This is sixth in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. Source: The Dramatic Liturgy of Anglo-Saxon England by M. Bradford Bedingfield.
Originally, there were three different Christmas Masses that made up the celebration of Christmas, which is why you will see “Midnight Mass,” “Mass at Dawn” and “Christmas Day Mass” celebrated at different times at many Christian/Catholic churches. While today we only attend one of those Masses, early Christians attended all three. Midnight Mass served pretty much the same thematic purpose as Advent does today (Advent as we know it can about the year 700…more on that later) as a time of looking forward to the coming of the Messiah as the light out of darkness. Mass at Dawn celebrates Christ coming into the world and likens him to the Sun. It is also the delivery of the message of the angels to the shepherds and hence, all people. Because in the Holy Land this Mass ended with a procession from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Masses in other places ended with a procession into the crypt of the church. In this way, the people could be seen as rising from the darkness of death into light when they emerged for Christmas Day Mass, which focused on the birth of Jesus. These themes are still present in the three Masses of Christmas today.
What are your holiday religious traditions? (If you have any.)
I always go to Christmas Eve Mass, which is special to me, with my parents and sometimes grandparents.