Christmas Mass question

I was thinking about attending a Christmas Mass this year but since I am not Catholic nor have I attended any type of mass in 24 years I am not sure what to expect. I know there are certain things like Communion that I should not receive but are there ay pointers for a first timer? Is there a certain place I should sit in the church so I am not in the way or what do I need to do so I won’t look too much like a fool for not knowing how everything works? Any suggestions or resources would be appreciated.

There will be so many people there who haven’t set foot in Church in a year that I don’t think you will stand out. Sit far enough forward to see what is going on but with enough people in front of you so that you can see what postures you should assume: if they stand, you stand; if they sit, you sit. That should keep you from feeling too lost.

I would suggest arriving early! Christmas Masses are often packed. If you’re not there early, you may end up standing, which is OK if you’re young and strong!

Basically just stand, sit, and kneel when everyone else does.

There are usually books in each pew which have the readings for the day. I like to follow along (since my processing of audio is not as good as reading). This will also have the responses for the Psalms.

When the lines begin to form for communion, just stand and exit the pew so others can get by and then get back in the pew (and preferably kneel). I used to do this all the time before I officially joined the church and was able to join in holy communion.

Also, when you first walk in and reach your pew (and again when you leave) - kneel on one knee as you are looking toward the front (where Jesus is).

But don’t worry if you don’t know some of the prayers or forget to do something. As long as you are respectfull you shouldn’t have any problems. God knows your heart so He won’t be offended.

John Marie Philomena

Please do not let your self-consciousness keep you from attending mass. I did not go for many years and when I finally started up again at the same church, I thought people would judge me or wonder where I’d been, etc.
I realized if they were judging me, they were not people whose opinion I should care about. If they were true loving Christians they would be glad I was back.
I would try to stay focused on God and that was the reason I was in church anyway.
As time went on, I got more comfortable and really don’t give a rip what people think of me and my church attendance! Also the phrase “You would care less about what people think of you when you realize how seldom they do!”
Just go and then keep going!!!

Thank you for all the feedback. I appreciate it very much.

Don’t worry about it. On Christmas day, those who do know what to expect are the ones who look out of place.

Seriously though, I hope that attending Christmas Mass is the source of many Graces for you.

Just don’t sit too close to the front–for the simple reason that you will have a better perspective to observe what everyone else is doing.

I also suggest not trying to follow the Mass with a missallette (the books in the pew). If you don’t know what’s happening to begin with, these books (otherwise helpful) can become more of a hindrance. Just experience the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and allow that experience to speak to you.

I hope you will be going with a Catholic friend? That makes things easier, but if not, still know that you’re most welcome.

Read the readings beforehand? I think we can pretty safely know beforehand what the Gospel will be at a Christmas Mass - there are only two accounts of Jesus’ birth to choose from, after all. :smiley:

aah, but there are a number of different options for the Christmas Mass readings. There are 4 different Christmas Gospels, and 2 of those have the optional ‘short form.’

For someone who hasn’t been to Mass in so long, it really is better not to try to anticipate the readings, but to experience them proclaimed at Mass. Someone who prepares for one Gospel, but hears a different one, will be more confused than prepared.

I have one more question and I know it may seem pretty straight forward but what time should I get to the church for midnight Mass? Do Catholic churches hold any events leading up to Mass that would require me to arrive earlier to better obtain seating?

In a lot of churches the choir sings Christmas carols for about a half hour or so before Mass starts. Seats start filling very early.

See if you can find the church’s website. Usually there will be an announcement of times and special events such as carol singing before Mass. If not, give a quick call to the parish. There will probably be a message you can listen to with all the info.

Merry Christmas!


I know my church choir has the traditional singing of carols beginning at 11:15 PM. I would arrive like an hour to an hour and 15 minutes before Mass starts.

I’d also suggest verifying with the parish to see whether or not it will be a true “Midnight Mass”. The term has lost its meaning in recent years and you might find that the Mass is at 9, 10 or 11 p.m. rather than at 12:00 am as is traditional.

Our ‘Midnight’ Mass is at 10 this year. It seems that in recent years the younger the priest, the earlier the “Midnight” Mass – although, to be fair, this year our pastor is not feeling well.

Yeah, I saw nothing on their site or weekly bulletin about events before Mass like some other churches are having in the area. Also the Parish is closed today so I will just have to wing it.

Not an issue with that. They have multiple masses starting at 4pm which leads to the midnight Mass and several on Christmas day.

Thank you everyone for your assistance and I wish you all a safe and merry Christmas.

the 4pm at St John’s in Severna Park was packed (pews were filled, people standing against the aisles… and until the Deacon said it… people in the Gathering Space). took 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot.

hoping mass this morning at Good Shepherd will be less crowded

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit