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Celebrating the full seasons of Christmas from Advent to Epiphany

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Every year, the window between holidays shortens like the day’s sunlight. Shopping is constant and the wish lists of Bobby and Sue seem to be a mile long. With everything there is to do, it’s easy to think of Christmas as just another holiday.  

But it is more than consumerism. That’s what a new book, Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas, hopes to show. Christmas is sacred and there is meaning behind the traditions.

Written by Father William P. Saunders, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls and episcopal vicar of faith formation, the book provides the history of Advent and Christmas, as well as practical suggestions on entering fully into the season. Some of the material comes from Father Saunders’ past columns in the Catholic Herald, but also includes new information, updated articles and material from his homilies.

Father Saunders is frustrated with the commercialization of Christmas.

“I thought it would be good to have all these resources in one book that would be available for families, the idea being that families, especially in the culture in which we live, really need to have a home Catholic culture,” he said. “Little children need to know the significance of these great Catholic traditions.”

In our rush to buy presents and usher in Christmas cheer, the importance of Advent can be overlooked. The book starts with Advent, following its origins from France’s preparation for the feast of the Epiphany to the first Sunday of Advent designated by the church as the beginning of the church year around the ninth century, according to the book.

The section also provides a look at the history of the Advent wreath, praying with the wreath and suggestions for good Advent preparation — pray, read sacred Scripture, take time for confession, teach, preach and give.

Borrowing a tradition from his own family, Father Saunders invites families to have an Advent wreath at the center of the kitchen table, giving each child a chance to read the suggested prayers or light the candles of the wreath each week.

Several feast days during Advent, including St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) and St. Lucy (Dec. 13), are covered by Father Saunders.

“The feasts are ways to punctuate Advent and really set our hearts on Christmas,” he said.

The book also highlights St. Joseph’s role in the birth of Jesus. The section on the octave before Christmas delves into the O Antiphons and Father Saunders provides detailed meaning behind the 12 Days of Christmas. The history of the Christmas tree, crèche, candles and carols also are explored.

Beyond Christmas Day, the book looks at the Solemnity of Mary and continues through the Feast of the Presentation (Feb. 2), which marks the end of the Christmas season in European countries.

Father Saunders said one key thing is to simplify and focus on Christmas. “Rather than have the craziness of this entire gift giving, maybe limit it to three gifts like the Magi,” he said. 

Get the book

To buy a copy of Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas, go here.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018