During the Christmas holiday season many families will attend Christmas church services around the world. There are some very famous, unique and unusual traditions and services that are held each year. Here are eight interesting traditions from around the world:
1. In Austria – Church service famous for its music! The mid-night mass service, a tradition on Christmas Eve, is featured by trumpeters playing choral music from the city tower or steeple of the main church. Often the service features music written by Franz Bruber who composed the famous and popular Silent Night. He also wrote nearly 100 masses, hymns and carols. On Christmas Eve Silent Night is heard for the first time on the radio and repeated hourly. It is eagerly awaited and the effect is known to be spellbinding Spanish radio stations.
2. In England – You must attend a Church service but no vehicle! The Holy Days and Fasting Days Act 1551, Britain (which has not yet been repealed) states that every citizen must attend a Christian church service Christmas day and must not use any kind of vehicle to get to the service!
3. In Egypt – A tradition is for a new outfit to be worn to the mass! Christmas is celebrated on the 7th January their official public holiday. It is tradition for everyone, on the eve of Christmas, to go to church wearing a completely new outfit. The service ends at mid-night marked with the ringing of church bells when everyone goes home to a feast called “Fata” consisting of bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat. On Christmas morning they visit neighbors and friends with their popular “kaik” a type of shortbread eaten with a drink called “shortbat”.
4. In Italy – Famous for elaborate and artistic manger scenes! Christmas Eve people go from church to church viewing elaborate and artistic manger scenes. Each has a display of figures made of clay and plaster. Included is an ox and an ass as legend had it they warmed the Christ Child with their breath! Occasionally local heroes are added to the scenes and are given special blessings. Contests are often held between churches of the same town for the best crib.
5. In Russia – Traditional lantern and candle parade! After the Christmas Eve service people holding lanterns and candles parade around the church then re-enter to sing carols before going home for a late Christmas Eve dinner. On Christmas day it is popular for children as well as the church choir to go door to door caroling the song “The Nativity” or “Your Birth”.
6. In Spain – The mass described as one pure voice! A tradition of ringing bells at mid-night interrupts Christmas Eve gaiety, calling all to the Christmas mass service called “La Misa Del Gallo” or “Mass of the Rooster”. A rooster announces the new day by crowing and like wise the Misa Del Gallo announces the new day. The most beautiful service is at the monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona highlighted by a boy’s choir performing the mass described as “one pure voice”. This is followed by the main Christmas dinner where they feast until the wee hours of the morning. An old Spanish verse says “This is the good-night, therefore it is not meant for sleep!”
7. In Wales – 3 A.M. Service Revived Today! Old traditions remain steadfast often in rural areas of Wales. One such old and popular tradition was the main Christmas service called “Plygain”. It starts in the dark hours of Christmas day from 3 a.m. until the rising of the sun on Christmas morning; usually around 6am. A highlight of the service is carol singing by either individuals, trios, quartets or choirs. While this candlelight service was popular in olden times it was discontinued in the 19th century. The service was revived in recent years by Methodist Chapels.
8. In Syria – The Touch of Peace Christmas Ceremony! Mass is held early on Christmas morning. In the middle of the church a bonfire is lit and ancient hymns are sung as the celebrant carries an image of the Christ child in a joyous procession around the building. Following this is the tradition called “Touch of Peace” whereby the celebrant touches the nearest person who then passes the touch of peace from one to another until everyone is touched.