‘When Is Midnight Mass?’

The Washington Post‘s “5 Myths” series continued this week with a holiday-themed “5 Myths about Christmas” as elaborated by James Martin, S.J. (a prolific fellow, though not to be confused with my late friend Father James Martin). For starters, Martin rightly reminds us that for Catholics, Christmas is not the most important holy day—that would be Easter. “Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead,” he explains.

The third item on Martin’s list is whether or not Jesus had brothers or sisters. I’m not even going near that one. But funniest of all is myth five: “Midnight Mass is at midnight.” Indeed, my family will be attending a “vigil” Mass at 4 p.m. Why has the schedule been creeping back?

Writes Martin,

For one thing, churches are packed on Christmas Day. Second, the elderly and families with children may find it easier to attend services on the 24th, so as not to conflict with the following day’s festivities. As a result, some parishes are cutting back on Masses on Christmas Day.

One parent recently told me: “We like to get Mass out of the way so that we can focus on the gifts.” (So, by moving Masses further from Dec. 25, churches may be contributing to the secularization of Christmas.) This trend prompted a pastor in New Jersey to send a missive this year noting that Christmas Eve Masses would be at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and midnight — “as in the real midnight.”

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