“Christmas Eve and all is still,
Snow lies on the windowsill,
Cosy rooms where fires glow,
Stockings hung the lights are low,
Carols sung for all to hear,
Christmas day will soon be here!”
First of all, if anyone knows the name of, or any information about, this song, please tell me! I can only remember it from a school play we did years ago. I’ve googled with no luck. Perhaps a teacher just came up with it? I may never know, but it comes into my mind every Christmas Eve.
I spent a few hours in the day studying, according to my timetable. Yuck. But after slogging through maths and some sraith pictiuiri, I flicked the chip inside my head to Christmas mode.
A long, hot bath, cuddly jumper on, and I was ready for Midnight Mass—which, incidentally, takes place at six o’clock in the evening.
A few of us turned up early as part of the choir for a last-minute rehearsal. Once again I was struck by that lovely sense of community being part of a club or church can bring: everyone doing their part to make something special for the whole parish to enjoy. Often, I don’t feel quite at home here in Ireland. You see, in a rural community, finding your niche is a very difficult thing indeed. But when you do manage to find it, you are embraced forever.
The church is always a huge source of pride... it’s hard to explain so someone who’s not part of a religious community just how important the church is. When I have five hours, I’ll tell you the story of the fuss that was made when new chairs were purchased for the meeting room at the back! Anyway, that night, it was at its best. It was clear that hours and hours had been put in by the priest, the sacristan and pretty much every busybody (in the best possible sense) you can imagine. It looked absolutely beautiful...
The service was so special, as it always is, with my neighbour and I coming together to sing a solo and hear it echo through the building. The last candle on the advent wreath was lit...
...and the figure of the newborn Jesus was finally added to the crib.
Christmas Eve is the one night when everyone comes to mass, no matter how little or often they attend for the rest of the year. The whole place was packed: people were even sitting in the front row! (I’ve learned that in Ireland that’s a huge deal)
It’s the one night of the year when everyone really comes together, everyone really listens to the service, everyone really wants to be there...
It’s also the one night of the year when a child in the front row can hold up a foam finger on a stick and nobody passes any remarks on it... but that's another matter.