PART 4 - CATHOLIC HOLIDAYS
Grandpa: How about we talk about some Catholic Holidays… In order of importance, the Catholic Holydays are Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, the Epiphany and the Ascension. I would like to start by talking about the birth of Jesus on December 25. What do you think this Holiday is called?
Guillaume and Delphine: I know, it's Christmas.
Grandpa: That's it! But in truth we have no idea when Jesus was born. This holiday did not exist at the beginning of Christianity. Around the third century AD, attempts were made to determine the date of Jesus' birth. Several options were proposed and in the year 354, Emperor Constantine set the date of Christmas, the date of Jesus' birth, to December 25. Christmas is still to this day celebrated on that date.
That said, the period before Christmas is called Advent. This period lasts between 22 and 28 days. At the time of the establishment of this period of fast in France, the local Church wanted to prepare for this birth by fasting three days a week as well as by abstinence. Some saw Advent as a time of expectation and hope for the coming of Jesus. Over time this practice has exceeded the limits of France and has become widespread. Here at the Château-Richer Church Advent is still practiced every year.
Grandpa: But here is a question for you. Do you also practice Advent?
Delphine: Indirectly grandpa. We receive grandmother's Advent calendars each year and in these calendars we find between 22 and 28 small windows that can be opened, one per day behind which we find a chocolate.
Grandpa: Well, this idea of giving children an Advent calendar to keep them waiting until Christmas is a tradition of Germanic origin that dates back to the 19th century only. At first pious images were offered to children. Around 1920 a calendar with small doors or windows to open was born. But chocolates arrived very recently indeed ... in 1958.
SANTA CLAUS - THE CRIB - THE CHRISTMAS TREES
Guillaume: Grandpa, speaking of Christmas, it reminds me of St-Nicolas. Can you tell me who he was and if he's Santa Claus?
Grandpa: Well Guillaume, Santa Claus is a creation associated with the Christmas Holiday but it is inspired by the story of St-Nicolas. This Saint-Nicolas was bishop of the city of Myre in present-day Turkey in the 3rd century. Rich by inheritance from his parents, he distributed his wealth as gifts to children. For centuries, the Holiday of St. Nicholas was celebrated on December 6 of each year. He is also the holy protector of toddlers. That is why, it is customary for a character dressed as we imagined Saint Nicholas, to go from house to house to offer gifts to wise children. Can you start to see a resemblance Guillaume?
Guillaume: Yes grandpa, it looks like we're talking about the same person.
Grandpa: There, and even the English term for Santa Claus is a distortion from the Dutch "Sinterklaas" which means Saint Nicholas.
EPIPHANY - JANUARY 6
Grandpa: Now another important celebration of the liturgical calendar is Epiphany. Do you know this Holiday, children?
Delphine: Yes, it's the feast day of the Three Kings. I like this feast because Granny makes us a “three King cake” with the bean and whoever finds the bean is entitled to a gift.
Grandpa: Just so that you know, this tradition of serving a cake on that feast day dates back about 300 years ago and originated in France. But lets talk about the early origin of this Holiday. Even before the birth of Jesus we find pagan celebrations of light, because the word epiphany is taken from Latin and means to shine. This feast of the sun, of light is therefore celebrated centuries before the coming of Jesus. Subsequently, in Greece it was decided to celebrate this feast day 12 days after the birth of Christ. The notion of the visiting Magi found in the Bible was added to this celebration. Do you know the name of the three Magi, the Three Kings?
Delphine: Yes grandpa. Their names are Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.
Grandpa: Well done, but in truth the Bible does not name the magi. These names only appeared in the ninth century. I brought illustrations of these three Magi.