What is Midnight Mass? Why Do People Go To Church on Christmas Eve?


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

Midnight Mass: History and Significance

The Midnight Mass is observed on Christmas Eve which is an extremely popular festive custom. It includes the celebration of the Holy Communion. Midnight Mass is the first liturgy of Christmastide that begins at midnight. It is the celebration of Mass or Service of Worship in honour of the Nativity of Jesus.

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

This all-night vigil tradition was picked up by the Western world in 430 under Pope Sixtus III in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

This Christmas Eve liturgical tradition is followed by the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Churches. The popularity of this Midnight Mass grew more by the 12th century when the permission to celebrate 3 Masses on Christmas Day was granted to all the priests. The rule was that the three different prospers must be celebrated at their predetermined timings – at midnight, dawn and day.

It is treated as a Solemn High Mass which involved singing, that goes on till the dawn.

The practice of Midnight Mass has been a tradition followed for a long time by the Roman Catholic Church. However, since 2009, this Mass has been celebrated at 10 pm by the Pope instead of midnight.

Significance of this custom lies in the ‘personal importance of forgiving’. The Midnight Mass is a vigil mass that involves waiting joyfully for the arrival of the Savior, Jesus. Families get together to celebrate this joyous occasion every year.

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