Christmas Church Services Around the World -- Christmas in Different Lands

In many parts of the world church services or masses are an important part of Christmas. Many countries have traditional times for the service. Does yours? Growing up we always went to what was called the midnight candlelight service. It started at 11:00 p.m. and ended around midnight. The service always ended with singing Silent Night and having each person light a candle from the flame of the Christ candle in the Advent wreath. Now we usually go to the earlier Christmas Eve service so Hazel can stay awake. 


 For many the celebration of Christmas takes place in the church. In some countries the church services begins on December 16th. In Venezuela there is an early morning church service called Misa de Aguinaldo held every day from December 16 to December 24. Often there are bells and firecrackers to wake the parishioners for the early services. In the capital city, Caracas, it is tradition to roller skate to these services. As a result the streets are often closed to cars until 8 a.m. On December 24 the mass is at midnight and is called Misa de Gallo. (Source) Chile also celebrates with a Novena. There are church services throughout December in Chile, but on the 16th special prayers begin the day as well as visits to local churches. (Source) The Philippines also have early morning or pre-dawn masses for the nine days prior to Christmas. (Source) In Puerto Rico it is called Misa de Aguinaldos and is held from December 15 to December 24th. The mass is held at dawn (around 6 a.m.) and the services are usually sung with traditional Puerto Rican instruments accompaniment. On the 24th the mass is at midnight and is called the Misa de Gallo. (Source)

Christmas Eve

Flickr - Government Press Office (GPO) - A Christmas mass at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity
Christmas Mass at Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem 
By [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In Greenland people often attend a church service in their national costumes and some men wear a white anoraks (parkas) that are worn for special occasions. (SourceIn Argentina many Catholics go to church in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve. There is usually a main meal around 10 or 11 p.m. and fireworks at midnight however some people like to attend a midnight mass. (SourceIn Denmark the tradition is to go to a church service around 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. At the church service the Christmas story is told. It is also tradition to give treats to animals so many people walk in the park or woods and give food to the animals and birds. (Source) In Egypt the Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th so their Christmas Eve is January 6th. Most Christians go to church on January 6th for a 10:30 service. Most services end just after midnight, but some go until 4 a.m. (Source) In Madagascar most church services begin at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and go until midnight. Different groups in the church (usually the children) perform songs and plays that celebrate the birth of Jesus. After the service the churches usually give out sweets or biscuits to the people who attend. (Source) In the Palestinian Territories the most famous thing is the Mass of the Nativity in Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It is held on Christmas afternoon, evening and midnight. The Church of the Nativity was built where it is believed Jesus was born. The mass is lead by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem and is attended by Christians, Jews and Muslims from the area. Frankincense is burned at the mass. (Source)

Mass of the Rooster

Mosteiro sao bento natal 2009 missa galo
Misso do Galo at the Abbey of Our Lady Montserrat in Rio de Janeiro 2009
By Halleypo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Many countries with Spanish ties have a midnight mass on Christmas Eve called the Misa de Gallo or Mass of the Rooster.   It is called the Mass of the Rooster because it is said that the night of Jesus' birth is the only time a rooster crowed at midnight. (Source) Venezuela, Chile and the Philippines all end their Novena with the Misa de Gallo. In Mexico people often attend the Misa de Gallo. (Source) In Spain many go to the Misa de Gallo as well. After the service they often celebrate with merrymaking in the streets with music, dance and more. (Source) In Bolivia the Catholics attend the Misa de Gallo and at midnight light firecrackers. (Source) In Costa Rica everyone puts on their best clothes and goes to the Misa de Gallo. After the mass the Christmas dinner is served. (Source) In Portugal it is the Missa do Galo. During this service the baby Jesus is brought out and everyone lines up to kiss him. Before leaving for the service parents sneak the baby Jesus into their nativities at home and after the service the kids run to go see if he is there. No baby Jesus means no presents! (SourceIn Brazil people also go to the Missa do Galo which usually ends at 1 a.m. Brazilians also may go to church again on Christmas day in the afternoon. (Source

Midnight Services

There are many countries that have midnight services.  As I mentioned previously many churches in the United States offer a midnight service. In Vietnam there are not many Christians, but most do go to a midnight service on Christmas Eve. (Source) After a time where Christmas trees and nativity scenes were banned, Cuba now has midnight masses with a large one performed in Havana's Revolution Square. Giant televisions are set up outside the cathedral in the square so people can watch the Pope celebrate Christmas Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. (Source) In Poland Christmas Eve is a fasting day but concludes with a large (often meatless) meal and then attending a midnight mass. (Source) In Italy there is no meat eaten as well and the day concludes with a Midnight Mass. (Source) In India the family's walk to Midnight Mass. The service is followed by a large feast and the exchange of gifts. (Source) In Haiti some people go to Midnight Mass while others go out caroling. After the mass people eat the reveillon (French for wake up) which is the main meal and may last until dawn. (Source) In China only about one percent of the population is Christian. Therefore Christmas is only celebrated in the large cities. Midnight Mass has grown in popularity though and as a result many of the Catholic churches cannot hold the number who come out on Christmas Eve for the services. (Source) In Greece the Midnight Mass ends the Advent Fast. After the service people return home and have a big meal. (Source

Christmas Day


Christ Church Cathedral Stanley IMG 6738
Christ Church Cathedral in Falkland Islands By Brian Gratwicke (Flickr: IMG_6738) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Sweden people usually go to church in the early morning of Christmas Day. (Source) In Ethiopia Christmas Day is January 7th. People wear the traditional clothing called a shamma which is a thin white cloth with bright colored stripes across the ends and is worn like a toga. They attend the early Ganna (Christmas) Mass that begins at 4 a.m. The people walk around the church three times holding candles and the choir sings in the outer circle.  The men and women are separated. (Source) In the Netherlands Christmas Day is spent going to church and having a family meal. The gifts are usually given to the children on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th). (Source) In South Korea the churches are decorated with lights. Most churches have a Christmas Day service and it has become popular to attend even among non-Christians. (Source) On Christmas Day in Zambia children are encouraged to bring a present for children in a hospital who are less fortunate. After church all the adults go to one house and all the children go to another for parties. (Source) In the Falkland Islands there is traditionally a church service on Christmas morning in the Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley which is the southern most Anglican cathedral in the world. (Source) In Nigeria people often party all night long and then go to church on Christmas morning. The church choir may visit homes of parishioners and sing Christmas carols to them. (Source) In Zimbabwe most people go to a Christmas morning service and then visit parties in everyone's homes. (Source

Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

In Pakistan the churches are packed for midnight services and people go again on Christmas Day for Bara Din celebrations. Bara Din includes stalls in the church's courtyard and people can spend hours there. They wear their best clothes for the Bara Din celebration. (Source  In Australia and the Czech Republic people chose to go to church either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. (Sources: Kelly at Happy Whimsical Hearts and Why Christmas) In Indonesia Christians go to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. People usually create nativity scenes that are used as part of the Nativity drama performance. (Source)

In Kazakhstan Christmas is not always celebrated on Christmas but on the Sunday before Christmas unless they happen to be off work on Christmas that year. They have translated some Christmas carols into their language, but they usually sing their normal worship songs on the day they celebrate Christmas and it is considered a good time to bring a guest who has not heard about Jesus. Some people wonder what Christmas is all about so this is the chance to learn more. After the service people from the church and any friends they have invited have a meal together. (Source)

So the church services are on different days at different times, but the celebrations are all about the birth of Jesus! This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs' Christmas in Different Lands SeriesBe sure to check out the rest of them!!