Throughout Hermiston and across denominations, area churches are inviting people to celebrate Christmas by candlelight.

“Candlelight sets the mood, and I think it’s something people always look forward to when they think of Christmas Eve services,” Teresa Best, of New Hope Community Church, said. “In the old days, you would see candles on Christmas trees and candles in the windows. It’s just a part of Christmas.”

 With services at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., New Hope Community Church is one of a half dozen religious institutions opening their doors Friday evening to help area residents ring in the holiday. New Hope has hosted candlelight services for about five years, and other churches trace the tradition even further.

At Hermiston First Christian Church, for example, the tradition is more than 20 years old and continues at 6 p.m Christmas Eve with the candlelight communion service. After the service, visitors and church members will be invited to a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party where refreshments will be provided.

At First United Methodist Church, the night begins with live music and fellowship at 9:30 p.m., followed by the service at 10 p.m. Pastor Syd Bell said many families will bring children in pajamas, ready for bed after the hourlong service.

“This is something that started before our oldest member — who is 101 — can remember. We do it every year here at the church on Christmas Eve: We read the sacred scriptures, have a short homily, and at the end, we turn the lights off, light candles and sing ‘Silent Night, Holy Night.’ It’s a tradition,” Bell said. “People come and have wassail, which is an old English beverage, or coffee and listen to music. It’s become a tradition, and when people observe traditions, they become very meaningful.

“It’s a time when people who are in town visiting come to the church and when people who aren’t leaving for the holidays come to the church. A handful of people will leave here and then go to Christmas mass at the Catholic church or another service.”

At Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, patrons can celebrate the children’s mass — including a re-enactment of the Biblical story and performances by the children’s choir — and the midnight mass in English or attend the 9 p.m. mass in Spanish. The church will also offer a mass in English at 9 a.m. and a mass in Spanish at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Each church said members and non-members are invited to attend services.

“Everyone is welcome,” Best said. “This is an opportunity for families to come and focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a great time of singing Christmas music and fellowshipping with friends and family by candlelight.”

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