Midnight Mass is a special Christmas Eve tradition for Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans. And what could be more special than partaking in this hallowed service in the land where Jesus was born?
If you’re in Israel, midnight Mass is celebrated at the following churches, among others. You can reach most of the sites via public or private transportation. Many tour operators offer special deals to the most popular midnight Mass services on Christmas Eve.
- Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Midnight Mass in the church built over the site traditionally considered the birthplace of Jesus is by far the most popular and requires pre-booking. The limited available tickets for Christmas 2017 have already been claimed. To reserve your free ticket for next year, contact Christian Information Centre, +972-(0)2-627-2697 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
But no worries: You can still join the throngs watching Midnight Mass on large screens outside the church in Manger Square (dress warmly!). Further information: +972-(0)2-274-2440.
Abraham Tours’ Bethlehem Christmas Midnight Mass Transportation offers pickup points on Christmas Eve at Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem (₪95 per person, 8pm), Carta Parking Lot near Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem (₪95 per person, 8:15pm) and Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv (₪145 per person, 7pm). The bus drops you in the center of Bethlehem around 9pm and returns at 1am after the celebrations have finished. Book online.
- Benedictine Monastery, Abu Ghosh
Elisa Moed, founder of Travelujah faith-based Holy Land tours, says this Crusader church with its 12th century frescoes may be the best place of all for midnight Mass, which is sung in Gregorian chant in French and Latin.
“It has amazing acoustics and the brothers have beautiful singing voices. Spirituality, architecture and music combine for a special experience here,” she says.
The church has room for about 200 people. It’s recommended to make reservations and arrive at least half an hour early to beat the crowds. Abu Ghosh is 15 kilometers west of Jerusalem on Highway 1. The service ends at 1:30am.
- Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem
At this Benedictine church, built on the traditional site of Mary’s falling into an eternal sleep, carols begin at 11:30pm followed by Mass in German at midnight. Afterward, worshippers are invited to join a communal walk to Bethlehem. Further information: +972-(0)2-565-5330.
- Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, Jerusalem
This 19th century French Catholic compound at 3 HaTsanhanim Street in Jerusalem (across from the Old City walls) includes the Notre Dame hostel and the Catholic administrative center. In the auditorium, carols will begin at 11:30pm and Mass (in English) at midnight. It is recommended to arrive half an hour early. Further information: +972-(0)2-627-9111.
- Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Muristan Road in the Old City is a property of the Evangelical Jerusalem Foundation, one of the three foundations of the Evangelical Church in Germany in the Holy Land. Go to the church as far in advance as possible to obtain free tickets for midnight Mass. Further information: +972-(0)2-626-6800.
- Beit Jamal Monastery, Beit Shemesh
Liturgy starts at 7pm, and the two-hour midnight Mass at 11. Follow the road to Jamal hill next to Beit Shemesh. Turn left before the main entrance to the Salesians to follow the driveway to the monastery. Greeters will be posted at the gates. Further information: +972-(0)2-991-1889.
- Latrun Trappist Monastery, Ramla
Midnight Mass in French will be held at the Latrun Trappist Monastery, near the Israel Defense Forces History Museum. The sandstone monastery complex features elegant archways, cathedral-style windows and flower gardens. Further information: +972-(0)8-922-0065.