The Woodward News

Local News

December 14, 2007

Candlelight service tradition on Christmas Eve

Although the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ is unknown, Dec. 25 has been the traditional day to celebrate the nativity since as early as 330 A.D.

Throughout the centuries Christian and pagan traditions and symbols have been combined to bring us the modern holiday of Christmas, Christ’s Mass.

In the midst of all the familiar symbols of Christmas, including adorned trees, Santa Claus, mistletoe and presents many Churches still hold Christmas Eve services to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.

The tradition of a candlelight service has become a common practice in many churches on Christmas Eve. The candlelight service alone has roots stemming from many different traditions.

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Pastor Chuck Shorow explained several of the traditions that have fueled the idea behind candlelight Christmas Eve services.

Shorow said he once knew a German family who said their tradition of candlelight services came from a time in Germany, long ago, when people would build fires by the roadside so church people could stop in their travels and warm themselves by the fires. The time of fellowship beside those roadside fires so came to be commemorated within the church by the firelight of candles.

Shorow also said in Roman Catholic tradition candles are lit to represent loved ones being prayed for.

Another candlelit tradition is one which came from Mexico, the luminaria, said Shorow. Luminarias are candlelit lanterns with paper coverings, such as a paper bag, the give off a soft illumination. Shorow said some Hispanic churches will light luminarias to represent the number of years since Christ was born.

“I’ve noticed there are a couple of houses in Woodward that have luminarias,” said Shorow.

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) holds candlelight Christmas Eve services for a different reason.

“To us the light represents the light of Christ that came into the world,” said Shorow.

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