We all know how important Christmas Eve is to the followers of Christian faith. The occasion is observed in various ways celebrating the advent of Lord Jesus Christ and remembering him as the saviour of mankind.
The Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission which stand as a unique symbol of harmony of faiths also celebrate the occasion in a befitting manner.
In fact, the celebration is organised at the main temple itself in almost all the branches of the Math and Mission.
The festivities match that of any popular Church of the city, complete with Christmas carols, candle lighting, prayers and offering of cakes, etc. On this day the temple is decorated beautifully and the photos of baby Jesus and that of Lord Jesus are placed in an altar and worshipped.
The Delhi centre has a long tradition in this regard.
Every year the archbishop of Delhi and other dignitaries join the celebration. A special prayer meet is organised during which monks read the Bible and sing carols before an altar adorned with a laminated picture of Christ revealing his sacred heart as well as with that of another photo of Mary with baby Jesus.
A monk performs a special Christmas Eve aarti with candles and offers cakes and biscuits, etc to Christ. Carols are sung followed by short addresses by a monk, the archbishop of Delhi and a priest.
The Ramakrishna Mission has a very special association with Christmas Eve.
In the year 1886, about four months after Sri Ramakrishna’s exit from this world, Swami Vivekananda along with eight of his disciples gathered at a village called Antpur in the Hooghly district of West Bengal upon the invitation of Matangini Devi, the mother of one of his brother disciples.
They didn’t even know it was Christmas Eve. A tremendous spirit of renunciation was raging in their hearts. After sunset they lighted a fire which is called Dhuni by traditional Hindu monks and sat around it to meditate. After meditating a long time Swami Vivekananda opened his eyes and spoke about the extraordinary life of sacrifice of Jesus Christ and exhorted his brother monks to take up the vows of renunciation and service keeping fire as witness. The next morning they realised that the previous evening was the sacred Christmas Eve.
The Antpur village is much developed now and it also has a beautiful centre of the Ramakrishna Math. Slowly the Christmas Eve has become one of the important celebrations of the Ramakrishna Order. Today monks and devotees spread across 205 centres in 22 countries of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission celebrates this occasion with due solemnity.