit. Christmas gifts of clothing also provide opportunity for parents to introduce or encourage the lovely family custom of first wearing the new clothes to Church--as a sign of our gratitude for God's goodness and overflowing generosity towards us.

There has been great interest lately in the question of just who should bring the gifts at Christmas. Many families feel that the over-emphasis on Santa Claus greatly detracts from the central mystery of the feast, and they either make known the fact that the parents themselves are the givers, or in many families, the children are told that the Christ-Child Himself has bestowed the presents. Others restore the stately bishop's mitre and crosier to Santa Claus, and good St. Nicholas is the one who brings the children's toys and gifts--perhaps after a preliminary visit to see how the children are behaving on the eve of his feastday, December 5.

Now if religious customs like the above are carried out, the family gift-giving falls naturally into a subordinate place and is more easily given a spiritual significance. If the family decides to do away with Santa Claus, the richness of the religious home celebrations will more than satisfy the children. And if Santa Claus stays, he will play a lesser role in the celebration, a role more in keeping with the real meaning of the feast.


"This Day Christ Is Born"

This day Christ is born: This day the savior hath appeared: This day Angels are singing on earth, Archangels are rejoicing: This day the just are glad and say, Glory to God in high heaven, Alleluia. --Theme Song for Christmas Day the Magnificat antiphon from Vespers


Christmas Day begins in a very special way with the Midnight Mass. Having this first of the Christmas Masses in the middle of the night is an old custom in the Church and is full of significance. In the first place it corresponds with the traditional belief that Christ was born at midnight. Secondly, from the material darkness around us, we are reminded of the spiritual darkness in the world which only Christ the Light can dispel.

The Midnight Mass is surrounded by family traditions which vary according to national heritage or personal preference. There is, for instance, one delightful way of waking the younger children for Mass. Some member of the family dressed as an angel and carrying a lighted candle, goes to each bed and sings a carol.

After Mass many people share a special breakfast with their family. The French are especially fond of this night meal or reveillon, and serve their own traditional dishes. Other families place the Christ-Child in the crib on their return, and often the head of the family reads the Gospel aloud at the crib or at the breakfast table. This time after Mass also lends itself to the singing of carols and the quiet re-explanation of the Christmas story which children never tire of hearing.

The second Mass of Christmas Day is the Mass at dawn, traditionally called the Shepherds' Mass. Just as the shepherds went eagerly to the crib to adore the Lord and to receive His great gift of light, so we also go to the altar where the same Lord comes just as truly to us. The theme of light is prominent in this Mass. Outside, the natural light is increasing. In Bethlehem the Light is manifested to a few more men. Over and over in the Mass texts light is mentioned: The Introit begins, "A Light shall shine upon us this day; for the Lord is born to us." These words can be read again at home, perhaps at the lighting of the Christ-Candle. (See The Christ-Candle for explanation of the candle.)

Because the feast of Christmas is so great, the Church does not stop rejoicing after one or even two special Masses. She continues her worship with a third, the Mass of the Day. In this Mass, our attention is directed towards the divinity of the Child born in Bethlehem. We rejoice in His governing power and wisdom in the Introit. The Epistle refers us back to the Midnight Mass with the passage: "Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee." The progressive manifestation of Christ continues. From swaddling clothes and a lowly stable we move to might and majesty, throne and sceptre. From the adoration of Mary and Joseph and a few shepherds, we go to the adoration of all the earth. The great feast of Christ's manifestation, the Epiphany, is foreshadowed in the Gradual and Communion when we say, "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."

It is natural that Christian families, in the spirit of the Masses, feel a desire to continue expressing their joy throughout the whole of Christmas Day. This expression takes varied forms.


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.


In some families, the events of the Christmas story are dramatized. For instance, the message of the Shepherds' Mass lends itself easily to drama. The family gathers around the crib and sings a few carols. Then the father reads the Gospel of this Mass aloud. As he says the words, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see the Word that is come to pass," each child comes forward with a shepherd figure and places it ceremoniously at the crib.

There is another charming custom which by all means should not be forgotten on Christmas Day. This is the beginning of the Wise Men's journey to Bethlehem. The three kings start out separately in far countries, perhaps even in such remote places as the children's bedrooms. From there they continue to advance each day, assisted by the children, on their hazardous journey over bookcases and mantelpieces--not forgetting their dramatic meeting in the hall about halfway to Bethlehem. At last, on Epiphany, they will arrive in all their splendor to pay homage at the crib.

At another time during the day, many families re-emphasize the central fact of Christmas by acting out St. Luke's Gospel. The living room becomes a stage with more imagination than effort-- and with a few odds and ends of material and old draperies the family and guests are transformed into the chosen group surrounding the Redeemer. Even the new Christmas dolls and animals can have parts to play.

The Gospel forms the basis of the play. One person reads the story slowly and with care while the others act what is being read. No one can lay down rules about how the actors should go about doing this. In one family the "cast" may like to mime the Gospel; in another, the narrator may be adept at spontaneous dialogue. Still others may like to work from a simple script, and for these, a short play is given at the end of this book. This play has been worked out with narration, dialogue and music-- chant selections for school production, familiar carol substitutes for the home. When done in the family, it is important to draw all present into the play. In this way, there will be no awkwardness because there will be no "audience" to satisfy. And then, those who join in will be able really to enter into the simple actions and to make an adoration of it.

For more ambitious families or parish and apostolic groups, effective prayer-dramas can be worked out on the whole history of salvation as the Church sets it before us in the Advent-Christmas liturgy. Beginning with the fall in Genesis, a script can be built around the great prophecies of Christ's coming, reaching a first climax in John the Baptist, and culminating in the Christmas and Epiphany texts from Mass and Office.


The candle, a widely recognized symbol of Christ the Light, has a definite place in the celebration of Christmas and is used in different ways. Some families have a large Christ-Candle which they light on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas at a special family function. The Christ-Candle is often placed on the center of the family dining table and lighted during the meals as a reminder that Christ is present as the members share food together. In other homes the Candle is placed near the crib, to be lighted during prayers and when the family gathers for singing.

Candles are very prominent on Christmas Day. This was possibly true even at the first Christmas when, because of the feast of the Dedication, the Jewish people were burning candles in their homes. In medieval times Irish Christians began the custom of placing a lighted candle in the window to show that the stranger was welcome to enter in the name of Christ and share in the Christmas abundance. Parents can make clearer the symbolism of leaving a candle in the window by keeping a plate of Christmas cookies and a hot drink ready for any modern-day wayfarers who may knock at the door, as well as for friends and neighbors.


