PODCAST: Work Rest & Slay with Melanie Morris: Episode 2
PODCAST: Work Rest & Slay with Melanie Morris: Episode 2

Shayna Sappington

Suicide prevention: ‘My brother faced stigma, red tape, long waiting times, under-resourced hospitals. In the end it was too much’
Suicide prevention: ‘My brother faced stigma, red tape, long waiting times, under-resourced hospitals. In the...

Amanda Cassidy

This Leeson St home on sale for €2 million is family-friendly but perfect for city living
This Leeson St home on sale for €2 million is family-friendly but perfect for city...

Megan Burns

You will not believe how they made THAT Zendaya Balmain dress
You will not believe how they made THAT Zendaya Balmain dress

Lauren Heskin

If you only see one film in the cinema this year, make it this powerful Irish feature
If you only see one film in the cinema this year, make it this powerful...

Meg Walker

Postpartum Psychosis: ‘It hit me completely out of the blue’
Postpartum Psychosis: ‘It hit me completely out of the blue’

Amanda Cassidy

4 Irish female bosses on getting organised, confidence and the importance of creativity
4 Irish female bosses on getting organised, confidence and the importance of creativity

Shayna Sappington

Two beauty industry stalwarts have teamed up to save cruelty-free cosmetics in Europe
Two beauty industry stalwarts have teamed up to save cruelty-free cosmetics in Europe

Sarah Finnan

Why negotiating a ‘jobbymoon’ before you start your new job is actually a great idea
Why negotiating a ‘jobbymoon’ before you start your new job is actually a great idea

Erin Lindsay

Skin Proud is Glossier’s new 100% vegan and cruelty-free competitor
Skin Proud is Glossier’s new 100% vegan and cruelty-free competitor

Sarah Finnan

Image / Agenda / Image Writes

An ode to Christmas Eve mass, the festive season’s greatest social occasion


by Edaein OConnell
23rd Dec 2020
blank

Without Christmas carolling, a chat with your best friend from primary school who you only ever see at this mass and the chance of a sneaky pint afterwards, Christmas mass just won’t be the same. Edaein O’Connell pays tribute.


For as long as I can remember, I have been primed and prepped to sing at Christmas Eve mass.

As a child, my mother put me through grilling practices in the weeks before the big night for fear I’d make a show of myself in front of the parish.

As I became older and much wiser, I was left to my own devices. The trials and tribulations of my months accumulated into one night, as I poured my heart, soul, and any alcohol left-over from the 12 pubs of Christmas into my rendition of O Holy Night.

The performance is always an emotional one. It feels like coming home. Coming back to my roots, my neighbours, my childhood.

 

An elaborate school reunion

I am what you could call a lapsed Catholic. My relationship with the church became fragile a long time ago and while I believe in something, I can’t unite that belief with religious devotion. And so my church time has been reduced to few visits in a year – but there is something different about Christmas Eve mass.

It’s tradition and comfort tied up in a red festive bow. People turn out their best coats while hair looks better than ever and the makeup is always just right. School friends and your old GAA team grow up across the aisle from you. People loiter for the chat afterwards, while others dash off to avoid getting cornered by an old teacher… or to ensure they get a good seat in the pub, where everyone will evitably end up, “just for one”.

 

2020

Despite the restrictions that 2020 brought, Christmas mass will take place this year, but it won’t be the same. There’ll be no Christmas carolling for a start, no hanging around either as everyone needs to be in and out in under an hour.

And for the first time in history, you need a ticket for the birth of Jesus. And at this stage, it would be easier to get a ticket to a Bruce Springsteen concert. I don’t think God ever envisaged that the birth of our Lord and saviour would be a ticketed event, but even the most-holy of us can’t escape the ravages of the year that has been.

As a child, Christmas Eve mass is the precursor to Santa. You accept the drawn-out nature of the evening as a step closer to early-morning presents. As an alter server, it was the reward for your expert bell ringing efforts throughout the year, which usually came in the form of a selection box and a joyful skip out the door. As a teenager, you dread it. Because the young lad you shifted at the Christmas youth club disco the week before always decided to sit in direct view of you.

