As we learn each week from the saints, one must wonder, “How did the saints celebrate Christmas?” One of the best examples whose celebration lives on in our own is St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). Thomas of Celano, one of the first biographers of St. Francis, wrote, “More than any other feast, he celebrated Christmas with an indescribable joy. He said that this was the feast of feasts, for on this day God became a little child and sucked milk like all human children. Francis embraced with great tenderness and devotion the pictures of the child Jesus and stammered words of tenderness, full of compassion, in the way children do. On his lips, the name of Jesus was sweet as honey.”
In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Greccio to celebrate Christmas. Greccio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis loved the quiet and simplicity of the little town; it may well have reminded him of Bethlehem where he had visited.
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