Innocent Preparation for Christmas
The combination of all the details, even the smallest, that make up the Christmas atmosphere pays tribute, in some way, to that blessed night that saw the birth of the long-awaited Redeemer in the Grotto of Bethlehem.
The City Hall of Gengenbach (Germany), decorated as an Advent calendar
As Christmas celebrations draw near, the gazes of some of the people with whom we fortuitously cross paths reveal a nostalgia, a spiritual thirst, a desire – perhaps subconscious – to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.
In today’s world, this festivity is presented under a wrapping of hustle and bustle, shopping, commercialism and gratification, which prevents its authentic and innocent joys from shining through. Instead of hearts turning to God Most High who came down to us, taking on poor mortal nature to save us, the world turns its attention to an idol: Mammon, the god of money. The customs with which each people relives the birth of Christ are increasingly massified by this universal idolatry, focused on all that is perishable, and oblivious to eternal values.
Very different are the riches of a society open to the light of God! In this sense, the Christmas traditions of Germany stand out. Generally seen as a philosophical and military nation, at Christmas time, however, it is clothed with a delicacy of soul capable of interpreting “the sentiment of affection that should be awakened in someone who beholds a tender Child in the manger, with all the physical frailties of infancy, weeping and cold, but who is nevertheless truly God.”
This perfect balance between combativeness and affectivity only fully blossoms in the truly Catholic soul, which knows how to admire the sublime and the marvellous that exist beyond the concrete world and which, for this reason, seeks to materially represent aspects of a beauty that does not exist on this earth, but which it desires because it was created for Heaven.
At the Saviour’s Birth, we did not receive just any gift from the eternal abodes; the Creator of Paradise himself came to dwell with us. Mankind spent millennia waiting and preparing for this event, and over the centuries, through the liturgical season of Advent, the Holy Church revivifies this joyful hope.
In the temporal sphere, a German tradition, refined over the decades, expresses this expectation in a charming way: a calendar to mark the days leading up to Christmas. In its most elaborate version, the Advent calendar presents a series of little windows to be opened each day, disclosing a religious symbol or a Christmas allegory hidden behind them.
In some cities, the setting is transposed to the façade of famous buildings, attracting the attention of passers-by during those weeks. In this way the faithful innocently prepare for Christmas, placing themselves in the perspective of the event that will be relived on the night between December 24th and 25th, and children, especially, temper their exuberant eagerness for the coming of the great day.
The illustrations behind each little window generally resemble the images evoked by German Christmas carols: “[A] little town covered with snow, the white cone-shaped roofs, the little brown houses; everything seems to be made of gingerbread to be eaten. And a little church, as if made of marzipan, […] the path leading to the church, somewhat meandering […]; the bell that rings at a specific time and the families that appear all bundled up – each individual looking like a ball of wool –, little children walking in single file, carrying lanterns […]. The feathery snowflakes fall without the slightest sound. An immense and recollected silence, of a sacred night, in which the entire world ponders the silence that surrounded the grotto and the manger.”
This Advent, let us resolve to make a similar calendar ourselves. However, it is not necessary to have it – whether printed or carefully homemade – in paper form, but rather, above all, to carry it in our hearts.
Each day let us try to detach ourselves from our selfishness and from the passing things of this world, and let us open a new space in our souls so that the Blessed Virgin can place something wonderful there that will bring us closer to Paradise, bringing a smile to the Child Jesus, whose birth will soon mystically take place. ◊