Holy Childhood Christmas Seals

I hadn’t though of that staple of Catholic grade school called (every fall season) the Holy Childhood Seals for years. While driving to my favorite parking spot for lunch I saw some article in a window that interrupted the flow of the closed drapes. I thought about the prize we get for our efforts to sell the colorful seals: one year was a very modern, tall, slim statue in light tan of the Virgin Mary. She looked so elegant and sleek that I coveted it immediately. But first, I had to sell some stamps.

I walked around the neighborhood doing the one thing I dread: asking a perfect stranger for money. The lawns were always brown in my recollection, and the days had a chill to them. I wore my favorite flannel – even then I was dressed like a New Hampshire lesbian. I sold some seals to family and friends. Then I began to work the streets. As the only Catholic family on the block, I had some tough sledding to do. Holy Childhood was a branch of the Propagation of the Faith that sought “to ransom pagan babies” from the indifference of limbo. Every morning the boys and girls, at the start of a school day had a contest to see who could collect the most money and then claim the honor of naming the ransomed infant. Sometimes the competition was fierce and, more than once, milk money was sacrificed for the cause. We were able to prolong the contest if this meant delaying the start of arithmetic. Looking back, I wonder: was this a scam?

Prizes were awarded to various levels of sales. I knew I could never get a gold Miraculous Medal. I didn’t really desire one either. The foot long Virgin caught my eye and I lusted for it intensely. Why? She appeared to be so sleek and cool. Her hands were folded in prayer, not in beseeching. She was not swaddled in a flowing blue cloak; rather she had on a tight body-clinging robe. I had to have her.

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4 Responses to “Holy Childhood Christmas Seals”

  1. Kathy Wilson Says:

    I have to copy your blog. I recently was at a meeting of the Catholic Charities Advisory Board, where all members are Catholic and a bit older than some. I was just making conversation and began talking about finding the “seals” in my Grandmother’s things when she passed. This triggered my mind to mention “ransoming pagan babies”. You would have thought they were considering calling my family based on the looks on their faces. I assured them I had not lost my mind and did not need someone to pick me up. Noone, meaning not one individual in the group remembered any of this

    • danbythesea1 Says:

      Sorry for the tardy reply. I’m not very consistent at this. But I appreciate your note which shares a memory from our past. Did you have a contest between the boys and the girls as to who got to “name” the babies? The activity cut into math which was alright by me. Be well, do good work.
      Dan

  2. Kathy Carilli Says:

    This is written 3 years after the initial post. I was recounting the beautiful baby Jesus statue that I received for selling stamps one year. Unfortunately he fell off my bed (I had to keep him “warm”, as he was, after all, in swaddling clothes – read “almost naked”). His sweet little head broke off an despite many attempts by my Dad, he was unfixable. I always had hoped to find, or at least see, another one. That was almost 60 years ago.

  3. R.F. Kalich Says:

    I just came across this as I remembered all of the trials and tribulations this morning of hawking these dudes when every kid in the universe lived in the neighborhood and was doing the same thing. I wanted that statue badly also but never got enough sold–it took $5.00 worth of sales. I believe the statue was hollow with a black cap for its base that had a nice rosary inside. I lived in an area filled with churches that were all of the immigrant variety working at the rail yards and packing houses so there was another parish every six blocks. Competition was fierce and I am sure that home owners dreaded the sound of the doorbell ringing every late afternoon at Christmas time.
    Anyway just to say you were right on the money on this one. I finally got to ransom a pagan baby without getting a statue as one day my Dad bought into my pleading and gave me five bucks to do it. Not sure why. If I remember correctly, ransoming pagan babies was an on going thing and not just at Christmas time but during lent also.

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