Many people ask us what Christmas day is like in the monastery. Actually, the question should be, "What is Christmastide like in the monastery?" because Christmas day is only the first day of the celebration of the octave.
Don't forget; some of us were up until 2AM the night before and with a rising bell at 6:05 (not 6:00 but 6:05) we're not exactly the most bright eyed bunch. That's OK. We don't need to get all the celebrating in on one day!
The atmosphere of the day is both quiet and joyful. The liturgy gives "shape" to our celebration which is always Christ centered because we are celebrating the gift of our salvation! Too often people are disappointed by their Christmas celebration because they try to elicit warm, fuzzy feelings out the feast rather than fixing their hearts in adoration and love on the Christ Child who is the source of our joy on this day!
We eat our meals in the community room so that we can talk and we are allowed to talk during the times outside of prayer. Most sisters take advantage of the free time to head up to their cells for a bit of shut eye. Others buckle down to either STARTING or FINISHING their Christmas cards. Some head for the boxes of the cards the community received trying to be the first to pencil in her number on cards she would like to have after the season is over.
We don't exchange gifts but each sister has little gifts on her desk and a stocking prepared by the bursar. The "gift" that the sisters exchange is one of prayer. At the beginning of Advent each sister picks out a name from a basket and prays for her during the Advent season. We reveal our prayer partner at recreation (but we forgot this year. We'll have to remember tomorrow!) Opening and sharing or exchanging the contents of our stocking is a favorite activity. Some sisters wait until the morning to open gifts sent by their families and others open them as they come in since often the packages contain perishables.
At evening recreation we gather to open up our community presents. This is sometimes akin to a special at Filene's basement! Our New England readers will understand just what this means! The poor prioress is trying to write down who gave us what and meanwhile EVERYONE wants to see EVERYTHING! Sometimes we don't finish when the bell rings for Compline and that's OK. There's always tomorrow.
The next 2 days are considered free days and sisters rest, write thank-you's, relax, etc. We might watch a movie or a concert previously taped at recreation one evening. At meals we don't have reading or listen to lectures but listen to Christmas music.
As you can see, while the rest of the world is having their "after Christmas sale" in the monastery Christmas is just starting!
Sr. Maria and Sr. Denise Marie provide a little Christmas music; no small feat as we were all talking at once!
Fred is amused? Or is he trying to figure out if he can eat it like anything else he is given. You can see the remains of one his toys on the floor. The sisters re stuff it and let him at it again the next night.