Although the precise date of Jesus's birth is unknown, Christmas has been celebrated on 25 December since the fourth century.
Christmas Eve is the most popular day in the Finnish church year, and many churches offer more than one service, one of which is aimed at families with children. Many people also visit cemeteries to light candles by the graves of their loved ones.
On Christmas Eve, we find ourselves on the threshold of the fulfilment of the prophets’ promises. The day’s themes are thus our longing for salvation and Christ's coming.
On the night of Christmas Eve, we celebrate Midnight Mass and hear again the message of the angels: “For unto you is born the Saviour.”
On Christmas morning, we gather with the shepherds at the manger to give thanks that God embraces us in Christ so that we may become God's children.
The second day of Christmas (26 December, St Stephen's Day or Boxing Day) commemorates the first martyr, Stephen, and with him all who suffer for their faith. The liturgical colour is red.
Traditionally, the third day of Christmas was St John's Day. It was appropriately placed in the Christmas season: the prologue of St John's Gospel is the great hymn of the incarnate Word. The fourth day was the Feast of the Holy Innocents, recalling Herod's massacre and the Holy Family's flight into Egypt. The last two days were removed from the calendar of the Finnish Church in 1772, but they have long retained a semi-official character.
The liturgical colour during the Christmas season is white, and there are six candles on the altar.