La Strenna Novena is one of Christmas traditions most important and deeply rooted Colombia. It is also very popular in other South American countries, such as Venezuela or Ecuador. Its importance transcends the merely religious phenomenon, becoming a social act and a ritual destined to the union of families.
During Advent, for nine days (from December 16 to 24, inclusive), families from all over the country come together to pray together and sing Christmas carols. The meeting point is always the Nativity Scene or Nativity Scene, located in a central place in the house. The word "ninth" derives precisely from those nine days. An emotional prelude to Christmas.
Origin of the Aguinaldos novena
This beautiful Catholic tradition was born in American lands, in colonial times. It was actually Fray Fernando de Jesus Larrea, a Franciscan religious born in Quito, who would initiate this practice. It all started in 1725, after his ordination as a priest. The idea of praying next to the Crib of the Child Jesus during the nine days before Christmas had a great reception among the devotees.
However, the way in which families today celebrate the Aguinaldos Novena in Colombia is due to the modifications carried out by the mother Maria Ignacia, at the end of the XIX century. She was the one who gave these prayers canonical form, also adding the joys, which is what the songs that are interspersed between prayer and prayer are called.
And yet, not a single version of the Novena de Aguinaldos has survived to this day, but several. Some are recited in old Spanish, somewhat old-fashioned and far from the sensitivity of the present, using, for example, a form of reverential "vos". Others, however, have been modified in order to update the sentence to modern language.
This nice video the meaning of the prayer of the Novena de Aguinaldos in Colombian society is very well summarized:
As you can see, for Colombians the Novena de Aguinaldos is not only a religious tradition, but also a reason to reinforce the bonds between friends and family. The Christmas gastronomy and music they also do not miss this appointment.
Praying the Novena
Despite its carefree tone and familiar character, the Novena de Aguinaldos It is a ceremony that follows well-defined guidelines and rules. It always starts on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve. In some homes the prayer takes place before dinner, while in others it is left for later.
The idea behind this rite is the memory of the months prior to the birth of Jesus, a period that culminates with his birth in Bethlehem. Mother María Ignacia, who standardized the way of praying the novenas, established the order of sentences as follows:
- First the Prayer for every day, faithfully following the original text of Fray Fernando de Jesús Larrea. After this reading, the "Glory to the Father".
- It is followed later with the considerations of the day. There is one for each of the nine days.
- La prayer to the Blessed Virgin comes next, followed by the prayer of nine Hail Marys (one for each of the novenas).
- Then it is the turn of the prayer to Saint Joseph, which is also read every day. The reading ends with three prayers: the "Our Father", the "Hail Mary" and the "Glory to the Father."
- All Joys or Aspirations for the coming of the Child Jesus make up the liveliest musical part of the novena. A voice recites the songs, which are usually answered by a choir.
- After this comes the prayer to the Child Jesus, which in a way is the core part of the ninth. After her, the participants take the opportunity to formulate their requests to the baby Jesus, generally wishes of health and prosperity for the home and family.
- The ninth concludes with the final sentences, which almost always tend to be the Our Father and the Glory to the Father.
These prayers and songs must be said each and every one of the nine days. As an example of what has been described above, this is the original text by Fray Fernando de Jesús Larrea with which each of the sessions of the Novena de Aguinaldos begins:
«Most benign God of infinite charity, who so loved men, that you gave them in your son the best pledge of your love so that, made man in the womb of a Virgin, he would be born in a manger for our health and remedy. I, on behalf of all mortals, give you infinite thanks for such a sovereign benefit; and in return of him I offer you the poverty, humility and other virtues of your humanized son, pleading with you for his divine merits, for the discomfort with which he was born, and for the tender tears that he shed in the manger, that you dispose of our hearts with deep humility , with fiery love, with total contempt for all things earthly, so that the newborn Jesus may have his cradle in them, and dwell forever. Amen".