Christmas Eve Celebrated on 24 December
According to Bible tradition, on Christmas day the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ. The Son of God was born in a manger in Bethlehem. The angels announced to the shepherds the news of the birth of the Son of God. Then came three wise men from the east who knew about the birth of the Messiah from legends. They were led to the town by a star. According to the teaching of the church, the birth of Christ opened up the possibility of the salvation of the soul and eternal life for each Christian.
Christmas is celebrated on December 25 by the Roman Catholic Church, most Protestant Churches, and some Orthodox ones including the Church of Constantinople (except Athos), Antioch, Alexandria, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece.
On the night of December 25, celebratory masses are celebrated in the Roman Catholic churches of Ukraine. The main ceremony is held in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The service is led by the Pope Benedict XVI and is broadcasted by all TV channels of the world.
At noon, the pope proclaims the traditional blessing Urbi et Orbi. The Roman Pope recites a holiday greeting in 64 languages, including Ukrainian.
And on December 24, the Catholics of the Latin Rite and other Christians living according to the Gregorian and New Julian Calendars have Christmas Eve Supper. Christmas Eve is actually the last day of the four-day fast before Christmas.
In the evening of December 24, families gather at the table when the first star appears, the that showed the way for the wise men. A passage from the Gospel is read out and the first carol is sung before the meal. Then everyone breaks the Christmas wafer symbolizing the joy of the coming feast. The wafers are consecrated in churches during the fast before Christmas.
Sometimes several wisps of hay are put on the table as a reminder of the Bethlehem manger. There must be 12 lenten dishes on the table. At the end of the evening, they sing carols and attend the Christmas mass.