Christmas dinner in most homes is a joyous occasion, expressive of Christian family love and unity. It affords a special opportunity for sharing this love with our neighbor in the person of a "Christ-guest." This can be a foreign student, an elderly person from the Old Age Home or any acquaintance who is not included in a family dinner of his own. The spirit of receiving all guests as Christ makes Christmas parties and celebrations more meaningful and more in accord with the marvel of God having loved us so much that He sent His Only-begotten Son to dwell with us.


When the family gathers for meals on Christmas Day and throughout Christmastide, it is a natural time to reecho the great fact: "This day Christ is born!" Many families find that special meal prayers which repeat the beautiful texts from the Christmas Masses and Office are a great help in keeping the Christmas theme in mind and in meditating on its meaning. Meal prayers can be as simple as the reading of one of the Christmas collects from the missal, together with the traditional grace.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas Kit" contains Christmas Meal Prayers printed on sheets of cardboard. Five cards--with prayers for breakfast, dinner and supper--are included so that several members of the family and guests may have a copy.


Christmas and Epiphany


These are days when the great notes struck on the feast of Christmas echo and re-echo in our ears until the Epiphany gathers them into a great golden chord. Some of these days have their own liturgical character, like St. Stephen or St. John; others are strongly marked by the secular calendar, like New Year's Day.

Special observances for specific days are given on the following pages, but that does not mean that the other days do not count. For example, carolling and story telling belong to the whole Christmas season. Hospitality and giving to others also must continue if true Christmas joy is to remain. An outing to which friends are invited or a party that includes a round of carolling become perhaps even more appropriate with the approach of Epiphany.

Then there are the other feasts which can only be mentioned in passing here: St. Thomas a Becket (the young married couples in Loveland have a tradition of giving T. S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" on his day); the feast of the Circumcision with its Mass still full of the wonders of the holy Birth; the feast of the Holy Name.


Special night prayers around the crib keep the Christmas spirit alive even when nothing else is on schedule. If the Wise Men are making their journey to Bethlehem through the house, their resting places may be fixed just before night prayers begin. The Christ-Candle is also lit to begin the prayers, which might run something like the following.


FATHER: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

ALL: Amen.

FATHER: Our help is in the Name of the Lord.

ALL: Who made heaven and earth.

FATHER: Let us think over whether our actions during the day have done honor to the Christ-Child (pause).

Let us ask forgiveness for what we have not done as we should.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come: Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

ALL: Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

ALL SING: This day Christ is born; this day the Savior has appeared; this day angels are singing on earth, archangels are rejoicing. This day the just are glad and say, Glory to God in high heaven, alleluia.

ALL PRAY: (Psalm 133 from Compline, the Church's night prayer.)

Come, bless the Lord, * all you servants of the Lord. Who stand in the house of the Lord * during the hours of the night. Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary * and bless the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Sion, * the maker of heaven and earth. Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

ALL SING: (Repeat antiphon preceding psalm.)

MOTHER OR ELDEST CHILD: (Lesson from Jeremias): You are in our midst, Lord, and Your holy Name has been invoked upon us. Do not forsake us, O Lord our God.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

FATHER: Into Your hands, O Lord, * I commend my spirit.

ALL: Into Your hands, O Lord, * I commend my spirit.

FATHER: For You have redeemed us, O Lord, God of truth.

ALL: I commend my spirit.

FATHER: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

ALL: Into Your hands, O Lord, * I commend my spirit.

FATHER: Keep us, O Lord, as the apple of Your eye.

ALL: Shelter us under the shadow of Your wings.

FATHER: Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant, in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have set before all nations as a light of revelation for the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

ALL: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

FATHER: O Lord, hear my prayer.

ALL: And let my cry come to You.

FATHER: Let us pray. Visit this dwelling, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy. Let Thy holy Angels dwell herein, who may keep us in peace, and let Thy blessing be always upon us. Through Christ our Lord.

ALL: Amen.

FATHER: Let us remember the saints who come with us today to show their love for the Christ-Child.

(The Collect or some other appropriate part of the Mass of the day is read.)

Let us now sing a carol to the Christ-Child so that He may rest peacefully with us this night.

Night prayers end with a favorite carol.


St. Stephen's Day immediately follows Christmas, and the Church rejoices in this first testimony by blood to the fact of the Incarnation. Children love the Gospel story about St. Stephen, who for love of God was stoned to death while praying for his enemies. It is also becoming a practice on St. Stephen's Day to pray particularly for our enemies, and it is appropriate to remember the persecuted Church throughout the world and all the people who, like Stephen, are being afflicted for their faith.

St. Stephen was one of the first "social workers" in the Church, and it was his task to organize meals to feed the poor. In remembrance of Stephen's work for the needy, the British people used to collect money throughout the year in little clay boxes. On the feast of St. Stephen or "Boxing day" as it is called in Britain, these boxes were broken and the money was distributed to the poor.

In some homes and communities a box is labelled and set beside the Christmas tree. Members of the family, in gratitude for their Christmas blessings, choose one of their gifts for the "St. Stephen's Box"--clothing and other useful articles which are sent abroad to the poor or to a mission country.

As the family gathers around the lighted Christmas tree in the evening to eat minced meat pie dessert, the mother or father reads the story of Good King Wenceslaus who "looked out on the Feast of Stephen" and who enjoyed eating his minced meat pie after sharing his meal with a poor peasant family. The story is delightfully told in "More Six O'Clock Saints" by Joan Windham, and can easily be acted out by the children. Afterwards all join in singing Christmas carols. especially "Good King Wenceslaus."


An age old tradition connected with St. John's Day, December 27, springs from the legend of the poisoned wine he was served by the disciples of an enemy. He made the sign of the cross over the cup and drank it without harm. In remembrance, wine that is officially blessed after the morning Mass on St. John's Day may be taken home and drunk with special ceremony. In the absence of the priest's blessing, the father of the family may read at the table one or more of the prayers from the ritual--for example, the following:

Let us pray. Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God! You willed that Your Son, equal to You in agelessness and substance should descend from heaven and in the fulness of time be born of the most holy Virgin Mary. Thus He could seek the lost and wayward sheep and carry it on His shoulders to the sheepfold, and could cure the man fallen among robbers of his wounds by pouring in oil and wine. Deign now to bless and sanctify this wine which You produced for man's drink. Whoever drinks of it on this holy feast, grant him life in body and soul. By Your goodness, let it be to him strength to prosper him on the way, that his journey may come to a blessed end. Through the same Christ our Lord.

