What is the midnight mass? Why do people go to church on Christmas Eve?

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Christmas, the festive season of birth and happiness is here. This beautiful and joyful occasion brings with it many customs, traditions which are widely practiced. Midnight Mass is one of those Christmas Eve liturgical traditions. As December 25 approaches, here’s everything you need to know about midnight mass:

Midnight mass: history and meaning

Midnight Mass is observed on Christmas Eve, an extremely popular festive custom. It includes the celebration of Holy Communion. Midnight Mass is the first Christmas liturgy which begins at midnight. It is the celebration of mass or the adoration service in honor of the Nativity of Jesus.

This tradition of the midnight mass was originally narrated by Egeria, a Galician who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land between 381-384. Egeria had observed how in Bethlehem, the first Catholics in Jerusalem celebrated the mystery of Christmas with a midnight vigil.

This tradition of night vigil was taken up by the Western world in 430 under Pope Sixtus III in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

This Christmas Eve liturgical tradition is followed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Churches. The popularity of this midnight mass increased further in the 12th century when permission to celebrate 3 Masses on Christmas Day was granted to all priests. The rule was that the three different prosperities were to be celebrated at their predetermined times – midnight, dawn, and day.

It is treated as a solemn high mass which involved chanting, which continues until dawn.

The practice of midnight mass is a tradition long followed by the Roman Catholic Church. However, since 2009, this Mass has been celebrated at 10 p.m. by the Pope instead of midnight.

The importance of this custom lies in the “personal importance of forgiveness”. Midnight Mass is a vigil Mass which consists of awaiting with joy the arrival of the Savior Jesus. Families come together every year to celebrate this joyous occasion.

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