Should kids go to midnight church services?

Many churches offer very moving midnight services for Christmas Eve. We often went to Midnight Mass when my brother and I were teenagers but never as little kids. I have several friends who take their elementary age-kids to midnight services. They usually sleep through the service. I have many questions about taking small children to midnight services:

A.      How do you get your Santa Claus business done if you’re at church from 11:30 to 1:30 or 2 including travel time?

B.      Aren’t you afraid that if they sleep during the service they will wake up heading home and then won’t go back to sleep?

C.      If they are sleeping during the service does that defeat the purpose? (Lilina, who had a cold, slept during church last week and it helped me concentrate so much more!)

We usually take our kids to the early afternoon family Mass. The only problem there is it’s often packed – with kids! So it’s tough to get anything super-spiritual out of it. Plus, I got yelled at one time for standing to soothe a crying baby during the hour and a half service. (So that went well.) It’s nice when they have sort of 7 p.m. service that isn’t the children’s service or the midnight one. I like to get in and out under the radar.

So do you take young kids to midnight services at your church for Christmas? Explain to me how you get the Santa business done with that late service? What time service do you usually attend why? When can kids start attending the midnight services?

66 comments Add your comment

JATL

December 23rd, 2010
1:16 am

No way would I haul little kids out at midnight on Christmas Eve! I would dearly love to attend our church’s 7:30 pm service that’s more “adult” and focuses on lessons and carols and candlelight, but I’m resigned to the fact that until my kids are in upper elementary grades, we’ll be going to a church in our neighborhood that has a community candlelight service at 5 pm on Christmas Eve. 5pm makes sense! Then you can go home, eat a nice dinner, unwrap some presents, and the kiddos can still hop in bed with plenty of time for Santa to make his delivery AND get some sleep! Our church also has a family friendly 5:30 service on Christmas Eve, but the traffic and logistics of doing that make me shy away from it. I think it will be about 4 years before we venture to that 7:30 service. If I were Catholic and there was the option of a midnight mass, I don’t know if I would ever attend. If I did, it wouldn’t be until my kids were pre-teens or teenagers.

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motherjanegoose

December 23rd, 2010
3:06 am

We have always gone to a 5:00 or 7:00 service. I prefer the 7:00 service but our church is now going with the 5:00 service, so that is what we will do! Honestly, I am not sure I could stay awake for the midnight version, although I am up now. I was in bed by 10:00.

The first time we kept our kids out until midnight, was when they were about 8 and 13. We were on vacation and went to see MY DOG SKIP at the drive in movies. We were in our own car, so no one would be bothered if the kids got cranky. They thought the drive in was awesome and still talk about going….10 years later.

Blog friends…have a very Merry Christmas and relish your time with your families. I have enjoyed the dialogue here and wish you a wonderful weekend. Maybe Atlanta will even get snow on Christmas!

Paige

December 23rd, 2010
4:20 am

My son went the first time when he was five. Take a nap BEFORE you go. There is NO EXCUSE to sleep in church. Sit where they can see and hear everything and explain what is going to be different than every week church BEFORE it starts so there is no talking once it starts. We are Episcopilian so we have “smells and bells” on Christmas eve.

Santa just has to be prepared. We would still come home and do the santa cookies and milk before he went to bed. Santa just doesn’t get a lot of sleep.

Jeff

December 23rd, 2010
6:17 am

Merry Christmas to my momanie family. I enjoy and benefit from every interaction with you. I am so gtrateful for the true spirit that each of you bring to this blog and I wish there were more people with the level of concern that you all have. And, yes, even when the subject is as stupid as Kate. LOL.

outspoken1

December 23rd, 2010
7:22 am

tis non of my biz when and how you conduct your Christmas movements.
if it feels right for you, do it!

momof2

December 23rd, 2010
7:42 am

My husband loves the midnight service,so we are going to it for the first time with kids this year. They are 12 now and should be ok. Actually our service starts at 11:00 and gets over at midnight (I assume). They know about Santa now, so that part isn’t a problem any more, and that does make it a lot easier. I’m not worried about the kids falling asleep in church, I’m worried about myself. After all, that’s way past my bed time. Have a Merry Christmas everybody!

mom of 3

December 23rd, 2010
7:45 am

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Holidays to all. Say a prayer, reflect or meditate on this past year and remember those who aren’t with their loved ones this year for whatever reason.