ALL: Amen.

The wine is poured into a glass by the father, who drinks and passes it first to the mother, and then around the table to children and guests, in commemoration of the disciple of love. A greeting showing that it is love that binds the family together goes round with the cup: "Drink to the love of St. John, the Apostle." "And where love is, there is God," responds the next member of the family, taking the cup and drinking.


The Feast of the Holy Innocents is fittingly celebrated soon after Christmas Day since the Holy Innocents stood in the place of the Child Jesus and saved Him from death by their own shedding of blood. Parents have an opportunity to explain that the Holy Innocents are the special patrons of small children; they help them to please the Infant by obeying their parents, loving their playmates, sharing their toys.

After morning Mass it is becoming customary in some communities for the children to gather around the crib in the parish church for the special blessing of children by the parish priest. If this is not possible, then the family gathers in the evening around the crib, and the father leads everyone present in the Our Father. Then he says the versicle, "O Lord, hear my prayer," and all respond, "And let my cry come unto You." The father proceeds with this prayer, taken from the blessing for children:

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, once You embraced and placed Your hands upon the little children who came to You, and said: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father!" Look now with fatherly eyes on the innocence of these children and their parents' devotion, and bless them this day through our ministry. (The father signs the forehead of each child with the sign of the cross.)

In Your grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for You, loving You, fearing You, keeping Your commandments. Then they will surely come to their destined home, through You, Savior of the world. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

All answer, "Amen."

Then the father says to the children: "May God bless you. And may He keep your hearts and minds--the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit."

All answer, "Amen."

The father then sprinkles the children with holy water. (The Church's official blessing of children is included in the Roman Ritual.)

This feast day, when the father blesses the children with holy water and signs their foreheads with the sign of the cross, reminds us that the father of the family stands at the head of the "little church" which is the home. In this capacity, he has the privilege of blessing the children not only today, but every day. Perhaps the ceremony suggested above could inaugurate the custom of the father blessing the children each evening at family night prayers.

Since the feast of the Holy Innocents particularly concerns young children, the youngest child in the family is today given special privileges. He chooses the dessert for the family dinner, for example; he leads the family in Christmas carols, turns on the Christmas tree lights for the evening's festivities or performs other functions held in honor in the home.

A delightful centerpiece for the family table today can be made by surrounding the large Christ-Candle with smaller white candles representing the Holy Innocents.

The number of small candles might be as many as there are children in the family. Each child is allowed to light one small candle from the flame of the Christ-Candle, signifying that inasmuch as he received his life from Christ, he will live and if need be die for Christ just as the Holy Innocents did. The following round may be sung by the children.

Light of Christ, let me be a tiny flame reflecting thee.


New Year's Eve is celebrated in almost every country, for people universally recognize it as an appropriate time for relatives and old acquaintances to meet and participate in the festivities of dancing, singing and feasting.

Nowadays, most Americans are inclined to spend this eve away from home. Would it not be possible to "baptize" the New Year's Eve observance by restoring corporate celebration--where families could gather together, and both old and young find entertainment adapted to their age and interests?

Before the party breaks into "Auld Lang Syne," everyone could join in an Hour of Watching and prayer, peacefully and hopefully affirming their new resolutions to God. The booklet, "New Life for New Year's Eve," contains an "Hour of Watching" for the last hour of the old year, a prayer-hour which can be used in the parish or adapted for the home celebration. (Available from Grailville Writing Center, Loveland, Ohio.)


Very often countries that are not at all related observe feasts in the same manner. The traditions for New Year's Day illustrate vividly that although people differ in nationality, they are basically alike.

In Holland the children formally present for their parents a recitation of a self-composed poem proclaiming new resolutions for the coming year. In China the younger generations, and especially all the married children, dress up in their best attire and come to pay respects to their elders with gifts and good wishes. And in French Canada, before sitting down to the New Year's feast, the younger members of the family thank their parents for the love and kindness they have received during the past year, and wish them God's blessing.

Thus New Year's seems to be internationally parents' day. Some of the customs related above would be most appropriate for the American scene. For example, if parents would help children "solemnize" their New Year's resolutions, perhaps they would be taken more seriously. And New Year's, too, could be a day when the children perform special services for their parents-- relieving mother in the kitchen, or preparing a favorite dish for the father of the family.


"Arise, for Thy Light Is Come"

Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary. --Theme Song for the Feast of the Epiphany taken from the Lesson, Epiphany Mass.


For many years in the English speaking world the feast of Epiphany has been overshadowed by that of Christmas. But unless we realize the significance of this great day, we see only one side of the mystery of the Incarnation. Now after contemplating the staggering fact that God has become a human child, we turn to look at this mystery from the opposite angle and realize that this seemingly helpless Child is, in fact, the omnipotent God, the King and Ruler of the universe. The feast of Christ's divinity completes the feast of His humanity. It fulfills all our Advent longing for the King "who is come with great power and majesty." We see that whereas Christmas is the family feast of Christianity, Epiphany is the great "world feast of the Catholic Church."

Epiphany is a complex feast. Originating in the Eastern Church and formed by the mentality of a people whose thought processes differ sharply from our own, the Epiphany is like a rich Oriental tapestry in which the various themes are woven and interwoven-- now to be seen in their historical setting, again to be viewed from a different vantage point in their deep mystical significance. In this brief introduction four of the main ideas of the Epiphany will be outlined.

Divine manifestation: The Epiphany takes its name from the Greek "epiphania," which denotes the visit of a god to earth. The first idea of the feast is the manifestation of Christ as the Son of God. "Begotten before the daystar and before all ages, the Lord our Savior is this day made manifest to the world." The feast unites three events in the life of Christ when His divinity, as it were, shines through His humanity: the adoration of the Magi; the baptism of Christ in the Jordan; and the first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. Moreover, at Epiphany the Church looks forward to the majestic coming of Christ on the "youngest day" when His manifestation as God will be complete. The Gospels of the baptism and the marriage at Cana are read on the Octave Day and the Second Sunday after Epiphany, and later Sunday masses in the Epiphany season continue to show the divine power of our Lord in some of His most striking miracles.

