When I think of Christmas traditions, I have memories of “Posadas,” “Pastorelas” or Nativity plays, “pesebres vivientes” or living nativities, the “Misa del Gallo” or midnight Masses, and the traditional Christmas carols that joyfully tell stories about the Holy Family.
Christmas traditions in my life, particularly growing up, have helped shape my faith; and as my husband and I strive to pass on these traditions to our children, we hope that they will also help strengthen and build the foundation of their faith.
As an immigrant in the United States, I have been fortunate to see how Christmas traditions from all over the world come together at Christmastime, like a beautiful patchwork-quilt collage stitched by the common thread of our Catholic faith. It is that faith and traditions that we want to share with our children.
Earlier this year, we decided to organize an Epiphany party for our elementary school-age son and his friends on the feast of the Epiphany or “Día de los Reyes Magos.” The kids enjoyed making crafts about the Holy Family and the Wise Men; they also enjoyed snacks and the traditional Three Kings Bread.
We wrapped up the gathering by singing Christmas carols around the Nativity and Christmas tree; even the adults joined in as we heard the children enjoy singing the songs they learned at school. A feeling of joy filled the air as we saw our children sing praises to God.
Not all my attempts to foster opportunities that nurture their faith and create lasting memories are as victorious as this one.
A couple of years ago, when I wanted to have my children join a “Pastorela” at our nearby parish, after attending the first training meeting one of my children refused to play the role of a “pastorcito” or young shepherd. He did not want to be in the spotlight, he said.
All my attempts to persuade him failed. There is always a next time, I thought.
Pope Francis invites us repeatedly to look up to the Holy Family for inspiration and even strength.
In his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” he reminds us that we, parents, are the foundation of our homes and our children are the “living stones,” and we are tasked with transmitting the faith with love.
With the challenges of everyday life, such a perfect image of the Holy Family may seem distant from ours, but the pope reminds us that they also had their share of suffering and hardships. Therefore, Pope Francis encourages us to look to Mary and entrust our labor of love to her.
“The treasury of Mary’s heart also contains the experiences of every family, which she cherishes. For this reason, she can help us understand the meaning of these experiences and to hear the message God wishes to communicate through the life of our families,” Pope Francis wrote (No. 30).
As I humbly write these words, I recognize that I do not have degrees in evangelization or theology. I am just a mom working in God’s vineyard, hoping that these memories will help instill in my children a love for God and his church. And you can do it too.
As the end of the year approaches, I think of all the things I am grateful for, and at the top of the list is faith. Faith is what has helped our family carry on during this challenging year, and a faith that is strong and alive is what I hope to pass on to my kids.
By Norma Montenegro Flynn, Catholic News Service
Norma Montenegro Flynn is a freelance Catholic journalist.