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 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.

The service includes 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.

Festival of Nine Lessons 2022 Order of Service

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols - a Living Tradition

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 opens on Wednesday 1 November at 9.00am and closes on Wednesday 15 November at 5.00pm. Applications should be made via the online form but the College will also enter those who write to the Dean by post. If you write you should include an email address or a stamped addressed envelope for your reply.

Each application may be for one or two tickets only and must:

  • Include the name of both people who wish to attend;
  • Include an email address or phone number;
  • Be submitted by 5.00pm on Wednesday 15 November.

One individual may only make one application and multiple applications, or those which show the same email address will not be entered in to the ballot.

The Reverend Dr Stephen Cherry

Dean of Chapel 

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 over 400 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.

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 2022

Carols from King’s 2022

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.

Nine Lessons and Carols Archive