Royal kingship: A second important idea in Epiphany is the extension of Christ's kingship to the whole world. The revelation of Christ to the three kings at Bethlehem is a symbol of His revelation to the whole of the Gentile world. Epiphany presents to us the calling of not merely a chosen few, but all nations to Christianity.

Your Light is Come: Closely linked to both these themes of divine manifestation and world kingship is a third idea running through the Epiphany feast: that of light. During Advent, the world was in darkness, and we prayed and waited in the spirit of the Jewish nation which lived in expectation of the Coming Light during thousands of years. At Christmas the Light shone forth, but dimly, seen only by a few around the crib: Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. But at Epiphany the Light bursts forth to all nations and the prophecy is fulfilled: "The Gentiles shall walk in Thy light, and kings in the brightness of Thy rising." The mysterious star of Epiphany, "flashing like a flame," is still another facet of the light-motif, a symbol capable of being interpreted in a dozen different ways.

How much food for thought and reflection is contained in just these three ideas, and what a significance they have for our own time! Epiphany lifts our eyes from the family celebrations and demands that we should include in our vision "all the ends of the earth." It demands that, like the three wise men, we should have the courage to follow the light of the star we have seen, however hazardous the journey; that the light of our faith, like that of the wise men, should be so strong that we are able to see and recognize our Lord and Ruler in however unexpected a way He may present Himself to us; and that having recognized Him, we should bow down and adore Him, offering Him our total loyalty.

Moreover, Epiphany demands that like these kings we should return to our own countries a different way, carrying to all those we meet the light of Christ. "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth," says the Epistle of the Epiphany Mass, "and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon Thee, and His glory shall be seen upon Thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in Thy light..." These words may be applied to us, upon whom the light of Christ has indeed risen, and who have the responsibility to radiate that light in the darkness of our own world. It is clear how much the feast of Epiphany must mean to all who are engaged in the apostolate and are striving to extend the kingdom of Christ.

The royal nuptials: Besides the important ideas outlined above, there is still another great theme threaded through the Epiphany feast--the theme of the royal nuptials, the wedding of Christ with humanity. It is an idea on a completely different level from the historical events which the Epiphany celebrates, yet inextricably bound up with them; for example, the historical marriage feast of Cana is used by the Church to suggest the setting for Christ's nuptials with the Church; the wise men represent not only the three Persian Magi adoring the Babe 2000 years ago at Bethlehem, but also the Gentile world hurrying to the wedding feast at the end of time when mankind's nuptials with the divine Bridegroom will be celebrated; the gold, frankincense and myrrh are not only tokens for the little Baby King in the stable, but royal wedding gifts for the mystical marriage feast of heaven.

The Epiphany antiphon for the hour of Lauds brings out strikingly this theme of the divine marriage of Christ with humanity, and at the same time shows the deep mystical significance behind the historical events surrounding the feast. Perhaps nowhere more clearly than in this antiphon do we see that on Epiphany we do not commemorate a set of historical facts as much as we celebrate a great mystery: "This day the Church is joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ has cleansed her crimes in the Jordan. With gifts the Magi hasten to the royal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water."



Of course, the very center and focal point of the celebration must be the Mass--and what a glorious Mass today's is! We are almost overwhelmed by the majesty, the brilliance, power and dominion of our King, to whom "the kings of Tharsis and the islands, of Saba and Arabia" are offering gifts. We feel that we ourselves are taking part in the fulfillment of the prophecy, "The Gentiles shall walk in Thy light and kings in the brightness of Thy rising."

If any Mass in the whole year should be celebrated with all possible magnificence, with music and incense, it is surely today's. And it is especially appropriate to have a beautiful Missa Cantata in the parish with representatives of every family present. Perhaps some active young people can assist the pastor in encouraging a good attendance at a High Mass, and they might also gather together a group to rehearse the singing. Copies of the "Laudate Dominum" with the antiphon, "Christus vincet; Christus regnat; Christus imperat," could be mimeographed so that the entire congregation can join in singing praise to Christ.

The Epiphany Mass is like a great offertory procession, led by the three Magi. This fact is emphasized in some parishes with a special procession before Mass. Three representatives of the parish bring up gold, frankincense and myrrh, together with the bread and wine for the Offertory, while the choir chants special antiphons from the Epiphany liturgy. (The gold can be represented by gifts of old jewelry from parishioners, which can later be sold for the benefit of the poor.)

At the altar, the gifts are presented to the officiating priest, who may then read over them the special blessing the Church gives for gold, incense and myrrh on this feast day (contained in Father Weller's English translation of the Roman Ritual, published by Bruce, Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Such a procession can help all the people enter more fully into an understanding of the Epiphany mystery, and its theme of offering adoration and praise to God.

Because Epiphany falls on a weekday most of the time, it may not be possible to arrange such a celebration in the parish--but in school or college it should not be difficult to cooperate with school authorities in planning a special observance of the Epiphany feast, beginning with a sung High Mass in the morning.

But even if we cannot participate in a High or Sung Mass before hurrying off to work or school, at least we can read through the texts of the Mass the evening before, so that our minds and hearts are suffused with the splendor of the feast and its rich and deep significance for our life and work in the apostolate.


Throughout the days after Christmas the crib has remained set up in the parish Church--or in the family living room, or meeting place of the apostolic group--to center the thoughts of all on the humble birth of the Child at Bethlehem. Now on the feast of Epiphany the crib is transformed into a royal throne, so that all who see it are reminded of Epiphany's message: "Behold, the Lord, the Ruler is come: and the Kingdom is in His hand, and power and dominion."

The decorating of the crib on the Eve of Epiphany is a wonderful project for a parish young peoples' group or for the family. An elaborate cloth of gold or red velvet lines the crib. Upon the head of the Christ-Child is placed a kingly crown and in His hand a golden sceptre. Around the crib are placed golden candlesticks with tall candles that burn during the Epiphany Mass, or in the case of the home crib, at family prayers. Thus with few changes the crib becomes a regal throne, the little Child, a King. The contrast between the peaceful coming at Christmas and the triumphant world manifestation at Epiphany is eloquently expressed. This simple custom does much to make the spirit of Epiphany live in parish and family.


Some of the Fathers of the Church held the opinion that through His baptism Christ hallowed all the waters of the earth; therefore it became traditional to bless water on the vigil of Epiphany. This water was used in the blessing of homes on the following day.

