Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015

Christmas Eve is probably my favorite holiday of the entire year.  I love the whole Christmas season because of the anticipation, but I feel like Christmas Eve is the culmination of all of the anticipation from the entire season.  Growing up, we would go to Christmas Eve mass starting at 5:00.  We'd get home, eat dinner and then get to bed early, all while filled with anticipation.  Even as we got older and started going to my aunt's house for dinner after mass, the anticipation of the following day was still there.  I love watching the little children at mass who are giddy with excitement because Santa is so close.  The Christmas carols we sang before and during mass added a special ambiance to the church and the congregation had a special twinkle in their eyes as they sang each verse.  It's my favorite.

This year, I wasn't sure what Christmas Eve would look like.  It's not a holiday since the majority of people (90%) are Muslim and I knew I would be working that evening. Even if I wasn't working, my search for a church had come up with nothing.  I never expected it to be the same as back home, but I did want to try and do as much as we could.  A few weeks before Christmas, people posted in this expat group that we're in on Facebook about a Christmas Eve mass at a Catholic church near our house! It was so exciting!  Not only that, but it was late enough that if I let my class out a few minutes early, we could make it in time.  Things were looking up!

So, on Christmas Eve, I headed out to work at 7:00 and at 9:15, met Mike to walk to church.  We were walking down the street and reached the address listed.  There was a huge wall and gate, but behind that was a big, beautiful Catholic church.  When we walked in, we were in awe of how beautiful and big it was.  There were pews that could fit probably 300 people and they were completely full!

We made it just in time and the service began.  The mass started with Silent Night in Turkish.  I don't think Turkish is a particularly pretty language, but Silent Night in Turkish was beautiful.  I actual started crying.  After the first verse, we switched to English  and then finished in Turkish.  This was the way the whole mass was.  The first reading was in Turkish and the second was in English.  The homily was said in both English and Turkish.  The only part that wasn't in Turkish or English were the communion prayers, which were in Latin.  Mike and I got really lost in this part because we obviously don't speak Latin. When it came time for communion, it was interesting because only about 20% of the congregation got up to take communion.  Since non-Catholics can't take communion, I got the impression that most of the people in the congregation just wanted to go to church on Christmas Eve and this was their only option.

Overall, the mass was exactly how  I remember Christmas Eve mass being.  I love that it's dark outside because it makes the service feel more intimate.  I could still feel the anticipation and the Christmas carols were just as soothing and beautiful as they are in English.  We came home and read a Night Before Christmas which my mom had sent us and I stuffed our stockings before heading to bed.

There is a nativity scene that is set up on our walk home.  It's so weird.  They don't celebrate Christmas and everyone I've asked doesn't understand the actual meaning behind Christmas, so the fact that there is a nativity is very very strange.