SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29: Advent begins today for over a billion Western Christians, as the Church enters a new liturgical year and begins the season whose lighted wreaths and prayers anticipate the birth of Jesus.
On each of the four Sundays leading to Christmas, Christians light a new candle on the Advent wreath: three purple, and one rose-colored one. The rose-colored candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday, and in some churches, a white pillar candle in the middle of the wreath is lit in Christmas Eve. (Note: In Protestant churches, Advent candles are often red, and in Anglican and Lutheran churches, they are typically blue.) Many congregations are draped in purple or blue, symbolizing hope and repentance. During Advent, Christians look to both Christ’s ancient birth and the Second Coming.
Note: Eastern Christians began the Nativity Fast—a strict, 40-day fast leading to the Nativity—on November 15.
Advent calendars have rapidly been gaining popularity in recent years, even amongst secular Christmas celebrants: Star Wars, candy-filled and even LEGO Advent calendars are filling store shelves in 2015. Still, traditionally faithful families may fashion their own Advent wreaths of evergreens and candles. Jesse Trees, used in many churches to provide necessary items for the needy during the season, have also been steadily gaining popularity.
Interested in making a DIY Advent wreath? Find information on making a base, candle-holders, greens and more at Catholic Culture.
Blessings for the Advent wreath can be found at the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
PEANUTS and CHRISTMAS
DECEMBER 9, 1965—Millions of Americans are celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the Peanuts Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which debuted this week in 1965.
The TV special was a major cultural milestone—the first ever Peanuts TV special and a model for a host of other animated specials that followed it. The production broke so many accepted rules—including a decision to leave off the then-standard “laugh track”—that everyone involved with the special thought it would be a disaster. That is, until the show aired and half of all American TV viewers watched it! Reviewers crowed about its delightful innovations!
One decision that Charles Schulz and the producers felt would be controversial—and turned out to be very popular with viewers—was the decision to have Linus read from the King James Version of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 through 14. Contrary to some media reports about the program, today, biblical lines had appeared in other Christmas TV specials in that era. But a recent study of media in the mid-1960s concludes that such biblical lines were rare on network TV—and almost no one read as much as Linus delivered in his monologue from Luke. In Schulz’s version of the show’s history, he insisted that no other network TV cartoons had dared to include scripture, which appears to be accurate.
Honors for the pioneering TV special began in 1966, when A Charlie Brown Christmas was awarded the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. In accepting the gold-colored statuette, Schulz joked: “Charlie Brown is not used to winning, so we thank you.” The program was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American sound recordings in 2012. Then, to mark the 50th anniversary, the US Postal Service issued a colorful set of “Forever” stamps celebrating the Christmas special.
POPE FRANCIS: ON WAR AND CHRISTMASTIME
At a time when the world is at war, the Catholic Church’s leader has stated that, “God weeps.” (The Telegraph reported.) While lights, parties, trees and nativity scenes are abundant, the Pontiff regards:
It’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars everywhere, and hate. We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. … War can be ‘justified’ for many reasons. But when the whole world is at war, as it is today … there is no justification.