Origins of Midnight Mass

Origin of Midnight Masshristians observed the tradition of a Midnight Vigil on Christmas Eve from as early as the fourth century in Jerusalem by a Christian woman named Egeria.

Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and for three years observed the customs and liturgies she saw there. The Jews held a midnight vigil to celebrate the birth of the Savior. The tradition reached the Western world in the year 430 under Pope Sixtus III in Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, Italy.

By the twelfth century, Midnight Mass became widespread as priests could celebrate three Masses on Christmas day, a privilege the church had reserved for the Pope. These are the Midnight, Dawn and Christmas Day Masses, and the priests were to celebrate them at the prescribed times. The Roman Catholic church holds these three masses during Christmas.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem at night and the church celebrates Mass at Midnight to honor the very hour He was born. Midnight Mass is also known as the Angel’s Mass recalling the announcement of the Angel to the Shepherds proclaiming the birth of Jesus.