This custom is being revived today in some parishes. The people gather in the Church on the eve of Epiphany to prepare for the coming feast and to take part in the ceremony of the blessing of the water. Perhaps as a special project children in the classroom or some other group in the parish could prepare holy water containers for the parishioners, decorating small bottles with Epiphany symbols and texts in enamel paint. Then each family could take home one of these filled with the blessed water to use on the following day.

Many pastors also bless pieces of chalk for each family to use in inscribing the names of the three Magi over their doorways, as a manifestation of their Christian faith and a protection against the powers of evil. The prayer for the blessing of the chalk is as follows:

O Lord God, bless this Thy creature chalk that it may be used for the salvation of the human race. Through the invocation of Thy most Holy Name grant that whoever shall take of this chalk and write with it upon the doors of his house the names of Thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession receive health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The blessing of water on the vigil of the Epiphany could well be performed with full solemnity before the main altar. If this is not possible and no priest is available, the prayers and hymns might be used as a vigil preparation at home. The full text for the blessing may be found in Volume three of Father Weller's English translation of the Roman Ritual.

The liturgy of Epiphany, in all its regal splendor, can be a powerful force in educating we modern day Americans in the real meaning of the Incarnation. If we are looking for a remedy for the sentimentality of our business-dominated celebration of Christmas, it is in the Epiphany Mass and Office and in a full observance of the feast that we shall find it.



From the altar the blessing of the Church extends itself on Epiphany to the homes of the faithful. The custom of blessing the home probably grew up on account of the words in the Gospel, "And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down they adored Him." The priest blesses the house if he can be present, but if not, the father of the family may do so. He leads the family (and any guests who may have been invited for the occasion) from room to room, blessing each and inscribing the initials of the three Magi above the doors with the chalk that has been previously blessed. The chalk blessing is written as follows:

19 + C + M + B + 55

One small boy was so delighted with the ceremony that the first time his home was blessed, he said, "Oh, Daddy, is it all over?"- -and then the bright idea struck--"Couldn't we bless all the closets, too?"

A full account of the ceremony and prayers in English are given below. When we bless the houses at Grailville, copies are mimeographed for everyone present so that they can join in the prayers and singing. The house blessing for Epiphany is a beautiful custom for families, and also for schools and apostolic groups to revive, because it helps strengthen the bond of union which should exist between altar and home.


On entering the home,

LEADER (Priest, if present, or father of the family):

Peace be to this house.

ALL: And to all who dwell herein.

ALL: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

ALL PRAY: The Magnificat.

During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed. After this is completed,

ALL: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

LEADER: Our Father... And lead us not into temptation

ALL: But deliver us from evil.

LEADER: All they from Saba shall come

ALL: Bringing gold and frankincense.

LEADER: O Lord, hear my prayer.

ALL: And let my cry come to You.

LEADER: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.

ALL: Amen.

LEADER: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee-- Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

ALL: And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

LEADER: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.

ALL: Amen.

After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with Epiphany water and incensed. The initials of the Magi are inscribed upon the doors with the blessed chalk.


The first idea that our celebrations within the family should try to make vivid for the children is the visit of the three Magi. These are such fascinating and mysterious figures, and the whole episode is so dramatic that there are numerous ways in which this can be done. Many families these days give an Epiphany or "Twelfth Night" party at which the traditional dessert is a cake, containing three beans or large nuts. The three people who find the beans in their piece of cake, are hailed as the "Wise Men" and immediately don the most gorgeous robes available. Colorful old drapes become exotic regal apparel, and fine crowns are fashioned from such prosaic materials as round oatmeal boxes covered with aluminum foil. After that the "kings" rule the party for the rest of the afternoon or evening. They choose the games, supervise the refreshments and may demand special favors from their subjects. It may be added that it is important that the hostess plans a program beforehand, especially in the case of small children. Simple place cards with texts from the Epiphany Mass, and meal prayers which include the Epiphany collect, aid in carrying out the theme.


Most important of the offices the three party Magi perform is the bearing of the figures of the three Wise Men on the last stage of their journey which started on Christmas and which ends today, as they find the Child in the crib. The whole party can be made far more meaningful for the children if this is carried out with reverence and solemnity.

First, the children help "enthrone" the Christ-Child as described earlier. Then all the children form in a procession, with the three live Magi in the lead, each bearing the statue whom he represents. The carol, "We Three Kings of Orient Are" provides just the right rhythm for a royal procession, and if the kings happen to be singers, each sings the verse about his particular gift.

After the figures are in position, the rest of the children have an opportunity to offer gifts. If they have not already had a chance to give material gifts to the poor, this would be a suitable time to do it. But if the children have already done this on a previous occasion, they can begin to learn what it means to give something of themselves for the service of Christ. First, the mother explains to the children that the gold means love; the frankincense, prayer; and the myrrh, suffering and mortification. Then she makes a few definite suggestions, and each child writes on a slip of paper a promise to do one act of this kind. For example, "I will say an extra Hail Mary every day for the next week for an African child my own age who has never heard of Christ," or "I will let my sister play with my new doll dishes." The pieces of paper are laid at the feet of the Christ-Child during the procession.

It also helps the children to realize the scope of Christ's kingdom if each one chooses as his own "kingdom" a different country. As they do their homage to the Christ-Child, the children tell Him where they come from--and then they pray for that particular country very especially during the octave of the Epiphany feast.

After the procession, the children gather round the crib, and two of the older ones read alternate verses of a psalm as a concluding prayer.

ALL PRAY: From the East came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

1ST CHILD: May he rule from sea to sea, * and from the river to the ends of the earth.

2ND CHILD: His foes shall bow before him, * and his enemies shall lick the dust.

1ST CHILD: The kings of Tharsis and the Isles shall offer gifts; * the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring tribute.

2ND CHILD: All kings shall pay him homage, * all nations shall serve him.

For he shall rescue the poor man when he cries out, * and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; * the lives of the poor he shall save.

From fraud and violence he shall redeem them, * and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

May he live to be given the gold of Arabia, and to be prayed for continually * day by day shall they bless him.

May there be an abundance of grain upon the earth; on the tops of the mountains the crops shall rustle like Lebanon; * the city dwellers shall flourish like the verdure of the fields.

May his Name be blessed forever; * as long as the sun his Name shall remain.

In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed; * all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel who alone does wondrous deeds.

And blessed forever be his glorious Name; * may the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

ALL: From the East came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

YOUNG HOST or HOSTESS reads the Gospel for the feast of Epiphany.

ALL: Praise be to You, O Christ.

