As the mom of four young children, I dread anything that knocks us out of our usual routine. We’re that family that can be found in the same pew at the same time every week because, honestly, it’s just easier that way. So, even in all its wonder and glory, the Christmas season is bound to bring a little stress.
This year, we have two Mass obligations back-to-back. Fr. Paul Hartmann reminds us: “The requirement is to attend a Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Masses of anticipation or vigil are concessions to have the Mass count for the next day. Some canonists contend then that to attend a Mass of anticipation both fulfills the requirement of the former and offers the benefit of the latter. That said, I know of no parishes which will offer a Mass on the night of Christmas. So, the simplest answer is: Yes, a faithful Catholic needs to attend a Mass on the holy day of Christmas or its vigil, and for the Sunday.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love Mass, I love Christmas and, of course, I love sharing my faith with my children; but I’ll admit, my Martha brain starts going when I realize I’ll need to get my sleep-deprived, over-sugared, off-schedule kiddos back to Mass on Sunday.
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
This year’s Gospel reading for the Sunday after Christmas (the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple) is one of my favorites as a mom because it reminds me that even the Blessed Mother had her frazzled moments, and I know she will have a soft spot for the moms in the trenches that day. I’m sure I will be asking for her intercession a few times.
I asked the Milwaukee Catholic Mamas what they will be doing and for a few practical tips to help us get the most out of these beautiful liturgies.
“We will likely do Christmas Eve Mass with kids and I hope to sneak away with my parents for Midnight Mass as well, because it’s so magical.” – Tina S.
“(We are going to) Christmas Eve and then Sunday. God created 3-year-olds and understands the struggle is real.” – Heather W.
“We will do both morning Masses on Christmas Day and then Sunday. I have a 4, 3, 2 and 5-month-old. We sit in the front so the kids can see what is going on. It isn’t always perfect, but they love going to Mass now that we go more than once a week (doesn’t mean they are always good). Also, on Christmas, we don’t open presents or stockings until after we go to Mass.” – Sarah S.
“My kids are both toddlers, so when this happens, I will take them to the first Mass and then the second, I go alone to a 7 or 730 a.m. (Mass) before they are awake. Or, sometimes I’ll go to the anticipation Mass to break it up.” – Hilary S.
“All you can do is make sure their wiggles are out, their tummies are full, and their hands have something quiet to fidget with. After that, offer it up.” – Anonymous
Manage your expectations
In our family, we schedule all of our Christmas celebrations around Mass, not the other way around, and we also realized that we need to schedule Mass around when our kids are their best selves. My husband and I have a special place in our hearts for Christmas Eve Mass. The tradition was uniquely ours and did not belong to either “side” when we were first married. We would go to Mass and drive around looking at Christmas lights, dreaming of our future life together. I love this tradition, and I look forward to getting it back, but I also realize that the Christmas Eve Masses all happen during either witching hour, dinner time or bed time. My children are wonderful and better behaved than I deserve credit for, but trying to bring them to Mass when they are hungry, tired or both is a recipe for failure. We will go to Mass on Christmas morning this year.
Prepare kids for what is coming
I have learned from experience that any transition or break from routine works just a little better when I take the time to explain what is coming to my kids. I have also realized that how you describe any obligation matters. Yes, we have to go to Mass, but try telling your kids that we get to go to Mass instead. We are fortunate enough to belong to a parish with many young families. My children see the church as a second home and the place where they are bound to run into all of their friends. I leaned into that fact hard when broaching the subject of back-to-back Masses with my 8-year-old. He’s now excited and will get his younger sisters excited, too.
When all else fails, remember to give yourself grace. The gift of faith is the greatest one you can provide. Merry Christmas.