A contemplative Advent season

Advent starts in the days before the first Sunday of Advent with the blessing of the Advent wreath. This custom originated in northern Germany and became established in the alpine region in the 20th century. The first Advent wreath in a Catholic church was hung in 1925. The green of the brushwood stands for the “hope for the birth of the redeemer”; the four candles symbolise the four Sundays of Advent up to Christmas.

Celebrations of mass which are held early in the morning, before sunrise, during Advent are known as Rorate masses. “Rorate” means “Drop down ye heavens from above”, which is the beginning of a verse from the Book of Isaiah that is used in the liturgy for these celebrations of the Eucharist during Advent. The people generally walk to the church where this atmospheric mass is celebrated in a procession with candlelight and torches. Afterwards, they are often invited to a light breakfast.

Christmas Eve is not a public holiday. It is only the eve of “Christmas Day”, on which the “Solemnity of the Nativity of Christ” is celebrated. The Catholic church has traditionally celebrated the birth of Christ, who was born in the night (Gospel of Luke Ch. 2, v. 8), right at the start of 25th December, at midnight. With this nighttime service, the “Midnight Mass”, Christians prepare for Christmas, which is celebrated on 25th December.

A wealth of customs have developed around this night. Nowadays, Christmas trees and nativity scenes are on display everywhere and there are also presents because we want to pass on our joy about the birth of Christ.

The services on Christmas Eve now begin in the late evening and are often framed by tower music or renditions of old melodies by wind instruments. There are crib celebrations for the children in the afternoon, so that the time before the distribution of presents does not seem so long.