The mother or father then gives a short explanation of the "Our Father" as the great missionary prayer, reminding the children particularly of the meaning of the words, "Thy Kingdom come."

ALL PRAY: Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom come: Thy Will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Since this is the last of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" it would be especially appropriate to end with carol singing around the royal throne.

Needless to say, the Twelfth Night Party is not essential for this simple re-enactment of the coming of the Wise Men; it could easily be done just within the family circle and the parents could give suitable tasks to the children.


As far back as the twelfth century, Epiphany seems to have been the traditional time for plays, and indeed it is not surprising that this should be so. Apart from the boundless dramatic possibilities in the Epiphany theme, the drama has always been one of the best mediums for conveying ideas, and therefore it is very fitting that we should use it to carry the light of Christ to those who are still in darkness.

The first Epiphany plays were done in church and were based on the Gospel narrative--but gradually they grew wider and wider in scope. In the same way, more ambitious families could extend the simple processions suggested for the Twelfth Night party into real plays to be acted for an audience. A mother who could find the time to help the children of several families, a parish group or a scout troop. write and produce such a play to be performed on the 6th of January, would be doing an apostolic service to the whole community. Such a play could be performed either in a home for children, in a children's ward in the local hospital, in a family where the children might not be celebrating Epiphany in any special way or in a classroom where a number of children would have an opportunity of seeing it.

It is surprising how many good ideas children produce about such things as the characters of the three Magi, their homelands and the circumstances in which they lived; how they knew of the prophecies of the Messias; when they first saw the star; what their friends thought of their scheme to follow it; where and how they met each other; the meeting with Herod when he carefully concealed his jealousy; the warning of the angel; and of course, what actually took place when they arrived at the stable in Bethlehem. The main danger to guard against in writing the play will be a tendency on the part of the children to make dozens of scenes, each of which lasts only a fraction of a minute. This can be avoided by planning a limited number of scenes, for example, three or four, and letting the audience know the other interesting facts by including them in the conversations.

However, for those who feel that writing the play as well as producing it is more than they can manage at this busy time of the year, there are listed below several good Epiphany stories which can easily be dramatized and one Epiphany play. An Epiphany "Legend" which readily lends itself to simple dramatization is given later.

"The Three Kings Ride," from "The Long Christmas," by Ruth Sawyer. The Viking Press, New York, 1941. The legend about a scoffing Roman centurion doomed to be an ageless wanderer through the centuries until he will worship at the manger with the three kings on the feast of Epiphany.

"The Triptych of the Three Kings," by Felix Timmermans, from "The World's Greatest Christmas Stories." Ed., Eric Posselt. Prentice-Hall, New York, 1950. A Christmas miracle in triplicate as a lame shepherd, an eel-fisher and a bleary-eyed beggar begin their customary begging expedition dressed as the three holy kings. A story adults will enjoy.

"The Three Wise Men," by Henri Gheon. Sheed and Ward, New York, 1949. A whimsical Epiphany play easily prepared and acted. Could also be read informally just before the Epiphany cake is cut and the three kings begin their reign.



Seeing in Epiphany the climax of the Christmas season should come quite naturally to the members of an apostolic group. The arrival of the three Magi has since early times symbolized the conversion of the entire world to Christ. The rich liturgy of the feast suggests more than one possibility for a meaningful celebration in an apostolic center, or in a parish or home where members of an apostolic group may meet together. But every practical application must spring from meditation and from renewed contact with the mystery of the manifestation of Christ's divinity.

One way for gaining fresh insight into Christ's divine and royal prerogatives is to attend, either on the feast or within the octave, a celebration of the liturgy in an Eastern rite. Attendance at Mass in an Eastern rite should be preceded by study of the Eastern origins of our own Epiphany liturgy and the mentality underlying it. Further study of the separated Eastern churches would make a full and interesting day for an apostolic group--a day which could have a missionary orientation.


The traditional King's party can also be adapted to a more mature understanding of the nature of the feast. Plans for a "Twelfth Night party" are given below, a party which can be a fresh means of making Christ manifest among those who would not otherwise be aware of the significance of this feast. The apostolic group gives the party for non-Catholics, foreign students or even Catholics unaware of the traditions of the feast--asking them only to contribute something from their cultural wealth.

If the invitation to the party can not be made personally, a written invitation might be worded something like this: "Did you think Christmas was over?

Then come to our TWELFTH NIGHT PARTY. We promise you'll discover something new!

Admission: One thing of beauty to share with us--poem, reading, picture, song, record, dance--that you feel is a high point in human expression."

The idea of the party is explained to the guests somewhat as follows:

"This is the twelfth night of Christmas. You've all heard of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," but did you know what it was the twelfth night of? Once upon a time the celebrating began with Christmas, and lasted for twelve days--instead of beginning six weeks before and petering out the day after. How it came to be twelve days is a long story, and it's all rather mysterious even to historians. But one thing is certain: the feast of Christmas is the beginning, and January 6, the feast of the Epiphany or Manifestation, is the climax. A lot of things we've heard will make more sense when we know this--for example, many of the old folk carols which talk about the birth of Christ on January 6th, and especially the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas.

"This song talks about giving presents and that is very appropriate, for giving belongs to Christmas. Actually, it seems a pity to concentrate all of our gift giving on the first day of Christmas because that takes some of the surprise out of the rest of them. We ought to keep right on for all twelve in one way or another. The Epiphany is the climax of all gift-giving, because it was on this day the three kings or Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ-Child in Bethlehem. At least, this is the day we celebrate their gift-giving, allowing for a bit of poetic license in the liturgy.

(The master of ceremonies asks someone to read the Gospel of the Epiphany feast.)

"So now you see why you have all brought gifts, and gifts that represent the most precious and lovely things that mankind has to offer. The Magi didn't know anything about Jewish customs--they brought what was most valued by them, and these gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh have become symbols of the most noble and spiritual tribute that can be paid by man to representing love; frankincense, worship and prayer, and myrrh, the spiritual value of pain and suffering."

(Some of the "gifts" which the guests have brought might be presented here; others are reserved for suppertime. The great liturgical theme of the wedding feast is introduced at the supper or refreshment time with some such words as these:)

"The feast of the Manifestation has more to it than just the Wise Men, although we're not so familiar with the other ideas. The Epiphany is the feast of Christ's showing-forth His divinity to men, and this took place on various occasions. One that is always associated with today's feast is our Lord's first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast. We can't have a Twelfth Night party without remembering that. So we've laid out our table like a wedding board, with an Epiphany cake in the center. And since gifts belong to weddings, too, we can go right on opening them."

