Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Eve Luminaria: "Who can sleep on this night that God became man?"

My absolute favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night. The beautiful words and ascending phrases of the music stir my heart as I revel in the glory of Christmas. Many of my childhood Christmas Eves were spent savoring the holiness of this very special night.

After the rest of the house had gone to sleep – or at least after I had gone to my own room – I would sit at my desk and look out the picture window overlooking our front yard.  It was the tradition in my neighborhood to set out luminaria – brown paper bags weighted down with sand and illuminated by a burning candle set inside.

My family and I took time each Christmas Eve afternoon to work alongside our neighbors shoveling the sand, filling the bags, and getting everything ready for sunset on this, the most joyful night of the year.  I didn't know it at the time, but this tradition had originated with Spanish immigrants to the New World.  It was a way that they, as Catholics, helped "light the way" for the Christ Child to visit their homes and hearts on this very special evening.

Each year, after my family and I had gone to Christmas Eve Mass, we would come home to light the luminaria, share a small dinner, and head to bed in anticipation of Christmas morning.  Once I was up in my room and ready for bed, I sat at my window and always watched for as long as I could, counting the candles that had gone out and savoring the glow and warmth of the peace that is Christmas Eve.

A few years ago I read and smiled at the words of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) about Christmas Eve, “Who can sleep on this night that God became man?” I still stay up through most of the night every Christmas Eve, savoring the quiet and sometimes listening to a rendition of O Holy Night as I enjoy the peace and anticipation of this beautiful evening when Mary brought forth her firstborn Son.


O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!


This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 3: Christmas Music and Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 4: Christmas Lights. I have also submitted it to footnoteMaven as part of her traditional Blog Caroling event.

For more Advent and Christmas memories here at 100 Years in America (going back to 2007), scroll through these articles or stop by my Pinterest page. Visit this preview for more details about the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories and to get some inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!


  1. Lisa,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

    1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading about my love for luminaria, Jana. Thanks very much for including it within your Follow Friday post list. Happy Christmasing to you!


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