The Christmas Eve midnight church service is one of the popular Christmas traditions of the Western Christian church around the world. If you've never been to one or you don't know what it is, the midnight church service (or midnight mass in the Catholic and Anglican traditions) is basically a church service that occurs on or before midnight on December 24 every year. Why? Because Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, is believed to have been born at night, on Christmas Eve.
With Christmas Eve just around the corner, you may suddenly be feeling a sudden urge to go to church. Or you might be what they call a "submarine" Christian, someone who only ever appears at church during the big events like Christmas and Easter. Or you might not even be Christian but may be curious and interested in Christian Christmas traditions. Or you may be a Christian but have never been to a midnight Christmas Eve service before. Whatever you may be, here are nine tips on you can prepare yourself and your family well for Midnight Mass.
1. Dress appropriately. Just because it's a midnight mass doesn't mean you get to wear your pyjamas! (Babies, however, are the exception here because they're cute, and because babies can pretty much get away with wearing pjs and onesies to any event). Also, if it's a very hot night, that's also not an excuse to wear the shortest of shorts and the slinkiest of slinky dresses! Believe me, there will be many people at a Midnight Church service dressed as though they're attending a Royal Wedding. So make sure you cover yourself (and the people with you) in nice clothes.
2. Fill up your tummies beforehand. Munching on snacks during a midnight church service is a no-no. It's not like being at the movies where you can feast on popcorn and choc tops during the movie. So it's a good idea to eat something before you go.
3. Pack water bottles to hydrate yourselves during the hour-long (or more) services. And if you are bringing kids with you, I suggest you pack a few things for them to keep themselves quietly entertained, for example, reading books, colouring books, etc. Because I'm sure that at least one of them will lose it during the service so you need to keep them occupied.
4. Arrive early. This is absolutely important! Don't arrive 5 minutes before the mass or service starts as I can assure you that every parking spot in the church grounds and in the surrounding streets will already be taken, particularly if there's a carols service before the midnight service, and every seat in the church will also, therefore, be taken. Christmas (and Easter) are usually the times when traditional churches see a suddenly huge spike in their attendance numbers (thanks mainly to submarine Christians!) so remember to get there as early as you can.
5. Don't sit at the very front row. Especially if you will be attending a Catholic Midnight Mass. Because Catholic masses involve a lot of standing, sitting, kneeling, and responding verbally at particular times during the service which all attendees are pretty much expected to already know. So I suggest you sit behind people who look like they're regulars (usually the ones who look like they're dressed for a Royal Wedding) so you can follow their movements during the service.
6. Turn off your phone. A midnight church service is really not the time or place to take a million photos and selfies and post them on Facebook and Instagram, no matter how tempted you may be to do so. People are generally there to praise and worship. So out of respect, please make sure you have your phones switched off or on silent.
7. Have some coins ready. There will very likely be a collection during the service which means the church will be collecting money from attendees to support the poor in the parish or the church itself or a charitable organization. So it's a good idea to have some coins/cash with you when you go.
8. Be prepared for Communion. Communion is essentially the time in the service when you go up to the altar and receive the bread (symbolically, Jesus' body) and the wine (symbolically, Jesus' blood). If you go to a Catholic midnight mass, then yes, there will be Communion. If you know what to do and remember how to respond, then yes, go for it. But if you're not sure or have never had your First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church, then you don't have to go up to the altar with everybody else.
9. Be familiar with a few carols before you go. Church services usually involve a lot of singing. And the good thing about a Christmas Eve midnight church service and a Christmas Day service is that you'll very probably be familiar with the songs already, even if you haven't been to church in ages. You'll very likely be singing some popular Christmas carols such as Joy to the World,O Come All Ye Faithful,Silent Night,and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing during the service. So why not get yourselves into the spirit and re-familiarize yourselves with these carols before you go?
Several churches in Canberra will be holding special midnight church services or masses on Christmas Eve. However, please check with the church you will be going to for the exact time of their midnight service as it very likely won't be starting at midnight. Most will begin at 11pm but some Christmas Eve midnight services will actually begin at 9pm. For a Catholic midnight mass near you, go here. Other churches holding midnight Christmas Eve services include St. John's Anglican Church in Reid, St Paul's in Manuka, St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Forrest, St Mary in the Valley Anglican Church in Calwell, and St Matthew's in Wanniassa.