|The Shrine at Our Lady of Good Help in New Franken, WI decorated|
When I was young we'd go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure why my parents would do that to themselves. I say that because they'd come home and send us kids off to bed and then would have to get the presents out and put together any big ones that needed assembly. They must not have gotten much sleep that night. Kids tend to wake up early on Christmas morning! There were a couple times when we'd get up super early and go to their room to see if we could go out to see if Santa had arrived. We'd be told that it was too early and to go back to bed.
As an adult I liked going to Christmas Eve mass as well, but not the midnight service. When my husband and I first got married and had children that's the one we went to. It wasn't necessarily "getting mass out of the way," but it is more convenient than waking kids up in the morning and parading them past presents on their way to church. To me going to mass on Christmas Eve just got me even more in the Christmas spirit. You go to mass and then come home for a nice meal. Enjoy some Christmas Eve television specials with a cup of tea or hot cocoa and then send the kids off to bed and get to bringing out the presents. The next morning was just enjoying the day with family.
After we started spending Christmas in Wisconsin with my in-laws doing Christmas Eve mass wasn't possible. I tried it once, but it threw off the schedule of events. You see my in-laws all gather together on Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law's house. We have beef tenderloin and lots of other tasty treats and gifts are exchanged. There's actually a lot more that goes on, but that's a short, sweet summary of events. The night starts early so heading to church means delaying everyone else's night and that's not right. I like the way they do things...Christmas Eve together and then Christmas day with their in-laws. It works out nicely and the kids and I head out to mass with my mother-in-law Christmas morning. We usually get everyone up early enough so the boys can check out their stockings before heading out. It seems to tide them over until we get back home.
I love seeing how beautifully decorated the Churches are for Advent and Christmas. I really need to get a picture of my husband's church in Green Bay. Saints Peter and Paul's is always stunningly decorated! It really is breath-taking! Seeing all the decorations helps to put me in the holiday spirit. I love the songs during church at Christmas too. They range from "Go Tell it on the Mountain" to "Silent Night." You don't want to hear me sing, but I've got no fear singing these songs!
Another favorite part of church at Christmas is the manger scene. We rarely have attended a production of the Nativity, but we always take the kids to the front of the church to see the manger after mass. Baby Jesus is absent from the manger scene throughout Advent and then is placed in the manger at midnight mass. Perhaps that's why my mom liked going to midnight mass. The absence of Jesus from the manger is something we do at home with our little Nativity. We leave Jesus out and place him in Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. At least when we celebrated Christmas at home. We put out baby Jesus sooner when we go to Wisconsin for the holidays. It wouldn't serve a purpose to put him in there in January and then clean it all up!
Advent and Christmas in the Catholic Church always gives me a feeling that we're ramping up to something big...and we are. It gets you into the spirit. It helps everyone to remember the real reason behind the season!