Vatican City is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. With this alone, it’s possibly safe to say that the Christmas celebration in this side of the world is something important and special. To start off, this is sovereign city-state within Rome, Italy is where you’ll find St. Peter’s Basilica, which is considered as one of the holiest catholic sites in the world (and has the largest interior of any Christian church as well). This place is also home to the magnificent Sistine Chapel at the Apostolic Palace, which is the official residence of the Pope.
It is the world’s smallest independent state and it is also the least populated in the planet, but the Christmas mass celebration here is definitely huge and utterly special. Aside from the fact that the mass will be celebrated by the Pope, the Vatican is also a place of wonderful and breathtaking surroundings that will sure make your holidays extra special.
One of the highlights of the Celebration of Christmas at the Vatican is the mass celebrated at the St. Peter’s Basilica. Attending a mass here will require extra effort, as you need to get tickets for you to be able to celebrate it. Since this is a big celebration, you must expect that people from all over the world would also want to celebrate like you, so expect lines, long stretches of fellow Christians that would also want to celebrate the season.
In order to be sure that you get your tickets for the celebration, make sure that you get them in advance. The mass usually begins at midnight, and it could also be longer than your usual Sunday masses. You do not need to pay for the tickets, but you would need to pick them up after you’ve reserved them. This will also have you waiting in line, so coming early will again be a good idea. When you get there, you will be able to get assistance from the ushers who will be glad to show you your spot in the Basilica. In order to have a clear idea of the events in order, there are written guides and missalettes to put you on the right track.
Even though the Vatican is a special place for Christianity, having a holiday vacation here isn’t the same as in places like the United States. Most shops and restaurants aren’t usually open sometime before (or on) Christmas day until early January, so you really wouldn’t be able to shop and experience a busy atmosphere. One problem that many Vatican mass visitors experience is the fact that there is very limited public transportation once the mass is finished. Usually ending at around 2 or 3 in the morning, visitors could have a hard time getting a ride as public transportation usually end at around 11 pm. It’s best that you have someone pick you up, or arrange the pick-up in advance. You can also walk home if possible (this will even be a great thing to do, as the place is beautiful).
It’s not everyday that most of us could hear the mass delivered by one of Christianity’s highest church leaders, so being here will surely be something special, not to mention fulfilling. If you ever find yourself in Rome especially at this time of the year, being here will be definitely worth it. What other kinds of mass celebration do you know of that are a bit more special that the regular Sunday masses? What makes them special? Also, share with us how you celebrate your Christmas eve—the preparations you do, the people you spend it with, and the activities you do together.