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
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.