Renee

December 23rd, 2010
8:06 am

If you want your children to get the benefit of the service, go at an appropriate time. If you want to do the midnight service for yourself, then see if someone can stay at home with the children.

We want our son to benefit from the service, that’s why we go to the earlier one.

douglasvillegirl

December 23rd, 2010
8:33 am

There is a Presby church in our neighborhood that has communion on Cmas Eve at 11:00…we LOVE it..it has become a family tradition and staying awake is no problem, because we are honoring Christ and keeping Him in the holiday. But for small children probably a 7PM service is better.
Regardless of time, family w/kids need to be in church Christmas Eve to bring home what the day is all about ….MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!

Becky

December 23rd, 2010
8:36 am

No I wouldn’t take a young child to a midnight church service..Like MJG & mom of 3, I’m not worried about the kids sleeping, but midnight is way past my bedtime..Guess our church is a less “strict” church in that our Pastor’s grandaughter (2) and another memebers daughter (5) have slept during services and no one ever thought anything of it…

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays..No matter what you celebrate, I hope it’s a great time for all…I will be on vacation next week and will “talk” to y’all in the new year..Love and hugs to everyone..

motherjanegoose

December 23rd, 2010
8:41 am

@outspoken1….if your personality fit your blog name…methinks you would have an opinion to share! Perhaps you are just minding your Christmas manners…:) I have often said…( even to catlady on Monday) “this is none of my business but I think…”

What time folks go to church on Christmas Eve is NONE of my business and I am just thrilled they take the time to go. I do have an opinion on when little kids need to be in bed and we have discussed it here before :0 Not sure I would want to sit near a wailing child but that is just me. I might be a little more lenient since it was Christmas!

I always say, “If everyone did this…what would things be like?”

This applies to:
children crying in church ( what if there were 20?) or a restaurant
dogs left out in the back yard to bark all day
folks running a red light
cutting people off in traffic
showing up late for an appointment
mowing the law at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday
having a party in your back yard with a band that is playing at midnight
customers leaving items on the floor that they dropped and do not want

Can you get the picture?

@ Jeff…hugs to you and all the other fine folks here who keep things interesting! Merry Christmas!

MomOf2Girls

December 23rd, 2010
8:42 am

Hi all. Can you please educate me? What is the purpose of having a service at midnight versus another time? I know very little about Christianity outside of the basics.

CDD

December 23rd, 2010
8:43 am

Our church doesn’t have a midnight service but has 3 on Christmas Eve at 4, 6, & 9. We’ll be going to the 4pm one so we’ll be home in time for dinner, etc. My kids are young but realize now who Santa really is since we never tried to encourage a belief in that character. We usually let them open one present on Christmas Eve before bed and then the rest of them in the morning. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! :)

Merry Christmas all. I hope you are able to enjoy a happy and memorable time with your family &/or friends.

JATL

December 23rd, 2010
9:13 am

@Paige -actually I can think of several excuses for sleeping in church and being a child at midnight is right up there at the top! Maybe we should take a poll regarding how many families on this blog with children under, say, 8 could or would get their hyped up child to take a nap during the earlier part of Christmas Eve and miss dinner or hors d’ouvres, presents, time with family, etc. AND because of that nap -be WIRED to stay up until around 3 am? If it works for you -hooray -but it sounds like a recipe for disaster for us and most anyone else we know. I’m glad we have our community service at 5pm.

JATL

December 23rd, 2010
9:16 am

Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope you have a lovely time doing whatever Christmas means to you!

BShepC

December 23rd, 2010
9:20 am

When we were young, my parent’s would take my brother and I to midnight mass b/c my Dad sang in the choir. We did ok..usually sleeping through some of it. I have fond memories of going at that time. However…it does explain why they were so sleepy Christmas morning!! We’d get home after 1am and they’d shoo us to bed and I know it was a long night for them. To each is own. We just don’t go (I know terrible) with our kids because the scene is SO obnoxious at our church for children’s mass. I won’t do midnight with my kids…too much for all of us. Celebrate in our own quiet way….

JOD

December 23rd, 2010
10:17 am

Last Christmas was my first as a Catholic, and we went to midnight mass. DD was 18 months, and she actually loved the singing beforehand and the lights – then she dozed most of the service. There were many small children and infants; it was a packed house but everyone was really quiet…it was a really beautiful service. We had all of the presents under the tree already, so it was just rough getting up early and starting the cooking! This year, Santa will be visiting Christmas Eve, not to mention that a 2 year old will be much more of a handful. We’ll be at the 4 p.m. Mass, which I fear may be distractingly full of kids, but we’ll make the best of it!

