Celebrated as a period of giving and gratitude, the festivity of Christmas, although a Christian holiday, is now widely recognised as an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. No matter where you’re from, feel free to join in the spirit of giving with a good old carol session, or feast on a delicious serving of turkey with your loved ones.
For those who are looking for a more traditional celebration or just to enjoy the beauty of church architecture, here are 5 churches around the world with annual Christmas masses for anyone and everyone.
1. St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican
Christmas is a ceremonious occasion every year at St. Peter’s Basilica. Lined with intricate spirals dating back to the 1600s, the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica is elegantly decked out with hints of Michelangelo’s artworks. If you’re stopping by for a look, join in with Christmas Mass, where people pray in solemn silence and with grace, with candles lit by worshippers.
St. Peter's Basilica
Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
Opening Hours: 7 am to 6 pm
Website: St. Peter’s Basilica
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, UK
Featuring an impressive stretch of architecture both inside and out, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral is unmistakably grand against the setting sun over London’s skyline. Head up to the Whispering Gallery for hushed whispers that reverberate across the gallery. Fret not though, for only those with keen ears placed against the concrete walls will be able to hear your secrets! Join the crowd of 10,000 people as they gather for the annual prayers and service on the UK’s eve of Christmas (24th of December) and on the 25th of December.
St. Paul's Cathedral
Address: St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, UK
Opening Hours: 7.30 am on Christmas Eve (24th Dec), and 8.30 am on Christmas Day (25th Dec)
Website: St. Paul’s Cathedral
3. Mount Mary Church in Bandra, Mumbai, India
Sitting atop a small hill is Mount Mary Church in Bandra. It has an aged exterior that retains the grace of the wise. Sacred prayers take place in the 100-year-old building, with a statue of Mother Mary from the 1600s overlooking the vast ocean. Stop by for the popular midnight mass frequented by locals. Starting from 11.30 pm, join the circle of worshippers for a moment of peace in your hectic lifestyle. During the Christmas period, the church is decked out with bouquets of fresh flowers and draped white curtains, making it an impressive sight to see.
Mount Mary Church
Address: Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050, India
Opening Hours: First prayers on weekdays & Saturdays: 6am, On Sundays: 6.30am
Website: Mount Mary Basilica
4. Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine
Believed by Christians all over the world to have been built over the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the holy grounds of the Church of Nativity are often the final goal for pilgrims from Jerusalem. The heavy silence that envelops the church grounds shows the respect people have for the religious significance of this church and its place in Christianity’s history. Slow down your pace during the Christmas season and drop by to observe the prayer sessions that resonate with strong faith throughout the entire building.
Church of the Nativity
Address: Manger Square, Bethlehem, West Bank
Opening Hours: 6.30 – 19.30 (summer) 5.30 – 18.00 (winter)
Website: Church of the Nativity
5. Sayidat al-Najat Cathedral (Syriac Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation) in Baghdad, Iraq
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation was the target of terrorist attacks back in 2010, and the ruins were rebuilt into a place of solace. No matter what your religion or race is, you can pick up a copy of the Bible or a hymn sheet, and join in the festive Christmas celebrations here. With humble renditions of carols from the choir and individual performances, end your day with a heart-warming sermon. The historical significance of this place makes it worth a visit, and be sure to stay for a friendly chit-chat with the locals who are more than willing to share their own stories with you.
Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral (Syriac Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation)
Address: Central Baghdad
Immerse yourself in the traditional spirit of Christmas!
If you’re not one for flashy lights and loud music, take a trip to these historical sites and indulge in a moment of rare peace with down-to-earth Christmas celebrations all over the world. Moments of tranquility are hard to come by in this day and age; perhaps a trip to a continent you’ve never been to before isn’t such a bad idea after all.