Celebrating Christmas 2024 at Vatican City | Mass, Traditions & More

Apart from being known to be the world’s smallest country, the Vatican city largely grabs the eye for its Christmas celebration and festive rituals. With well-lit markets, decked-up Christmas trees, soothing Christmas carols, and 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 St. Peter’s Square. The nativity scene is a display of figurines and models that represent baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, farm animals, angels, and other figures that took the stage on the occasion of the birth of Lord Jesus.

Is the Vatican City open during Christmas?

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

Christmas traditions at the Vatican City

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.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

Christmas Mass at Vatican City

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

Where is the Vatican Christmas Mass?
How to get Vatican Christmas Mass tickets?
Vatican City Chritsmas Mass timings
Christmas at Vatican

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
  • To book the Papal Audience tickets, fill out the form and fax it to +39 06 698 85863 about 6 to 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

Even though it is called a Midnight Mass, the mass does not take place at midnight. The mass takes place on December 24, at 7:30 PM.

Christmas at Vatican City

Christmas at Vatican, Christmas Tree
Christmas at Vatican, Nativity 2021
Christmas at Vatican, Urbi et Orbi

The Papal Address: Urbi et Orbi

Standing on 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, access to this Papal address was extended to not just people in Vatican City but the entire world, with the address being broadcasted worldwide in multiple languages. The Papal address will take place at the Central Loggia of the Vatican Basilica at 12 PM, this year.

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 the Angelus bell which serves as a call to prayer and to spread goodwill to everyone.

Visitor Tips

  • The Vatican city is at its tourism peak during Christmas time, so make sure you’ve planned/reserved/booked everything in advance. 
  • The iconic landmarks like the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel remain closed on December 25 and 26th. So, make sure you tick these off your list prior to the festive season. 
  • If you plan on attending the iconic midnight mass, make sure you’ve booked the tickets in advance (preferably in November). The tickets are free of cost, but getting your hands on them is a bit of a task. 
  • Make sure you carry binoculars to make the most of the Christmas mass and the Pope’s address from the balcony. 
  • 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.  

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Frequently asked questions about celebrating Christmas at Vatican

Is the Vatican City open during Christmas time?

Most landmarks, including the Vatican museum, and Sistine chapel are closed during the Christmas time i.e. December 25-26th. However, the city is open to visitors, who wish to view the Vatican all decked up with festive decor. You can also attend the mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, if you happen to catch your hands on the tickets for the mass.

What can I see at the Vatican during Christmas?

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 St. Peter's Square.

What is open at the Vatican during Christmas?

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

What are some Christmas traditions at the Vatican?

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.

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

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

Can anyone attend the Christmas mass at the Vatican?

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