Baby Jesus' birthday party

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The chapel above Pauline Books and Media in Alexandria was transformed into a stable Dec. 10. Next to the twinkling lights and manger were racks of costumes — a shepherd’s headdress, angel wings, Mary’s blue robe and a Wise Man’s crown. 

After taking a photo in first-century garb, one little boy lingered to hug the doll in the manger. “Bye bye, baby Jesus,” he said. 

Sister Mary Jerome, a Daughter of St. Paul, loves that their Baby Jesus Birthday Party helps children understand what Christmas is all about. “The season is so full of busyness and commercialism but here we try to give them an experience of Jesus,” she said. 

Beginning that morning and well into the afternoon, around 200 families visited the bookstore to listen to stories, sing Christmas carols and eat birthday cake. The children sat on St. Nicholas' lap and wrote notes to Jesus on paper ornaments before hanging them on the Christmas tree. 

Maria Bremburg and her children have been coming to the party for seven years. Once Bremburg’s sister, Ruth Almeter, began to have children, the families attend together. 

“Our kids so look forward to it,” said Bremburg. “I think three months ago they were already divvying up who was going to be (whom). I said, ‘Guys, we have to make a decision so we have only three Wise Men.’ ” 

This year, Almeter’s youngest, 5-month-old Ingrid, played baby Jesus. 

The Daughters of St. Paul have hosted the birthday party for nearly 30 years. Now, said Sister Mary Jerome, parents who came as children are bringing their own kids. The party is a simple, fun way to explain Christmas to a young audience, she said.

 

Many volunteers help the sisters run the event, from those who read stories to the woman who baked nine birthday cakes for the occasion. Terry McManus, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria and a frequent volunteer at the bookstore, played the part of St. Nick. 

Silvia Meza and her husband brought their daughters Lourdes and Fatima. They enjoy it so much, Meza and her husband might continue to come even after the girls are grown, she joked.

Colleen Sullivan heard about a children’s meet and greet with “Frozen” characters Elsa and Olaf in Arlington that morning, but instead brought her children to the birthday party. “There was no question,” said Sullivan. 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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