Churches celebrate Christmas Eve

Published 8:42 am Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve church services tend to be celebrated in a unique and memorable way.

In preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth, it’s customary for churches to gather together for one last celebration before the big day.

Many Christian denominations have their own yearly traditions. For the Catholic faith, it’s the midnight mass.

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Because of the growing numbers of families with small children in the church, the Christmas Eve mass at St. Augustine’s starts at 10 p.m., though it follows the same traditions set by midnight masses in the past, it now incorporates a children’s message into the sermon.

As for traditions, St. Augustine’s regularly decorates the church with fresh Christmas trees, which the Rev. Joe Fogal, priest for St. Augustine’s, said represents “the new life that Christ brings to us.”

“We usually have lights on them, as well, which are very symbolic as the light of Christ,” Fogal said.

Christmas Eve evening, church members also place a crib before the alter, a symbol of Christ’s birth.

Fogal said he’ll focus on the book of Luke, as he has in year’s past. On Christmas morning, he’ll lead into the Gospel of John.

During that Christmas Day service, the music at St. Augustine’s is typically lively and festive.

“It’s very upbeat,” Fogal said of the music. “We have the Christmas carols that fit in with the theme of the season.”

That’s the same plan for St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church in Austin, which also has a Christmas Eve evening service.

The evening services begin at 9:30 and 11 p.m., but not before two family blessing services throughout the day. At 3:30 and 5 p.m., the church hosts special family blessings, which offer youngsters an opportunity to come forward and be blessed the day before Christmas.

“It’s a wonderful time, especially for the little ones, to be able to come forward,” said the Rev. Kristi Koppel of St. Olaf’s Church.

The evening services are reserved for holy communion. Like most Christmas Eve services, the Gospel of Luke is read, depicting the story of the manger scene.

On Christmas Day, Koppel said the service is typically a bit more relaxed, as many typically tend to feel the stresses of the holiday slip away during the celebratory worship service.

For a full list of area Christmas services, please see the community calendar on the home page.