The Catholic Christmas Book of Cherished Christmas Customs

Author(s): 
Father Francis Weiser
Illustrator(s): 
Frankenberg, Robert
ISBN: 
911 845 925
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
The Neumann Press (reprint of 1952 edition)
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
188 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

I love Christmas. I love all the preparing during Advent, the feasting during Christmas Day itself, and the Catholic and secular traditions surrounding the entire Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle. I love reading about Christmas and planning new traditions and dusting off old ones.

I was delighted to find a republished (by Neumann Press) copy of Father Francis Weiser’s classic, The Catholic Christmas Book of Cherished Christmas Customs. Originally published in the 1950s, I can remember Mom reading snippets from this book when I was growing up. The republication is such a blessing; especially since Neumann Press has kept the original texts and sketches and bound it all together in a hard-cover for years of use.

Please note: this is not a recipe book, craft book or activity book.

This is a scholarly work on the facts about Christmas from a Catholic world-view. Father Weiser delves into each symbol, tradition, story and saint that plays a role in the Christmas season. He begins with the Gospel versions and relates these to historic events. Next he discusses just how and when the celebration of December 25th as the birth of the Christ Child came about.

He further develops the changing times as the Protestant Revolt and the rise of Puritanism caused many of the religious aspects of Christmas to seemingly disappear – but some of what we consider very secular traditions have their roots in religious beliefs. Fr. Weiser points all these out, with specific information about why the different countries celebrate in these ways.

A few chapters are devoted to describing and explaining ancient hymns, medieval carols and modern Christmas songs – not so much the words of these carols, but more their meanings and background. He places the hymns and songs in their historical and social context, explaining when the particular hymn was sung and why.

Nativity plays and mystery play traditions from different countries and crèches are detailed. Lights, fires and the Christmas tree are symbols used in just about every culture – Fr. Weiser does a great job describing and explaining these customs.

Food, which plays a large role in many of the Christmas traditions, is the subject of the last couple of chapters. Unfortunately, Fr. Weiser doesn’t give us any recipes – and some of these treats sound wonderful! Many of the foods mentioned, thankfully, we can find on the internet to satisfy our need to make what he mentions.

Again, this book is not a typical Christmas book – there are no stories, activities or recipes. This book will give all those interested a great resource for understanding the roots of the many holiday traditions including the activities, the decorations, the music and drama of the days surrounding the birth of the Christ Child and the visit of the Magi.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
6-22-2009
Reviewed by: