Area churches celebrate season late

Published 12:01 am Saturday, December 22, 2007

Natchez — With Christmas fast approaching, several area churches have a special way to celebrate.

St. Mary Basilica, Holy Family and Trinity Episcopal Church are all having late services in order to celebrate the coming of Christ. St. Mary and Trinity Episcopal are holding services at 10 p.m. that will be preceded by caroling; Holy Family has a service that begins at midnight. Tradition was the most common reason for the time of service.

“Tradition is the main reason for our service, but vigil services, in general, come from the old Jewish tradition that the next day begins at sundown, which would mean that the eve is as good as the day,” Trinity Episcopal Curate Brandt Dick said.

Email newsletter signup

The two Catholic churches singled out tradition.

“It has been a long held Catholic tradition to hold the service at that time. We don’t know when Jesus was born but this is when Christmas Eve turns into Christmas Day,” Program Coordinator Ruth McWilliams said.

Despite it not being known when Jesus was born, many signs point to the birth happening at night, which can also make the midnight vigil significant, Dick said.

“The wise men followed the star and the shepherds were with the sheep, which are all associated with the night, even though the Bible does not give us many chronological details,” Dick said.

Each church has previous services that allow for families with smaller children to attend. St. Mary’s early mass begins at 4 p.m. and Trinity Episcopal’s service begins at 5 p.m.

“We changed our service from midnight to 10 p.m. because it seems to be more convenient for the parishioners,” McWilliams said. “Holy Family holds a mass at midnight, so it gives Catholics a choice.”

The midnight services seem to be slightly different from the rest of the services throughout the year.

“More people seem to attend the vigil and the midnight service,” Reverend Saa- Buchman said. “Maybe it is the Christmas excitement.”

The churches each perform rituals that are customary of the season, like lighting the advent and placing the baby Jesus in the Nativity.

“The late mass is different because its anticipating the birth of Christ,” McWilliams said. “It’s special that way.”