Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican is extremely popular. There are so many people who want to attend it, locals or tourists and Catholic or non-Catholic alike. That’s why you’ll need a ticket to be able to enter the church.
Don’t have a ticket? Don’t worry, you can still go. There will be big screens outside so you can still follow the mass with thousands of people at the St. Peter’s Square. Here are some things that you may want to consider before you go:
- Plan your transportation and try to get there early. The mass begins at 10pm, but people go there hours before that. We left the hotel just about an hour before the mass, and it was extremely hard to find a public transportation. The city buses are not running after around 6 or 7pm and guess what, the taxi drivers also want to attend the mass! There were 5 of us and we were lucky to be able to find a taxi driver who was willing to take all of us at the same time. And being the smallest person, I was the one who had to hide myself so we won’t get fined by the police for the over-crowded car.
- Stay warm: wear thick jacket and bring extra clothes. Don’t worry about the dress code for attending the mass since you’ll be outside anyway. The night time temperature around this time of year is usually around 32-37 F (0-4C). It’s not crazy-cold but since you’ll be standing or sitting outside doing nothing, it will help to ear thick winter outfits with hats, scarfs, and gloves. If you want, it is possible to walk around a bit during the mass so you can stay warm. Or maybe you can hug someone!
- Bring camera so you can take pictures while waiting for the mass to begin. There will be so many beautiful spots that you can capture. But this is not the time to bring the tripod to take some serious night-time photography. You probably should just carry the essential things such as your wallet, passport/IDs, and a bottled water. The reason is because you need to….
- Be ready to walk home. The mass will be around two hours so you’ll be going home around midnight. There may be some limited taxis that you can find, but you will still need to walk further away from the Church in order to escape the crowds before you’ll be able to find a taxi. We couldn’t find an “official” taxi but we found an Italian who turned his private car into a taxi. The rate was rather pricey of course, but it’s better than walking all the way back to our hotel in Rome.
- Considering point 4, I think it’s a great idea to travel with a group, since it’s going to be extra safe. Also, in case we really had to walk home, it’s going to be much more fun than walking alone! A group of 4 is the good, since you’ll fit perfectly into a taxi and you can all share the rather expensive taxi ride.
- Just go. Visiting the Vatican/Rome during Christmas will make a good December to remember. I know there are a lot of sites that tells you to reconsider traveling to Rome since it can be pretty dead during Christmas to the New Year. While it’s true that the Christmas is a very important holiday for the locals, the city will not completely shut down during Christmas season. You’ll still be able to find a place to eat and do stuffs, although they may be closing earlier than usual. Rome has plenty of beautiful open spaces and if you like to take pictures, you’ll get better pictures when it’s less touristy.
St. Peter Basilica will still be open for tourist in the morning of December 24. So if you want to take a look at what’s inside the Basilica, you may want to plan going there in the morning. You’ll be able to see the church preparation for the evening mass (people setting up the cameras, lights, etc.). When you return at night for the mass, the church will look even more beautiful with all the lights and you’ll get two different sets of beautiful photos of the Vatican!
Have questions or corrections? Anything you’d like to add? Please leave a comment. Meanwhile here are some photos for you that we took in the morning and while we were waiting for the mass at night.
Merry Christmas and happy traveling!