December 16 marks the beginning of the Christmas novena or novena de Aguinaldos, depending on the country. This custom is lived in a special way in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. Although the whole Church prepares for Christmas Eve during the Advent season, this devotion helps families to prepare more intensely for Christmas. Every day since December 16, families and close friends gather in the homes of different hosts to pray the novena around the Nativity Scene.
The prayer of the novena is very simple. It consists of a moment of recollection that begins with an initial prayer for every day, a reflection followed by a moment of silence for personal meditation. Then, in the manner of the prayer of the faithful at Holy Mass, each of the participants is free to make a petition or express their thanksgiving aloud. Finally, a closing prayer is said for each day. And, of course, the traditional carols of each place are sung afterwards.
The best thing about the novenas is, logically, the presence and participation of the children.
They usually stand as close as possible to the Nativity Scene and their petitions and thanksgivings are a lesson in simplicity and faith for the adults. From the petitions for the health of the families, that so and so does not get beaten at school, for the children who go hungry, to the smart guy who asks for lights for his mother to see if she finally buys him a cell phone. There is everything in the little seeds of the Lord.
It is an atmosphere of prayer and celebration with hot chocolate, seasonal sweets and laughter for young and old. For many, it is a reunion with cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends after being away for work or studies. So these gatherings have an endearing component wherever you look.
The first known Christmas novena was written in 1743 by the Ecuadorian priest and friar Fernando de Jesús Larrea. Originally the structure of the novena consisted of prayer for all the days, considerations of the day, prayer to the Blessed Virgin, prayer to St. Joseph, joys or Aspirations for the coming of the Child Jesus, prayer to the Child Jesus and the final prayer. The first printed novena was 52 pages long. Over time, both the length and structure have been reduced for practical reasons.
In Colombia, for example, a text from the Gospels or a psalm related to the coming of the Lord is read each day. Other novenas, such as that of the writer Teresa Crespo de Salvador or that of Father Juan Martínez de Velasco have been very popular in Ecuador.
The Christmas Novena by Corina Dávalos
This year, Spanish-Ecuadorian writer Corina Davalos has also published a Christmas novena for children. According to the author, her intention has been to spread this devotion in the Spanish-speaking world and adapt it to the cultural context of our times, inspired by texts of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. With a clear and accessible language for children, she does not renounce to the depth of the Christian message, nor to the emotion that the birth of Jesus arouses.
As it says on its website (www.novenanavidad.com) is "a novena of preparation for Christmas, made for children and also for the not-so-children, who want to receive the Child Jesus with the illusion of the little ones".
So much is adapted to the times, that in addition to having its presentation web page, it has an edition for Kindle, available on Amazon. In addition, he has had two very demanding editors, his nieces Marina, 5, and Luisa, 4, who have supervised the edition step by step. "I have chosen the images with them, the texts have gone through their approval, which has helped me a lot to choose words that they understand better or explain concepts that were not so clear in the initial texts," says Corina.
The texts can be ancient or current, they can follow the reflection on a passage of the Gospel or speak of the Christian virtues or deepen the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. What is important is to prepare oneself inside, as a family, and to arrive with Mary and Joseph at the manger, with a soul well prepared to receive Jesus at Christmas.