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 service 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.

Attending in Person

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first conceived as a gift to the City of Cambridge and it is that spirit that the College makes approximately half the tickets for this service available to members of the public. Tickets are distributed in advance to those who are successful in the annual ballot.

The ballot for tickets to attend the service is now closed.  Those who are allocated tickets will be informed by email or phone by Friday 9 December. Tickets will be available for collection by the applicant from the King's College Porters' Lodge between 9.00am on 23 December and 2.00pm on 24 December.  Please be prepared to show photo ID when collecting your tickets. Any tickets not collected by 2.00pm will be reallocated to the standby queue.

Our commiserations are with all others, whom we hope will enjoy listening to the broadcast on the radio. Unfortunately, we will only be able to contact those who are successful.

The Reverend Dr Stephen Cherry

Dean of Chapel 

In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter

This new recording by the Choir of King’s College includes music from the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in 2020, when the service was recorded behind closed doors in an otherwise empty chapel. Listen now

Carols from King’s 2021

Carols from King’s 2021

The annual televised service from King’s College, filmed a few weeks before Christmas, is broadcast in the UK on Christmas Eve and is available for international viewers to download.

Listening to the Service

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast 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 1pm on Radio 3 on Christmas Day, and at various times on the BBC World Service.

In the United States the service is distributed by American Public Media and is broadcast by around 450 radio stations, including Minnesota Public Radio and WQXR in New York. 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.

Listen to the Choir's new album

In the Bleak Midwinter: Christmas Carols from King's

In the Bleak Midwinter: Christmas Carols from King's

Choir of King's College, Cambridge & Daniel Hyde

  • Once in royal David's city (Arr. David Willcocks, Desc. Stephen Cleobury)
  • A tender shoot
  • How shall I fitly meet thee?
  • In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Of the Father's heart begotten (Arr. David Willcocks)
  • Angels, from the realms of glory (Arr. Reginald Jacques)
  • An Old Carol (I sing of a maiden)
  • In dulci jubilo (Arr. Robert Lucas de Pearsall & Daniel Hyde)
  • The angel Gabriel
  • O come, all ye faithful (Arr. David Willcocks, Desc. Christopher Robinson & David Hill)
  • Sussex Carol (On Christmas night) [Arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams]
  • While shepherds watched their flocks by night (Desc. Nicholas Marston & Daniel Hyde)
  • Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour (Arr. Charles Herbert Kitson & Daniel Hyde)
  • The Shepherd's Cradle Song (Wiegenlied) [Arr. Charles Macpherson]
  • In the bleak midwinter (Arr. Mack Wilberg)
  • As I sat on a sunny bank (I saw three ships) [Arr. Elizabeth Poston & Daniel Hyde]
  • Still, still, still (Arr. Bob Chilcott)
  • Prelude to "Hark! the herald-angels sing"
  • Hark! the herald-angels sing (Desc. Philip Ledger)
  • Improvisation on "Adeste, fideles"

Listen to the full album

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