Merry Christmas to all!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

December 23rd, 2010
10:46 am

@Momof2girls….isn’t it obvious….prayer and worship are more effective during certain times of the day. So if you have a choice between praying and worshiping on Xmas eve at midnight or dusk, pick midnight, you get more bang for your buck. ;-)

catlady

December 23rd, 2010
10:54 am

I grew up in the Presbyterian Church with a candlelighting service at 7. That was great! As I got older I sometimes got to go with my aunt to the Episcopal Church for the 11 service, and I loved it (I especially loved being with my aunt). When my children were little we went to the 7:00 service at the Methodist Church.

I don’t know about the Catholic Church. Is mass more special at midnight? I would think, while your children are little, you accommodate their needs and go early with them then get a sitter for the adults to go at 11 if it is important to you to experience it.

As for Santa, he gets little or no sleep on Christmas eve! Everybody knows that! But he gets a nap the next day.

Merry Christmas to all of you! Seems likely our Christmas will be white, just hope we don’t lose the power (and with it, the water, heat, and toilet.) Amen and amen!

FCM

December 23rd, 2010
11:13 am

Middle School and up I see no issue with 11:00 or Midnight service.

Small children, toddlers, infants etc should be at home with vision of sugar plums dancing in their heads. If they don’t believe in the jolly ol’ elf (Elementary age) well laugh at them inspite of themselves and send them off to bed too. Cranky children at Christmas festivies (because they got up believers or not to see what St Nick brought!) are no fun for anyone.

God had a Son, a bab even. He understands that children need to be snug in their beds.

Happy Christmas to all…and may it not snow but be Sunny and Brite! (I hate snow no matter what time of year that is why I live in the South).

FCM

December 23rd, 2010
11:25 am

@ Tiger…used to be after the Midnight service Santa and Miss Elf got busy ;) that was before I had kids.

Yes, Virigina just like there is a Santa, some of us good college girls went to late service because there were few to NO kids. Then being college kids who did not want to get up early to see under the tree we did other things. Now I can see that—the no kids at late service–as being a good reason to go that late.

As for the other activities….alas there is nolonger an elf, Santa, etc for me. So I will probably make sure all the gifts are out then head to bed around 11 alone.

OOOOOPPPPSSSS Didn’t mean that to be a downer. hmmmmm where is that egg nog?

Becky

December 23rd, 2010
11:28 am

@catlady..I’m coming to your house for Christams day if Santa gets a nap..:~) “Santa” hasn’t had a nap at my house in the last 8 years…

Hopefully you won’t lose power and all that goes with it..

Sam

December 23rd, 2010
11:46 am

I’m not a Christian – but it seems weird to me that you would take a child to special religious services celebrating the birth of Jesus and come home and do Santa?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 23rd, 2010
11:47 am

I think the deal with the midnight Mass is you get are actually worshiping on Christmas Day without having to drag the kids away from the presents. They change the readings all to the Christmas Day readings that Jesus is Born not just coming. Also I think the church is really beautiful at midnight — lots of candles — our church in Decatur used to do a choir performance for an hour before the service. So you would sit quietly in a candle lit church (all the work done in theory) listening to the music and contemplating the reason for the holiday. I do have very very fond memories of the midnight service — but we were definitely in middle and high school before we started going.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

December 23rd, 2010
11:57 am

“you are actually worshiping on Christmas Day”

See…..I told you worship is time sensitive!!! The day before or after has a diminishing effect. In a relationship with God….timing is everything!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

December 23rd, 2010
12:02 pm

I’m just glad that the message that “Jesus is Born not just coming” can be worked into a schedule “without having to drag the kids away from the presents”!

Priorities people!!! Make sure you squeak the message about the saviour’s birth in between sleep and presents! This material today is GOLD. I’m cracking up here!

catlady

December 23rd, 2010
12:48 pm

AW,Tiger, don’t be a grinch!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

December 23rd, 2010
12:58 pm

Oh come on catlady…no grinch here! Just having a little fun….;-)

so here’s my non grinch message to all who are concerned about missing midnight mass.

Don’t worry about it. If your heart is sincere and your faith is true….i don’t believe God or Jesus really cares if you make it to midnight mass. From my understanding He (or she for that matter) is understanding and compassionate and probably knows the posers who just show up on Xmas at midnight from those who don’t show up and are the truly faithful.

