|Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Painted in 1888 by Peder Severin|
Recognising that the title of the essay is likely to raise a few eyebrows, I want to remind my fellow Catholics of something very important. While we must always fast and pray, do penance, and make reparation, we are not Puritans! It is the Protestants who have a long reputation of ruining parties, and we should stop imitating them. Being holy doesn't mean being a prude. There is a time for penance, a time for prayer, a time for reparation, and also a time for rejoicing. The Scriptures record that Jesus partied, particularly on the occasion of weddings, and if it's good enough for the Son of God, it ought to be good enough for us.
As Catholics, however, we should not imitate the world when it comes to partying. We should stay clear of lewd revelry and unrestrained passions. Rather, we should do it our own way, so as to make a distinct impression, not only upon our children (who will remember the merriment in fondness, eager to repeat in their adulthood) but also upon our non-Catholic friends and neighbours who will see us as a curious people, unafraid of fun, and at the same time keep it decent and respectable.
Catholic parties should centre around Catholic feasts and festivals. Particularly Holy Days of Obligation, but not necessarily limited to them. So the following are some suggestions on how to make the year Catholic...
The Catholic Calendar of parties, celebrations and observances...
This is the beginning of the Catholic year. It starts exactly four Sundays before Christmas. While this is not an occasion for a party, it should be solemnly marked in every Catholic home. Four candles should be placed in the window facing the street. In many modern homes, these will probably be electric, so as to reduce fire risk. They should all be lit at the same time, every night during Advent, to display the four Sundays of Advent. Inside the home, however, a solemn (but short) candle-lighting ceremony should be done every night, lighting one candle for the first week, two for the second, and so on. Children should definitely take part of this so that they clearly associate it with the preparation leading up to Christmastide. Many Catholics do see Advent as a mini-Lent, so it is appropriate to give something up for Advent...
Head of Household:
Let us pray.
Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, O Lord,
and come, so that we may escape through Thy protection
and be saved by Thy help from the dangers
that threaten us because of our sins.
Who livest and reignest forever and ever.
During the first week, one candle is left burning during the evening meal, at prayers or at bedtime.
Two candles are lit on and after the second Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer for the week is:
Head of Household:
Let us pray.
O Lord, stir up our hearts
that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son,
that through His coming
we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.
Through the same Christ our Lord.
Three candles, including the rose candle, are lit on Gaudete, the third Sunday, and during that week. The following prayer is said:
Head of Household:
Let us pray.
We humbly beg Thee, O Lord,
to listen to our prayers;
and by the grace of Thy coming
bring light into our darkened minds.
Who livest and reignest forever and ever.
All four candles are lit on the fourth Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer said the fourth week is:
Head of Household:
Let us pray.
Stir up Thy might, we pray Thee, O Lord, and come;
rescue us through Thy great strength so that salvation,
which has been hindered by our sins,
may be hastened by the grace of Thy gentle mercy.
Who livest and reignest for ever and ever.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8)
|The Immaculate Conception|
painted in 1768 by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
It's a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States, so if you're a Catholic parent, you definitely should take your kids out of school. Seriously, we're Catholic. Do it. You should also attempt to get the day off from work if your employer will allow it. If you are the employer, give your employees the day off with pay. At the very least you should attend mass. This would be a good occasion to have your first party of the year. Keep it a small one. Perhaps a dinner party of a cocktail party might be appropriate. Children should be encouraged to play and have fun. Work should be kept to a minimum. If a dinner party is chosen, consider a potluck, so as to minimise the workload on the family giving the party. The Feast of St. Nicholas happens to fall on December 6, just two days prior. It might be practical to combine the two for the children. Have the children remove their shoes when they come into the house. Then when they aren't looking, drop a small bag of candy into one of their shoes. Make sure you tell the children about the real St. Nicholas while reminding them what the Immaculate Conception means. Sometimes telling the story about St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes may help them remember too.
