Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 19, 2005
Embrace Christmas traditions
The Christmas Eve Mass, embracing the lonely, reading the story of Christ's birth, special foods – each tradition helps us honour the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ
By BILL GLEN
"For myself, it doesn't feel like Christmas until our family sits down for our reading and Christmas songs.
- Twyla Stang
Stang's mother Brenda has been St. Anthony's Parish secretary for almost a year.
"Twyla started reading from a children's Bible and then progressed to the family Bible," she said. "Our two oldest children are gone so my husband (Lyle) and I try to carry on Advent traditions with our younger ones, lighting candles every night. Twyla's reading was just our way of ending Advent and starting Christmas. It's part of our lives."
Twyla Stang is now a computer programmer for an oil and gas company in Calgary. She does not get a hold of the Christmas spirit until she arrives back home with the Bible in her hands.
"For myself, it doesn't feel like Christmas until our family sits down for our reading and Christmas songs. My sisters play the piano and my brother plays the guitar. The traditions are very important to our family," she said.
Margot Bilodeau, former executive secretary to three Edmonton archbishops, grew up in Sherbrooke, Que. Her parents opening their home to share the celebration with others stands out in her mind.
"It was always important for our family to go to Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on our age," she said. "I recall my mother had helped a woman become Catholic. At Christmas, my mother invited her and her husband to come for reveillon, the meal after midnight Mass where tourtiere is served.
"We set a special place for them."
"My grandparents were French-Canadian and my parents and aunts and uncles would all gather for the meal and sing."
- Annette Kos
Bilodeau remembers sitting with her mother who used an illustrated catechism to explain the meaning of Christmas. Her father loved to sing Christmas hymns to the family's delight.
For some 50 years, Bilodeau has been a member of the secular institute of Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. And come Christmas, she has opened her own home to people from around the world who would have spent this holy time alone in Edmonton.
One year, a man had been transferred from Greece by his employer just three weeks before Christmas. He happened to speak to a parish who helped connect him to Bilodeau. She had already planned a large meal for several people but she thought one more would be fine.
"We were crowded with 17 of us in a small apartment. But they told me they were alone all year so they were glad to rub shoulders with somebody else at Christmas."
The man now lives in both Greece and Toronto. Every Christmas, he calls Bilodeau to thank her for that special moment in his life.
Mable Solomon still enjoys pinning a string to the wall to hang Christmas cards, some of which come from people she has not spoken to all year.
It serves as a reminder of those she cares about. Family and faith are important to her.
"My husband Ken is Ukrainian, so we always do the 12 meatless dishes for Christmas Eve before we go to church," said Solomon, the archdiocesan Catholic Women's League president. "We come home and eat chocolate."
Solomon has four children and four grandchildren. The Advent calendar is always visible. Her children used to get excited, not only because Santa was coming, but because it was the birthday of baby Jesus.
"Ken and I never made a big deal about going to the mall to see Santa or about the gifts. It was a religious holiday, waiting for the birthday to come."
Mike Landry's family attended Christmas Mass in St. Albert to fit his schedule. In some form - as a young altar server or guitar player - Landry has offered to serve since he was six years old.
"There was always Santa, but my parents helped me to know how important the Christ child is," said Landry, youth minister at Holy Family Parish. "We have always been pretty close to the Church," he said.
Annette Kos is a trainer of Familia for nine women in Drayton Valley. Familia is a new program of formation for parents spearheaded by the Legionaries of Christ. She shares Bilodeau's memories of reveillon (Christmas dinner).
"We always went to midnight Mass. My grandparents were French-Canadian and my parents and aunts and uncles would all gather for the meal and sing," she said. "My mom still makes the tourtiere."
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