(More of the presentations are made by the guests. Then the Epiphany cake is cut, and the three "kings" revealed in the traditional way; they rule the party for the rest of the evening. At the end of the party, each king is asked to choose from among the contributions the one he liked best. Then, in the name of all, they may offer these gifts, perhaps in the following way.)

ALL stand or kneel behind the kings, around some designation of Christ: a crib, cross, or perhaps simply facing east or looking out the window at the stars.

KING I: We have seen His star in the east, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

READER: Give to the Lord, you families of nations, Give to the Lord glory and praise; Give to the Lord the glory due his name! Bring gifts, and enter his courts; Worship the Lord in holy attire. Tremble before him, all the earth; Say among the nations: the Lord is king. He has made the world firm, not to be moved; He governs the peoples with equity.

KING II: We have seen His star in the east, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

READER: Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; Let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for he comes; For he comes to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice, And the peoples with his constancy.

KING III: We have seen His star in the east, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

The procession to the crib and the prayer-ceremony described at the conclusion of the children's Twelfth Night party also could be adapted here for an older group.

READER: From the Collect of the Epiphany Mass: O God, who on this day by the leading of a star didst manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee now by faith, may be brought to the contemplation of the beauty of Thy majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


The apostolic group will want to consider the possibility of an Epiphany drama, to be included in such an Epiphany celebration as the one described above, or to be given as an independent effort in itself.

At Grailville we have often worked out simple dramatizations of the Epiphany Gospels which have proved very effective and striking presentations. Sometimes the Epiphany play is in three or four scenes, each dealing with a different manifestation of Christ's divinity. The first scene is the coming of the Magi; the second, the baptism in the Jordan; and the third, the marriage feast at Cana; and perhaps a fourth scene showing Christ's coming in glory on the last day through the symbolic parable of the ten virgins who await the bridegroom's coming. The five foolish vir- gins go off to buy oil for their lamps and are too late for the wedding feast, but the five wise ones are admitted to the scene of great rejoicing at the banquet.

Dialogue for such a presentation can be worked out quite easily, but these scenes lend themselves especially well to interpretative movement, and if this is used, it is often sufficient to read directly from the Gospels.

Groups who feel that they are not capable of producing a polished performance should consider the possibility of doing a play in which there will be no audience. All the people present will be involved--either acting, singing, reciting, dancing. They will find such efforts very well worth while, for in actively expressing these great ideas they will have made them their own in a way that no amount of reading on the subject will accomplish.


Taking the missionary implications of the feast a step further, an active apostolic group might well decide to launch a whole study program on the various spiritual forces fighting for the allegiance of the world. An afternoon of study and discussion could lead into a King's party, and be climaxed by a prayer hour for all nations. Gifts offered to the Christ-Child could make the intentions of the day concrete, taking the form of a definite personal commitment to pray for, or give other specific aid to a certain person or group of persons in one of the areas or beliefs undertaken for study. (Detailed suggestions for working out a day along these lines, as well as for an intensive study-program on the world-wide implications of our Catholic faith, are given in the booklet, "Towards A World Vision," a Study-Action guide. (Available from: Grailville Writing Center, Loveland, Ohio.)

THE WISE MEN: An Epiphany Legend

Joseph's workshop was built on to the back of the cottage and the sawdust used to blow under the door of the kitchen, no matter how often Mary swept it. In the winter, Joseph was always busy with the chairs he made for a local firm. He was paid scandalously little for them by the firm, which then sold the chairs to an antique dealer in Chicago. The dealer stained and scratched and battered them very skillfully and sold them as genuine antique wheelback chairs, proving their authenticity by the wormholes, which he had previously made by riddling the chairs with shot. However, Joseph knew nothing of what befell his chairs once they had left his workshop.

He did more than make chairs; he was the carpenter and town handyman. When the scales in Mrs. Evans shop were broken and the old woman found with horror that she was giving too generous a measure, it was Joseph who mended them; Joseph who repaired the door hinges and the table legs; Joseph who mended fences and farm wagons; Joseph who could put new handles on spades and hoes quicker than any other man in the neighborhood.

The cottage used to resound with the hammering of the nails and the drone of the sawing. Mary had long ceased to notice it and the child had lived a whole year in the sound and had apparently grown as used to it as His mother.

Life was as uneventful for them as for the rest of the people. It was work--commonplace, monotonous work at that--varied by petty worries, like the smoking chimney that couldn't be cleaned because it cost money, or the speed with which Joseph's boots wore out. And, more ominous, the ever recurring fear that Mrs. Evans would suddenly refuse to give things on credit.

While this life was going on, the three wise men were making their way together over the hills that surrounded the little town. They came on foot, tired and bedraggled, led by the star.

One of them was rich, judged by the world's standards. He had begun his journey in the comfort of a first-class compartment in the streamliner out of San Francisco; he had crossed the country in luxury, in search of the child.

The second had followed the star from a concert hall in London. He was a singer; he had travelled carefully, frugally, with one eye anxiously on his money, for a growing reputation and wealth do not always go hand in hand.

But the third wise man was penniless. He had tramped and begged his way across Europe, from Poland through Germany to France, across the ocean to New York, and so to this town in the hills of New England.

The three men followed the star. Along the rough track, past the sprawling farm of Jonathan Cartwright, over the bridge, past the railroad station and the first neat white cottages. They looked around uncertainly. There was the general store, the post office, a small row of dilapidated hovels of houses, and a little apart, a cottage. It was a plain, commonplace New England cottage, with a field stone fence around the trim garden plot. The smoke blew gustily from the chimney. And here the star stopped and the wise men never saw it again.

Here, then, was the king to be found. Strangely enough, the door was not fastened. The poor man opened it gently and the others gazed in over his shoulders.

It was absurdly unregal for the king they had travelled across the world to see. For the woman standing there was laughing with a baby who sat in a high chair. A blue plate rested on the tray of the chair, and she was feeding Him with a small spoon. As they entered, the woman looked up quickly, but without surprise; she might have been expecting them. The child stared, immediately forgetful of His dinner. His eyes followed Mary as she took the blue plate and laid it on the kitchen table. Then she quietly untied the bib from the child's neck, smoothed His hair, and left Him sitting in the high chair. She said no single word to the wise men, but she knelt suddenly before the chair and the men fell on their knees with her.