Everyone loves Christmas, but most Christians decry the commercialisation of it. Let's face it, there is nothing we can do to stop retailers from trying to earn a buck leading up to Christmas, so complaining about commercialisation isn't going to change anything. Rather, we have to overcome it in our homes. This is why we need to get back to celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas. Of course, we can celebrate longer if we want, mirroring the liturgical season of Christmastide, but the 12 Days (from December 25 to January 6) should be a bare minimum for all Catholic families.
Check your Catholic liturgical calendar. The 12 days of Christmas begin on the eve of December 25, and continue all the way through to about January 6. So this is what we can do...
- Leave all your Christmas decorations and lights up until at least January 6 (or longer), even if you're the last house on the block.
- Keep the Christmas music and atmosphere going in your home (and car) during that time.
- Continue to wish everyone a "Merry Christmas" all the way through till January 6 at least.
- Mark December 25 as the Feast of the Nativity, telling your children the Christmas story, but leave out the part about the Wise Men (Magi). That comes later.
- Mark January 6 as the Feast of the Epiphany, telling your children the Christmas story about the Wise Men (Magi).
- Invite friends and family over for visits and little parties all throughout the 12 Days of Christmas. That's right, save your Christmas parties until AFTER December 25. Get them done during the 12 days. This includes the New Years Eve party too.
- Don't give all your presents to your children on Christmas Day. Stagger them out, and give them to them throughout the 12 days. Or give half on Nativity (December 25) and the other half on Epiphany (January 6). Or give them all on Epiphany. Your choice.
- Make an extra effort to attend mass on some of the minor feasts that fall between December 25 and January 6. You can't really keep "Christ" in Christmas unless you're also keeping the "mass" in Christmas.
Forget Mardi Gras and Carnival. These celebrations have become way too secular and worldly. With that worldliness has come decadence and debauchery. That's not Catholic. So stay out of it if you can. There isn't much we can do about that, other than ignoring it.
The best way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday) is to have a tasteful party in your home. Invite the friends and/or relatives, as well as members of your parish. You can do this any way you want and whatever is most affordable. It should be family friendly so that children can have fun too. There should be plenty of food, sweets for children, meat and liquor for adults. There are plenty of traditional dishes and desserts that can be prepared if interested. The party should not only remain tasteful but should probably begin with a prayer and a blessing before the meal. Yet at the same time, the party should not be boring or stuffy. Good music, dancing and tasteful revelry of various types are perfectly appropriate, so long as everyone keeps it "G Rated." Remember, we are Catholics. Act like it!
|The women are greeted by the angel on Easter morning.|
After Easter morning is done, starting that Sunday night through the week following, it is completely appropriate to throw a party. It could be a dinner party, a cocktail party, or whatever you like. Bring over your family and/or friends and have fun.
Pentecost is underappreciated in the Church, we need to get back to the importance of this. One simple way to do this is to give gifts to your children, and/or exchange gifts between adults. This need not be the same kind of materialistic extravaganza like we see at Christmastide. Rather, it should just be something simple, but meaningful, to remind us of the gift God gave us at Pentecost -- His Holy Spirit.
A party of family and/or friends might be a good setting to do this in. Consider throwing one, or attending one.
Allhallowtide (All Saints / All Souls)
- Hang or fly a Vatican flag on the morning of October 31, and leave it up through November 5. This is to combat the remembrance of both "Reformation Day" (October 31) and "Guy Fawkes Day" (November 5) which are used by Protestants to celebrate the birth of Protestantism and to disparage Catholicism respectively. Displaying a Vatican flag during this time will go a long way toward countering the damage of these Protestant celebrations. You can get a Vatican flag here.
- Stop calling it Halloween. Start calling it All Hallows Eve, which is another way of saying All Saints Evening. The Triduum celebration should be referred to as Allhallowtide, and it consists of All Hallows Eve (Oct. 31), All Hallows Day (Nov. 1), and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).
- Pull your kids out of school on November 1st and 2nd for "religious celebrations." Seriously, do it. We're Catholic. Be Catholic.