So the short story to all is……RELAX….it’s going to be ok regardless of the path you take.

Happy holidays everyone!

FCM

December 23rd, 2010
1:08 pm

@ Tiger–gold, frenincese and mhyrr…

Sam–secular Christmas (Santa) and theological Christmas (Jesus) are not mutually execlusive in many homes. Not sure why that is hard to understand. I can tell you at length about the Colonies declearing their freedom from Tyrannical King George but it really has nothing to do with the barbeque we throw on the 4th of July.

The kids sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before opening the presents here at our house. We only open them on Christmas Day though.

For me the service is not so much “to get anything super-spiritual out of it”—hopefully I did that in the 51 weeks since last Christmas! For me, it is about taking a moment to pause: to put aside the tasks of the secular side. To breathe and get that reminder that as a professed Christian I have something larger to celebrate. For right behind that Christmas tree is another one. One that was chopped down, split apart, and reconfigured. One that the baby, when a full grown 3O something man, was nailed upon. For those few moments, I can put aside this world and join my spiritual family across the globe–some have sleeping babies/toddlers, some have children who are questioning the truth of Santa, and some are just beginning to believe again. In that few moments we are together just like any family…noisy, because we were forced/guilted by a parent/spouse/etc, and because in the end we recognize that being together for the holiday is important.

Becky

December 23rd, 2010
1:19 pm

@Tiger..Love your post at 12:58..

Valstake

December 23rd, 2010
1:26 pm

Your explanation about Midnight Mass is correct, Theresa. Our family never did anything on Christmas Eve; on Christmas we went to a late Mass after presents had been opened. My family is mostly dead so I don’t bother much with Christmas. But it’s fun watching everyone having a good time and I’m a sucker for the Salvation Army bell ringers.

Froeliche Weinnachten, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Bon Natale, Merry Christmas! Everyone!

deidre_NC

December 23rd, 2010
2:24 pm

not related but some info some might like to have
http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/111649/the-best-charities-in-america
a list of good reliable charities….

FCM

December 23rd, 2010
2:33 pm

Forgot who mentioned the Alton Brown Cinnamon Rolls…I lost my recipe book (and will likely find it after holidays)….so I tried his recipe. We shall see :)

Somebody must be cooking Publix and Trader Joes were packed.

I don’t know if it is beginning to look like Christmas or not. It sure is beginning to smell like it at my house. Christmas Eve is pretty set–thanks to TJs! We have cookies for Santa. My Mom is making 7 layer delight–anyone remember that one? We have not had it in years but she used to make it every Christmas. Tonight I think I will make JJ’s Aunt’s chicken–the parm and bread coated baked chicken. It sound good.

My guess is most of us are off work and all is going to stay quiet.

deidre_NC

December 23rd, 2010
2:33 pm

tiger once again you cracked me up…not easy to do these days…so thank you very much :)….i havent been to any church service in 2 1/2 years since i got this ‘new’ job…hopefully i will be able to again soon…but i love christmas services-the plays the kids do, the singing….all of it. i have never been to a catholic mass at christmas but i imagine it is beautiful. my church does not have services on christmas day or i would be able to go since my workplace is actually closed that one day a year (ruomors that this will soon be a thing of the past!!) but i worship each day by myself, i just do miss the fellowship!

i want to say that i love this blog-i would name names but im sure i would leave someone out so this is just a MERRY CHRISTMAS or HAPPY HOLIDAYS to each and everyone of yall…yall make my days brighter and i love a lot of the topics…i more love the face that yall are just here. its like a cyber family :0

deidre_NC

December 23rd, 2010
2:35 pm

that should be fact not face…my fingers are not working well today…been filling out online applications all morning…whew~~~~

deidre_NC

December 23rd, 2010
2:43 pm

also-on topic…i think anything the family does together that is good and decent and becomes a tradition is fantastic. no matter what it is. i doubt people go to midmight mass or services not realizing that there are going to be sleeping or whiny kids. if your kid (very young) starts crying just take them out. and i see nothing wrong if a kid falls asleep. after its way past bedtime….and its the whole family tradition that should be the point. thats my opinion.(i cant imagine going anywhere at midnight—i dont stay up on new years either lol….way past my bedtime! although my kids always seem to have to call at midnight to say happy new year lol)

