ST. WILLIBRORD PARISH

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351 Willibrord Avenue, Verdun, Québec H4G 2T7 - Tel: (514) 769-9678 - Fax: (514) 761-1717

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Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day - the widely celebrated annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. It occurs on December 24 in the Western Christian Church and the secular world at large, and is one of the most culturally significant celebrations of the Western world and Christendom.

One reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition, which in turn is based in the story of creation in Genesis: “And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day.” This liturgical day is followed for all days in the Eastern rite and the custom of beginning Christmas celebration (as well as Sunday and the other major festivals) in the preceding evening is preserved in western Churches that have altered the liturgical day to start at midnight, for example the Roman Catholic Church.

Since Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born at night (based on Luke 2:6-8), Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth. The idea of Jesus being born at night is reflected in the fact that Christmas Eve is referred to as “Heilige Nacht” (“Holy Night”) in German, “Nochebuena” (“the Good Night”) in Spanish and similarly in other expressions of Christmas spirituality, such as the song “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

In recent years some churches have scheduled their “Midnight” Mass as early as 7 pm. In 2009 Vatican officials scheduled the Midnight Mass to start at 10 pm so the 82 year old Pope Benedict XVI would not have too late a night. Some services re-enact the Nativity. Each church is able to celebrate Christmas Eve evening and Christmas Day in its own special way.