Eve of the Nativity
The Eve of the Nativity of the Lord is December 24. It is also known as Christmas Eve.
On the Eve of the Nativity, the liturgical services consist of the Royal Hours with the Typika, Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great. At the evening vigil, Great Compline is followed by Matins.
On the Eve of the Nativity, instead of three readings from the Old Testament at Vespers, there are eight readings (from Genesis, Numbers, Micah, Isaiah, Baruch, Daniel, and two more readings from Isaiah). The entrance is made with the Gospel.
At the end of Liturgy the priest places a lighted candle in a candlestick in the center of the church. Then the troparion and kontakion of the Feast are sung.
Saturday Nativity Eve
If the Nativity falls on Sunday, however, the Royal Hours with the Typika are read on the preceding Friday. On Friday evening, the office of the Forefeast is read, and the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is served on Saturday morning. At Vigil in the evening, Great Compline is followed by Matins. On Sunday morning, the Liturgy of St Basil is celebrated.
Sunday Nativity Eve
If the Nativity falls on a Monday, Royal Hours with the Typika are read on Friday December 22. On Saturday evening and Sunday morning we follow the order for the Sunday before the Nativity with the office of the Forefeast for December 24. On Sunday morning the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is served. Vigil on Sunday evening consists of Great Compline is followed by Matins. On Monday morning the Liturgy of St Basil is celebrated.
Troparion (Tone 4)
- Mary was of David's seed,
- So she went with Joseph to register in Bethlehem.
- She bore in her womb the Fruit not sown by man.
- The time for the birth was at hand.
- Since there was no room at the inn,
- The cave became a beautiful palace for the Queen.
- Christ is Born, raising up the Image that fell of old!
Kontakion (Tone 3)
- Today the Virgin comes to the cave
- to give birth to the Eternal Word.
- Hear the glad tidings and rejoice, O universe!
- Glorify with the angels and the shepherds
- the Eternal God, who is willing to appear as a little child!
Some Orthodox communities honor Jesus’ birth with local traditions that include special meatless dinners in the evening. Other Orthodox communities serve meat after the late night liturgy.