A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King's College Chapel. The Festival was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.

The service includes carols and readings from the Bible. The opening carol is always 'Once in Royal David's City', and there is always a new, specially commissioned carol. It is distinct from Carols from King's, which is a carol service pre-recorded for BBC television, also broadcast on Christmas Eve.

Listening to the service

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 on 24 December at 3pm (10:00 EST or 07:00 PST). The service is also broadcast at 2pm on Radio 3 on Christmas Day, and at various times on the BBC World Service.

In the United States the service is broadcast by around 450 radio stations, including American Public Media and its affiliates (Minnesota Public Radio and WNYC-New York, for example). Unfortunately there is no list of radio stations that are broadcasting the service, so it's best to contact your local stations or check their online listings.

Attending the service

Members of the public are warmly invited to join members of College and their personal guests.

We operate a ticketing system for this service. If you wish to attend, please come to the College early on Christmas Eve morning, with some photographic identification. A queue will begin to form in the early hours; in previous years the maximum number has been reached before we begin distributing tickets at approximately 7am. Each ticket will be for a specific seat in the Chapel and valid only for the person who collects it. As the number of tickets is limited, you are advised to arrive in good time. Those who do receive tickets will be invited to come back after 1:30pm to gain admission to the Chapel. Only one ticket will be given per person; approximately 500 will be available.

Please note that members of the congregation should not bring anything larger than a small handbag with them to the Chapel.

Any questions about gaining admission to the College for this service should be directed to the Head Porter at porters@kings.cam.ac.uk

At a glance:

  • Arrive early to avoid disappointment
  • Admission to ticket-holders begins at 1:30pm
  • The service begins at 3:00pm and lasts until shortly after 4:30pm
  • At the end of the service there is an opportunity to contribute to the retiring collection, which is for the maintenance of the Chapel
  • Large bags are not permitted

Unable to Queue

We offer a very limited number of reserved seats in the Ante-Chapel for people unable to queue because of disability or illness. If you wish to be considered for a maximum of three tickets, please write to the Dean, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope. We are able to accept applications for Christmas Eve 2019 between 20 May 2019 and 30 September 2019. We regret that we are unable to enter into email correspondence on this subject. Tickets will be dispatched (or a note explaining that we are sorry to disappoint) by 1 November 2019.

Our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918.
Default Thumbnail
An archive of service booklets for Nine Lessons dating back to 1997.
Members of the public are warmly welcomed to join us for acts of worship including daily Evensong and sung Eucharist on Sundays.
Carols from King’s is televised on BBC Two on Christmas Eve and is a different service to A Festival of Nine Lessons.