If you’re looking to start a new Christmas Eve tradition in your home, this tidbit might be of interest to you.
According to this month’s Magnificat, the Irish tradition on Christmas Eve involved families preparing a meal for the Holy Family and setting the table with three place settings for them. Afterward, they left the doors unlocked or even wide open and put more wood on the hearth, so the Holy Family would have a place to rest and bless their home. This tradition was especially important to the Irish during the persecution when priests were not allowed to say Mass and Catholics were not able to receive the sacraments except in secret. They placed a candle in the windows of their home to signify to the priests that they were Catholic and that the priest could come in and say Holy Mass. It is said that on Christmas Eve special graces came to them and to all of us.
Today, families in Ireland have simplified the tradition by leaving a tray of cookies and fruit for the Holy Family with a set table of three plates for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Since most of us grew up with setting a plate of cookies for Santa Claus, perhaps this is a great way to replace that tradition with one centered on Christ!