Seasonal Items for Catholics

Advent and Christmas items are some of the most beloved Catholic treasures, especially for children.

Advent Wreath

An Advent wreath is often made of evergreens, as a symbol of life, and in a circular form, as a symbol of eternity. It has four candles: three are purple, the color of penance, and one is rose, the color of joy. One purple candle is lit during the first week of Advent, and an additional candle is lit during each of the subsequent weeks, to remind us of the coming of Christ, the Light of the World. The rose candle is lit beginning on the third Sunday of Advent, called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, the midpoint of the Advent season, when we rejoice because Christmas is drawing near. Some Advent wreaths contain a white candle in the center, which is lit on Christmas Eve. Advent wreaths can be found in churches as well as in homes.

Advent Calendar

Catholic children preparing for Christmas turn to their Advent calendars. An Advent calendar does not look like a traditional calendar. It is usually a large picture of a town or a manger scene with twenty-four or twenty-five numbered slots or doors. Beginning on December 1, a child opens one door each day to reveal a picture or a Bible verse.

Gerhard Lang is credited with printing the first commercial Advent calendar around 1908. The custom became popular in the United States when newspapers printed pictures of President Eisenhower and his grandchildren using an Advent calendar in the White House in 1953.

Jesse Tree

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Do you hang ornaments made by your children and souvenirs of special events? As a Christmas tree might showcase family memories, a Jesse Tree reflects the history of the Faith.

A Jesse Tree is a small tree on which Catholics hang pictures or ornaments that depict key events in salvation history. It is named after Jesse, the father of King David. Isaiah 11:1 states, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” That Old Testament passage refers to the birth of Jesus. The Jesse Tree thus links Old Testament passages that foreshadow the birth of the Savior with the Nativity of Our Lord.

Christmas Manger Scenes

Scenes of Christ’s birth in a stable have been part of Catholic culture since at least the middle of the fourth century. At that time, the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome was constructed with a small oratory built like the cave in Bethlehem. It was St. Francis of Assisi in 1223, however, who inspired the manger scenes that now grace Catholic homes at Christmas.

According to legend, St. Francis walked the streets of Greccio, Italy, in late December 1223 and saw shops filled with glittery Christmas presents. He heard people talk about buying and selling gifts, but nobody spoke of Jesus’ birth. St. Francis wanted to do something that would remind the people that Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Recalling the religious plays that brought Easter stories to life, he obtained permission from Pope Honorious III to build a religious scene in a cave on the outskirts of the town. St. Francis asked his good friend John Velita to bring animals and hay to the cave. With the animals, hay, and a cave, Francis recreated the scene of Christ’s birth in the manger.

Since the 1600s, the Capuchin Fathers, an order of priests inspired by the work of St. Francis, have encouraged Catholics to create manger scenes in their homes. They have been given credit for the popularization of manger scenes in Christian homes.

St. Francis of Assisi began the tradition of using manger scenes to recall the first Christmas.

Originally posted 2019-05-17 16:57:57.