The rich man fumbled in his pocket and dragged out a large box. "Lord," he said, "what I bring you is only what you have lent me- -gold. But you made it, you put it in the earth for us; you allowed us to discover it. You have lent me so much, Lord--money and influence and power. You have let me use all the resources of the earth--timber and steel, coal and oil, wheat, silver and iron. The gold that I give you speaks for all those things." As he spoke he emptied the box on to the tray of the chair. Rare coins, gold and silver, from every land under heaven lay heaped there. Attracted by the glimmer of the gold, the child clasped His fingers round the largest coin and, laughing silently, dropped it on to the floor. It rolled over the floor and hid itself under the dresser. The rich man put his hands over the coins and said to the child: "All these I give back to you, for they were yours in the beginning. My job is to see that they are used in your honor."

"Lord," cried the singer, unrolling his music, "my only gift is to praise you with the gifts you have given me." And his voice fell softly on the ears of Mary and the child.

"Lift your hidden faces. Ye who wept and prayed; Leave your covert places, Ye who were afraid.

Joyfully foregather Sorrow now is done. We have found a Father, We have found a Son.

"You have given me gifts, Lord," he said, "and I bring them back to you; help me to use them; help me to increase them, for they are not things of my own. They are only lent me to use in your service." And as he spoke Mary saw all the praise that was meant for the child and that would never be used for Him, the talents that would be turned against Him--the music, the singing, the writing, the acting, the eloquence.

The third man had risen to his feet. He looked like a scarecrow; his clothes in rags, his feet gaping through the holes in his boots, his hair hanging over the collar of his threadbare coat. "Dear Lord," he said softly, and he spoke in Polish--but by some miracle they all understood him--"Dear Lord, I have nothing to give you, only poverty and suffering, and I've walked over half the world to give it to you. I don't come alone; I'm one of an army who send you the same gift. I'm their ambassador," he said quaintly, falling on his knees again and grasping the arm of the baby's chair in his hands. "I'm here for everyone who suffers, for the persecuted Jews, for my own country, for the broken cities of Europe, for the battlefields of China and Korea and Viet-nam." He clasped his hands together; they were black and their nails broken. "It was wrong to say that I had nothing to give you; nothing greater than suffering can be given. Take the poverty of the homeless and the starving; the agony and pain in all the hospitals in the world; take the suffering from the concentration camps, the loneliness of the refugees; the anxiety and terror of those who have been torn from their families and driven from their homelands. Accept them all," he prayed.

And so the three wise men came with their gold, frankincense and myrrh. And the child accepted everything they gave Him, the power, the praise and the suffering, while His mother laid up their words in her heart.

--Reprinted from Grail Bulletin.


Scene 1-The Annunciation

Play opens with chanting by the angels who are grouped across the front of the stage. They sing the antiphon for second Vespers of the feast of the Annunciation twice. During the second singing, the angels step gracefully to the sides. As they step back, the tableau of the Blessed Virgin receiving the salutation of Gabriel is revealed. When the angels are in place, the choral choir begins immediately the narration. The parts of the Angel Gabriel and Mary may be narrated by the entire group, or spoken by individual members of the choir.

ANGELS: Gabriel Angelus locutus est Mariae dicens: Ave gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. (Liber Usualis, p. 1417) or "Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming."

CHORAL And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent CHOIR: from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her:

ANGEL GABRIEL: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women.

CHORAL CHOIR: Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her:

ANGEL GABRIEL: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

CHORAL CHOIR: And Mary said to the angel:

MARY: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

CHORAL CHOIR: And the angel answering, said to her:

ANGEL GABRIEL: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God.

CHORAL CHOIR: And Mary said:

MARY: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.

ANGELS: (Advancing toward the front of stage as they sing) Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. ("Liber Usualis")

Scene 2-The Nativity

(Angels remain as a "living curtain" across the front of the stage. During singing of "Ave Maria" and beginning of "Hodie" figures in tableau are changed and Nativity scene is set.)

ANGELS: Hodie Christus natus est: hodie Salvator apparuit: Hodie in terra canunt Angeli, laetantur Archangeli Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia. ("Liber" ) or "Gloria" chorus from the "Angel's Song."

(Angels step back revealing crib scene--Mary, Joseph, and Infant.)

CHORAL CHOIR: And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

(Angels remain in place, but begin chanting. At this point, shepherds enter and after kneeling to adore the Child, group themselves around the crib. Sing: "Come, Ye Shepherds."

CHORAL CHOIR: And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them:

ANGEL: Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people. For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.

CHORAL CHOIR: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: "Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will." And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another:

SHEPHERD: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us.

CHORAL CHOIR: And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Scene 3-Adoration of the Kings

(Tableau and angels remain in place. Upon completion of narration of Scene 2, angels chant communion verse from the Mass of Epiphany. The verse is sung twice during which kings enter carrying gifts. An effective touch with the gifts is to have them wrapped as Christmas presents, tied with red ribbon. The kings kneel, adore the Child, present the gifts to Mary, who places them at the foot of the crib. They then rise and remain in an attitude of contemplation during the narration.)

ANGELS: Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum. (Liber, p. 462) or "We Three Kings of Orient Are."

CHORAL CHOIR: When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying:

KINGS: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him.

CHORAL CHOIR: And King Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him:

CHIEF PRIEST: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet: "And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel."

CHORAL CHOIR: Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them. And sending them into Bethlehem, said:

HEROD: Go, and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him.

CHORAL CHOIR: Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.

(Play concludes with all singing a joyous Christmas carol.)

The author is grateful to the following who served on a special committee, giving ideas and suggestions for "The Twelve Days of Christmas Book":

Irene Chen, Hong Kong

Anne Hope, South Africa

Winnifred Kelly, Chicago

Alice Kraemer, California

Patricia Parlin, St. Paul

Eleanor Walker, New York

Grateful thanks is also extended to Mr. Harold Stout of Cincinnati for his generous assistance in the photography program at Grailville which made the Christmas Book pictures possible.

Photo on page 94 by Arthur Studio, Detroit, Michigan; photo on page 117 by Drouth Studio, Cincinnati.

The young women of Grailville have written a series of booklets on the celebration of the feasts of the Church the home and family, parish and apostolic group. Other titles available (from Grailville, Loveland, Ohio) are:

* New Life for New Year's Eve

* Christian Celebration of Candlemas

* Holy Spring--Four Sundays of Lent

* Restore the Sunday