Caminito de Belén: Living Advent with the family

What began as a family Christmas play in a large family has become a peculiar initiative to live Advent in family or catechesis groups. It reaches all parts of the world and can be followed through social networks.

Maria José Atienza-December 2, 2022-Reading time: 5 minutes
caminito belen

Photo: The characters of the Caminito de Belén ©Vitibujos

Victor and Pilar have celebrated 50 years of marriage this year. This figure is completed with their 10 children, 8 children-in-law and 25 grandchildren. All of them form the López Antolín family, which has a long tradition of Christmas performances. 

As one of the daughters, Pilar, points out, "the 'culprit' of it all is our mother. With her unstoppable ingenuity and her eagerness to help us get into the BelenHe took out of the trunk of memories old costumes, bedspreads, that Mexican poncho that grandfather brought back from his honeymoon, costumes from the end of the school year party... anything he could find, and dressed each one of us as a character from the Nativity Scene, to immortalize the moment in the Christmas greeting. Christmas.

And every night Dad would tell us a bedtime story, in which Victor, the older brother, would meet the rest of the siblings on their way to Bethlehem: Juaco, the footballer shepherd, Javier, the gardener, Ana, the milkmaid... It was a way of helping us to participate in the Advent with imagination". 

As the years went by, those children grew up "Fifty years later, the ten of us are scattered between Madrid, Zaragoza, Paris, London and Melbourne."

The López Antolín family has been building their families, but the memory of those Christmas performances has always been present.

The idea of what it is today Caminito de Belen was born among the siblings sharing those same Christmas memories. They wanted to relive that same Christmas preparation together. "to our children and nieces and nephews, in addition to bringing the Advent message to many homes in a graphic way.". "We were trying to find an Advent calendar as close as possible to the story my father used to tell us. We came up with the idea of making our own Advent calendar. If we couldn't find anything like it, we would make it ourselves."Pilar says.

Thus, several siblings started a project in which the whole family became involved: "We got down to work. Victor did the drawings while Pilar wrote the stories. Muka was in charge of raising funds, basically donations and loans from (many!) friends and family and opening a profile on social networks. Jose was in charge of creating the web page and Gonzalo, one of the brothers-in-law, has edited some explanatory videos that you can see in our website", the López Antolín brothers point out. 

The characters of "Caminito de Belén".

During the months of work, the brothers shared the progress of the project with their families. "We would read the book to the children and, depending on their reaction, we would modify it....". In additionEach character has the name of one of the 25 nephews in our family: the star speaks of my nephew Wei, who has Down syndrome; Gonzo represents Gonzalito, who was born at 24 weeks in a very critical condition and kept us awake for 5 months; and the stories of the little donkey, the washerwoman and the baker speak of vocation, confession and receiving Jesus in Communion, respectively".

Living Advent "on the road".

All those months of work resulted in the material offered to live Advent: 

- an illustrated book in A4 format with explanations of the symbols of Christmas, and 24 stories, one for each day of Advent, in honor of the 24 stories their father told the brothers following the Advent calendar; 

-a book for the youngest members of the family in A5 format;

-24 figurines of the wooden Nativity Scene;

-24 wooden angels to hang from the Christmas tree;

-A varied list of Christmas carols.

The Advent calendar set is available in English and Spanish. In this way, through the stories collected in the book -or those that may arise thanks to the inventiveness of children and adults-, this path is gradually shaped with a multitude of characters that convey various ideas and virtues with which to prepare for the arrival of the Savior. 

In order to make the route to the portal and enjoy the journey, there are some simple guidelines that allow all pilgrims to get the most out of the experience. During the first stage, read the story of the day. Like Victor, the father, it can be one of the parents who tells the story to the whole family, but one of the younger ones can also take the lead. The second stage, when you have already picked up a little rhythm on the way, is the time to go deeper and meet one of the characters who accompanies the members of the pilgrimage in the adventure. This figure is the one who introduces the next part of the journey, in which one is invited to take one of the little wooden angels that come with the books and add it to the decoration of the Christmas tree, as a companion on the way and as a sign of the purpose that can be lived each day of Advent. 

The last stretch, when the pilgrims can already begin to feel the fatigue of the journey, it is time to cheer up the spirits by singing Christmas carols together, encouraging them to continue their journey. During the moments of rest, the children on the pilgrimage can get to know their companions a little better with the coloring sheets available on the website.

As they stand out in this family, "The purpose of the Advent calendar is that adults and children can identify themselves with the characters of the Nativity Scene". These characters are complemented with thoughts or stories that families can follow through Instagram (@littlewaycaminito) or Facebook (littlewaycaminito). In addition, there are a series of downloadable sheets for the little ones to color.

A solidarity initiative

The Caminito de Belen is also complemented by a solidarity aspect, as 10% of the profits from the calendar are used to help children and families in Cañada Real to escape from social exclusion and poverty through the Capicúa Project. This project has three initiatives underway:

-school support and literacy, to help the children of La Cañada in their learning process and incorporation into society;

-The aim of the program is to instill human values and bring a smile back on their faces by having a good time, through outdoor activities, handicraft workshops and music;

-support to families, through occasional contributions to cover basic needs and through negotiations with the administration to regularize their situation.The López Antolín family concludes "it is called 'Little Way of Bethlehem" because Advent is a little way (like our father's story) to clean the manger of our heart to receive the Baby Jesus. The children love to read it and follow the stories, and each day they are invited to give Jesus a gift, and in doing so put a little wooden angel on the Christmas tree. When December 24 arrives, we are all ready and the manger and our hearts are clean: this is what we learned from our parents and what we try to pass on to our children.

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