Paige

December 23rd, 2010
4:25 pm

@JATL Why does a 5 pm service make sense? My husband and I will still be at work and always were when our son was little. I am on my “lunch break”…just . We would alwas pick our son up, go home and change (he had already had a nap with the sitter, or his grandparents) and go to the chinese restaurant and then to look at light until it was time to go to church. I don’t think that sounds like a disaster at all.
We still do that…..its our tradition. Our child has never fallen asleep in church and Santa has never missed our house.

lakerat

December 23rd, 2010
5:11 pm

Hey, Paige, I am old and have been in the work force for over 30 years, and you are the first person in all of those years that I have heard of who has an employer who makes its employees work past 5pm on Christmas Eve – unless you are in retail (and I am not including any of them in my context here of “employer” here) then you must work for Ebenezer Scrooge, literally.

penguinmom

December 23rd, 2010
5:38 pm

We’ve never really been big on midnight services. I still get as much enjoyment out of services at regular times. Our church strives to make the service interesting to all ages and focuses on the entire story often starting back in the Old Testament to lay the foundation for Why Jesus came. When we used to have multiple services, the earlier ones were the ones where the children performed a couple of songs so we picked one of those so our children could participate.

Anyone who doesn’t have other plans is welcome to join our church at the Gwinnett Arena for our Christmas Eve service at 5:30pm. (It’s free.) Last year’s service there was amazing so I expect this year to be great! This year the theme is ‘The Goodness of God’.

motherjanegoose

December 23rd, 2010
5:49 pm

@ lakerat…the first year our son had a job…at the retail portion of the pharmacy where he still works…he was there until 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Day. He was 16 and technically not allowed to drive at that hour. I was furious. The store closed at midnight ( on Christmas Eve) and he had to stay and straighten. Gave him a good dose of why a career in retail is not fun during Christmas.

penguinmom

December 23rd, 2010
7:06 pm

@MJG – when I worked at Target a few years ago, they were required to send the high schoolers home at 10:30 so they wouldn’t be on the road late. Only those over 18 had to stay and straighten. I’m surprised they even scheduled him to be there that late. Sounds like a manager who didn’t know the law.

jan

December 23rd, 2010
7:29 pm

@MomOf2girls
The real reason to celebrate Mass at midnight is to be there, in place, in a worshipful manner, to greet the birth of Christ as early as possible on Christmas. To be the shepherds from the fields witnessing the miracle, so to speak. That is why Midnight Mass used to start at midnight (not 11:00 like it does now) and was usually considered the most holy of the Christmas Masses to attend.

Paige

December 24th, 2010
3:40 am

I work as a nurse and the shifts are 7am to 7pm……even on Christmas eve.

precious

December 24th, 2010
6:55 am

Stop over-reacting, gimme a break, kids are tougher than grown-ups.

Mary

December 24th, 2010
6:59 am

@Jan: You’re on the right track with the significance of Midnight Mass. Read below for more:

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re1034.htm

However (and perhaps hypocritically on my part, as a practicing Catholic), I do not believe it is beneficial to drag small children to a late Mass on Christmas Eve (or Easter Vigil, for that matter). They will get nothing from the experience, and will potentially disrupt the worship environment for others (especially in churches without a cry room). I’m in agreement with the poster above who suggested leaving small children at home with a caregiver if you wish to attend late-night services. We attend the Christmas Vigil in the early evening. I do miss attending Midnight Mass, but we’ll wait until our son is older.

Mary

December 24th, 2010
7:00 am

catlady

December 24th, 2010
8:01 am

Here is the saddest thing about what MJG posted: The store closed at midnight Let’s wring every bit of money we can from the Christmas spirit by staying open till midnight. Let’s facilitate the orgy of buying tacky gifts at the last moment just so we can say we had a gift to give (I doubt the pharmacy was open at that time, so it wasn’t like the sick were being cared for). To me, that is really sick. (Although my ex-husband’s wife runs into Ingles and buys candy or cookies to bring as “gifts” as they are on their way to the family gathering.)

lakerat

December 24th, 2010
8:33 am

Excellent explanation, Paige, and thank you for being one of life’s angels – Merry Christmass to all…

Sam

December 24th, 2010
10:38 am

FCM – I was a Christian for many years, so I understand the difference between Santa and Jesus. What I don’t understand is why do your children get presents on someone else’s birthday? Seems like it sends the wrong message.