Christmas at Vatican

Celebrating Christmas at Vatican | Christmas 2021

Apart from being known to be the world’s smallest country, the Vatican city largely grabs eyeballs for its Christmas celebration and festive rituals. Well-lit markets, decked up Christmas trees, soothing Christmas carols, lively masses, Christmas is a magical 21-day affair in the Vatican city.  

Every year, there’s a different Nativity scene curated by skilled artists and displayed at the center of Peter St. Peter’s Square. The nativity scene is a display of figurines and models that represent baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, farm animals, angels, etc that stages the birth of Lord Jesus.

Is the Vatican Open during Christmas?

The Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel are closed on the 25th and 26th of December. However, you can still explore the St. Peter's Basilica and the St. Peter's square and even attend the Christmas Mass at Vatican during this time.

Christmas Traditions at the Vatican

Christmas at Vatican
  • The Christmas season in the Vatican starts on December 8th (Immaculate conception) and ends on January 6th. 
  • The unveiling of the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square kicks off the festive season in the Vatican.
  • Every year the midnight mass takes place inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • The Vatican City has been hosting a Christmas Concert every year since 1993. Organized mainly for charitable purposes, the event is called Concerto di Natale and it brings together internationally renowned music artists. 
  • Just like Santa Clause, Vatican city has its own character, La Befana, an old witch who flies on her broom and leaves gifts for children. 

Christmas Mass at Vatican

One of the most-watched Christmas masses around the world, the Christmas mass at Vatican is a one-of-a-lifetime experience.

Christmas at Vatican

Where Is The Vatican Christmas Mass?

The Christmas Eve Mass has traditionally been celebrated in St.Peter's Basilica. Most of the masses from the Pontifical liturgical calendar are celebrated at St.Peter's Basilica. owing to its huge capacity.

While you need a ticket to attend most masses with the Pope, the tickets are always free of cost. However, if you are hoping to attend the Christmas Eve Mass, also known as Midnight Mass or Natale del Signore, which is a rather popular and exclusive event, you would need to reserve tickets in advance.

While it might not measure up to the real deal, you can also view the mass from the comfort of your own home with the annual broadcast from the Vatican. Or, of course, you can always watch the mass live from the big screens placed at St Peter’s Square. Arrive early to grab some good seats.

Christmas at Vatican, Christmas Mass

How To Get Vatican Christmas Mass Tickets?

  • To book the Papal Audience tickets, fill out the form and fax it to +39 06 698 85863 at least 2 months in advance. 
  • You have a higher chance of getting tickets if you only need less than 6 tickets. If you order more, it would be best that you send a letter from your parish or some authority of the church along with the request.
  • You’ll receive a letter that confirms that the church has received your request. However, this is not a ticket confirmation.
  • Head to the Preffetura Office 4-5 days before the mass, between 8 AM to 6 PM, to know the status of your ticket. Here, you will either be handed the Papal Audience tickets or a letter stating that there is no availability.
Vatican Chritsmas Mass Timings

Vatican Chritsmas Mass Timings

Even though it is called a Midnight Mass, the mass does not take place at midnight. The mass takes place on December 24, at 9.30 PM.

Christmas at Vatican

Christmas at Vatican, Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree In Front of St. Peter's Basilica

The festive season officially kickstarts with unveiling the Vatican Christmas Tree at St. Peter’s Square. Also called the Saint Peter’s Square Christmas Tree, this tree stands bright and lit in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. This tradition was started by the then Pope, John Paul II in 1982 as a symbolic sign that denotes ‘Christ is evergreen’.

Every year, Christmas Trees are donated from different EU countries including Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, and Poland. The height of these ranges from 25 to 30 meters. These are beautifully adorned with LED lights, ornaments, and other decoration items.      

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Christmas at Vatican, Nativity 2021

Themes Nativity Scenes at St. Peter’s Square

Along with the Christmas Tree, there’s also a life-like nativity scene set up at St. Peter’s Square for the tourists to admire. The nativity is donated by different countries in Europe. Every year, there’s a new theme/design. 2021’s Vatican’s nativity scene that’s donated from Peru will include at least 30 figurines made from artists in the Andean region of Peru. These are made from materials like ceramics, maguey wood, and fiberglass. The nativity scene would show Jesus wrapped in “chumpi” or woven belts; the Three Wise Men will bring superfood like quinoa, kiwicha, cañihua, and potatoes; and feature local Peruvian animals such as llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, vizcachas, Andean flamingos, etc. 

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Christmas at Vatican, Urbi et Orbi

The Papal Address: Urbi et Orbi

Standing at the balcony of St. Peter’s square, the Pope addresses the world on Christmas Day at midday. This papal address is called Urbi et Orbi, which translates as “to the city of Rome and to the world”. You don’t require any tickets; all you’ve got to do is be there at the square. Since 1985, the access to this Papal address was extended to not just people in the Vatican City but the entire world, with the address being broadcasted worldwide in multiple languages. 

Christmas at Vatican, Papal Blessings

Blessings of the Pope

Called Angelus, the papal blessing is usually delivered on a Sunday that includes a short speech and a series of prayers. The Angelus is designed to commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation and pay homage to Mary’s role in salvation history. It’s usually accompanied by the ringing of Angelus bell that serves as a call to prayer and to spread goodwill to everyone.

Visitor Tips

  • Make sure you carry binoculars to make the most of the Christmas mass and the Pope’s address from the balcony. 
  • The Vatican city is at its tourism peak during Christmas time, so make sure you’ve planned/reserved/booked everything in advance. 
  • If you plan on attending the iconic midnight mass, make sure you’ve booked the tickets in advance (preferably November). The tickets are free of cost, but getting your hands on them is kinda a task. 
  • To get great snaps of the Midnight mass and the church, it’s recommended to carry a professional camera with a clear zoom lens. 
  • Public transport is a little flaky during Christmas eve with a lack of taxis and buses, so you might end up walking to your hotel. So, to avoid this hassle, you can book a stay near the Square area.  
  • The iconic landmarks like the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel remain closed during December 25 and 26th. So, make sure you tick these off your list prior to the festive season. 
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All Your Questions About Celebrating Christmas at Vatican Answered

Q. Is the Vatican City open during Christmas time?

A. Most landmarks, including the Vatican museum, Sistine chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica are closed during the Christmas time i.e. December 25-26th.

Q. What can I see at the Vatican during Christmas?

A. You can explore the beautiful country, its artsy streets, the picturesque Christmas tree and nativity scene, pretty markets and of course, experience the popular Christmas Mass from Peter's Square.

Q. What is open at the Vatican during Christmas?

A. While most iconic landmarks remain shut during the Christmas season, you can explore the St. Peter’s Basilica and the St. Peter's Square during the Christmas.

Q. What are some Christmas traditions at the Vatican?

A. The Vatican City turns into a magical paradise during the Christmas time and observes traditions like the Christmas mass, Vatican Christmas Concert, the burning of Yule Logs, Christmas Tree and Nativity scenes, Urbi et Orbi on Christmas Day, Legend Of La Befana etc.

Q. What are the timings of the Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Vatican?

A. The Christmas Eve midnight mass actually commences much before midnight and starts at around 9 to 9:30 PM. The entry starts at 7 PM.

Q. Can anyone attend the Christmas mass at the Vatican?

A. Yes, as long as you’ve got the tickets, you can attend the midnight mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.