{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, 



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
     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
     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.

                    COME REJOICING
                    MONARCHS' MONARCH
                    MIGHTY WONDER!
                              --St. Bernard's Nativity Sequence

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 


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 



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.

               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.

               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 
FATHER:        Show to us, O Lord, Your mercy * and grant us Your 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 time...so 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 


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 

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 

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 


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 

          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 

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 

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 


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. 

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 

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 

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 

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 
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 
In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at 

               JESUS CHRIST

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 

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 

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 


"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 

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 

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 

"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 

"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 


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 

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 


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 

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 

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 

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

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 

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

ALL SING:     (Repeat antiphon preceding psalm.)

(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 

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 

All answer, "Amen."

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

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

           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 

"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 God...gold 
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 


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 

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 

(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 year...in 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