- On All Hallows Eve (Halloween night), let the kids go Trick or Treating. All Hallows is a celebration of life, and a mockery of death, in honour of what Christ did for us on the Cross. That means little spooky ghost, skeleton and goblin costumes are okay because they make fun of these things. The same goes for little witch costumes for the same reason. One historic way Christians mocked witchcraft and the occult was to make witches and pagans look as ugly as possible. Sometimes, a ridiculously long nose was used, as were hairy moles on the face, green makeup, etc. As long as the costume is designed to poke fun at death or the occult, it's in the right spirit. If it glorifies either, it's in the wrong spirt. If you're confused, ask yourself this question. Does it make people laugh at death or the occult when they see it? If so, you've done well. Also, consider costumes of heroes, both real and make-believe, including Saints. Some priests have encouraged children to come to the parish or rectory for trick-or-treating, wherein he would give candy to any child dressed as a Saint or holy figure, but the children dressed as witches, ghosts or ghouls would only get sprinkled with holy water instead. It's great silly fun! Ask your parish priest ahead of time if he's willing to play along. If so, put it in the parish bulletin.
- Home Celebration Option 1: Light a bonfire (either small or large) somewhere on your property where it is safe to do so. This might be in a driveway, or your lawn, or land, etc. The idea here is to make is safe, and use it as a symbol of light that drives away the darkness. It may also be used for warmth for those who wish to sit near it while they visit and/or hand out candy to trick or treaters, etc.
- Home Celebration Option 2: Arrange an adult costume party indoors for All Hallows Eve, and share the duty of handing out candy to Trick or Treaters coming to the door. Adult costumes should follow the same rule as children's costumes (see above). Absolutely no glorification of extra-marital sex (or any other mortal sin) either. So that means no slutty costumes. We're Catholic folks, remember that.
- Go to mass for All Hallows Eve (October 31) or All Hallows Day (November 1) to observe the Holy Day of Obligation, but remember, mass is always a solemn occasion -- no costumes for this. If it's too difficult to change between mass and All Hallows festivities on All Hallows Eve, you should go to mass on All Hallows Day (All Saints Day) instead.
- The night after All Hallows Eve is All Souls Eve. On All Souls Eve, after dark, go to the graves of your loved ones and place candles in jars on top of (or at the foot of) the tombstones/markers there. Also, consider lighting Chinese lanterns for release (get some here). Both the candles and lanterns represent the light of life for the souls of the faithful departed. Remember, this is a more solemn occasion and one should dress appropriately. If for some reason the cemetery in inaccessible after dark, consider visiting during the day and go to your parish or home to light the candle and/or lantern.
- Meet up at somebody's home (or in the parish kitchen if available) for some hot apple cider and treats. Consider Kentucky apple cider as one possible option for adults. Again, this is for socialising and fun after praying for the poor souls in Purgatory, and lighting a candle/lantern in their honour, that they may soon join us in the All Hallows merriment in Heaven. Remember, the whole Allhallowtide observance is a celebration of life, not death.
- Try attending mass on All Souls Day too, if you can. It's not a Holy Day of Obligation so it's not required, but it's a good way to close the All Hallows celebration.
Here's a summary of a good Catholic way to celebrate Allhallowtide in a practical way for busy people.
- Pull your kids out of school on November 1 & 2 to make this easy.
- (October 31) Let your kids have fun Trick or Treating that evening, and attend an All Hallows parties.
- (November 1) Go to the mandatory All Hallows (All Saints) mass.
- (November 1) The evening of November 1 is the Eve of All Souls. Remember, on the Catholic calendar, a feast or solemnity always begins at sundown the night before. So sundown of November 1 is the beginning of All Souls Eve. This would be a good time to visit the graves of Catholic loved ones and place a candle, and/or light a Chinese lantern in their honour.
- (November 2) Attend an All Souls mass and pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
If you're worried about the celebration of All Hallows (Halloween) being connected to Paganism or the occult, please watch this video...
Lastly, SHARE this essay with as many people as you can, and BOOKMARK it for later use. That way you can return and re-read it at various times of the year when these celebrations occur. Let's take back our Catholic holidays for Christ and his Church!
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.
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