As an adult, it becomes like a childhood reunion. Familiar faces that your phone has shown you standing in front of the Sydney Opera House or the Burj Al Arab or clinking cocktails on a Manhattan rooftop now suddenly pepper the crowd, their childish features still evident under beards and makeup.

As an adult, you become thankful that you’ve all made it that far, watching time pass each year from different church pews, surreptitiously gawking at one another.

 

The goodness of it all

The joy of Christmas Eve mass is that it is like no other. It doesn’t feel like a Sunday ritual or a divine procession to tune out of. For once, the church is packed. People clamour together while trying to squeeze every inch of themselves into the tight pews. Grown men arrive tipsy after festive pints. Forced to put on a good jacket and get it together by their wives, partners and mothers.

Someone always falls asleep during the sermon. Babies bawl and a toddler finds their way to the alter to inspect the crib. People who never usually sing, perform Silent Night with quiet emotion.

I am not a religious person, nor are many others who step in the doors of a church on Christmas night. But I do believe in people. I believe in the power of community and togetherness, and the joy which radiates from both. The simple shake of a hand or a touch on the back takes on more significance on Oíche Nollag.

This festive season will be strange and new. We don’t know what it will look like or how we will feel. The family gatherings will be replaced by something or intimate.

Less coming home and more staying put.

While I’ve grown to accept the constraints of this year and reality that life will be strange for a while longer, I won’t accept the changing of this one Christmas tradition in the future.

You can tell me that I should go to mass more, or question my affinity for holyness on one night of the year, but have you ever thought about how lovely it is?

How truly unique it is that people are still willing to come together and herald in the birth of something new?

This time next year, I hope my mother is piling on the pressure.

And I hope, more than anything, that I’m pouring every last drop of me into my rendition of O Holy Night.

Featured image: Pablo Clemente on Unsplash


Read more: A parents’ guide to Christmas spirit (and toy-hungry children)

Read more: How to mind your mind this very unusual Christmas

Read more: ‘A nightmare trapped in a recurring nightmare’: Two-day suspension on travel from UK to be announced over new Covid fears

Also Read

blank
BREAKING STORIES
Covid-19 Booster Shots to reportedly be offered in early Autumn

According to reports, healthcare workers, the over-80s, residents of care facilities aged 65 and above, and those with certain medical...

By Jennifer McShane

Sally Rooney
IMAGE WRITES
In defence of Sally Rooney: why she’s quite a good literary hero, actually

While we concern ourselves with how to get our hands on *that* Sally Rooney bucket hat, others are more concerned...

By Sarah Finnan

heartwarming moments at the Olympics
IMAGE WRITES
A shared gold medal and an Olympic knitter: The most heartwarming moments from the Olympics so far

Our eyes were glued to the Olympics coverage over the long weekend as we watched some of the crème de...

By Sarah Finnan

books all entrepreneurs should read
BUSINESS
These are 5 books all entrepreneurs should read

Whether you are already an entrepreneur or are aspiring to be one, here are five books you should be readingEntrepreneurs...

By Edaein OConnell

Mikaela Loach
IMAGE WRITES
‘It’s a choice not to act’ – Climate activist Mikaela Loach chats to us about how important real action is

We chatted to climate activist Mikaela Loach about being an activist, breaking up with fast fashion and the importance of...

By Sarah Finnan

blank
CULTURE
Judge denies Britney Spears’ request to remove father from conservatorship

The decision comes a week after Spears delivered a devastating testimony and, despite the appeal being filed late last year,...

By Jennifer McShane

James Corden
BREAKING STORIES
The Internet is not a fan of James Corden’s latest stunt, and the Tweets are gas

It involves ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ host thrusting at a traffic stop in a rat costumeJames Corden...

By Lauren Heskin