Attending a Christmas Mass in Montreal appeals to both the devout and those seeking to merely soak in a historical setting. After all, the city is awash with beautiful, ornate, eye-popping churches—remnants of a time not long ago when the Catholic Church was so influential in Quebec that it matched (if not superseded) the power of the state—and entering one is a cultural experience not to be skipped.
St. Joseph's Oratory
Christmas Mass at St. Joesph's Oratory is about as grand as it gets, especially in the elaborate Basilica dome. Get there early to find a spot as this one is particularly popular. Even the Oratory's second church, the crypt church, fills to capacity. Note that some Basilica church masses, while free of charge, still require tickets ahead of time. Unless it is specified otherwise, it's safe to assume Mass will be in French.
Family Mass will be conducted several times on Christmas eve, 2020, including once in English (6 p.m.) and twice in French (9 p.m. and midnight). Tickets are required. On Christmas Day, Masses will take place in the Basilica at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and in the crypt church at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. Only the 11:15 a.m. service will be conducted in English.
The Notre-Dame Basilica, or Basilique Notre-Dame, is usually a hit with out-of-towners because it's an accessible and picturesque destination in Old Montreal. The basilica charges admission to Christmas Mass, in addition to the usual requisite donation inherent with the passing of the basket during the ceremony.
The Mass is conducted in French, and some free seats are available in the second balcony section at every service, but expect a limited view. To secure a spot, arrive at least an hour in advance.
Visitors are advised to buy tickets from the office located on 424, St-Sulpice, beforehand. 2020 Christmas Masses will be held on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. (family Mass), 9:30 p.m., and midnight (both traditional Masses). On Christmas Day, Masses take place at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m.
For those who are comfortable with French or don't mind getting lost in translation, Christmas Mass at Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours might be perfect. The mass is a more humble and intimate experience than those at the city's larger basilicas. As a bonus, the church is located in Old Montreal, adjacent Marché Bonsecours, so finding a meal before or after the service is easy with a multitude of delicious options. Mass is held on Christmas Eve at 8 p.m.
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral is a replica of Rome's St. Peter's Basilica. It's significantly smaller in size, but it still has a similar effect. 2020 Masses will be held—in French—on Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. (preceded by an 11 p.m. concert featuring the Chœur polyphonique de Montréal) and on Christmas Day at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 5 p.m.
St. Patrick's Basilica
Declared a minor basilica by Pope John-Paul II in 1989, Montreal's St. Patrick's Basilica has traditionally been a Catholic stronghold for the city's sizable Irish community. It is also the best bet for catching a Catholic service in English on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the heart of downtown. Join in at 7:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve to watch the choir sing Christmas carols. Christmas Day Masses are at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 12:30 p.m.
St. James United
Located near the edge of the entertainment district in Montreal's downtown area, St. James United Church offers an inclusive environment for all. It has embraced the city's LGBTQ+ community and welcomes folks of any denomination to join in on its Christmas Masses, which are conducted in English. Christmas Eve Mass starts at 7 p.m., but those who show up between 6:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. will be treated to hot chocolate. Another Mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Christmas morning.
Christ Church Cathedral
Also in the heart of downtown is Christ Church Cathedral, the hub of Montreal's Anglican diocese and an easily accessible and welcoming place of worship. Inside, you'll be able to marvel at the impressive ribbed vaults that lend to its Anglican Gothic Revival style. Christmas Eve service takes place at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 11 p.m. Christmas Day service takes place at 10 a.m.