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 and the BBC World Service 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). As there is no list of radio stations that are broadcasting the service it's best to contact your local stations or check their online listings.

Attending the Service

One feature of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which is especially important to the College has always been the participation of local people and members of the public in the service as members of the congregation.  We regret to say that as we plan during the Covid-19 pandemic we are not able, at this stage, to extend the invitation to attend to people beyond the College.

We are sorry to disappoint those who were thinking that they might like to attend this year. We hope that you wil be able to enjoy the broadcast and be with us in spirit. 

Should circumstances change so that we can invite members of the public to attend we will make that known on this website by replacing this message.

Stephen Cherry

Dean of Chapel

26 August 2020


The Choir of King’s College, directed by Daniel Hyde, sings a glorious selection of carols, while the Christmas story is told in poetry and the words of the King James Bible.

Presented in a stunning hardback book with over 50 pages of notes, commentary and photography, this is the definitive account of a piece of musical history.

Carols from King’s is televised on BBC Two on Christmas Eve and is a different service to A Festival of Nine Lessons.
Our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918.
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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.