I'll be visiting Italy during holidays and will be in Rome with my partner between 20 to 28th December. I'd have already visited monuments, Vatican City and several popular cathedrals.

Being a non-Christian, I want to take care that I don't offend any locals. As most of the places will be closed on December 25th, what would be your recommendation for me to have the best experience of Rome offers with a religious perspective in mind for this day?

Post Script: This question was asked on StackExchange Travel community and people suggested me to ask the question on this site instead.

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    You misunderstood the "PS" comment - or better: The comment misunderstood you! He understood that you want to ask if you are allowed to attend Christian masses and similar religious events as non-Christian. In this case this website maybe would have been the correct one. However you are not planning to attend any religious Christian event... Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 9:58
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    If I were you, I would re-word my question on Travel StackExchange: If you ask "what to do" this means you want to get a list of activities a tourist can do at Rome. Asking for a list of activities however is obviously not allowed - independent of the background. Maybe asking "what not to do" makes more sense when your main question is how not to offend the people. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 10:02
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    Are you asking about whether, as a non-Christian, you would be welcome to attend Church services? If so yes, very, provided you are not disruptive. Or are you asking about whether certain secular activities might be considered offensive on that day, in the way that some communities regard Sunday? Perhaps rather obviously, most on this site will feel that the best Christmas Day experience will involve Christianity, but you may disagree? If you can be more specific in your question someone may be able to help.
    – davidlol
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 10:03
  • Thanks @davidlol. That was my question - but perhaps I might need more information like what services and activities are there that I can attend - consider I know nothing apart from what western media has shown - chritsmas tree decorations and all. I want to know what other things are there - e.g. masses, local celebrations specifically in Rome.
    – Aditya
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 11:05
  • @MartinRosenau thanks for understanding my question. What kind of events/masses etc. are there that I can attend - I'm totally unaware. I wouldn't ask "what not to do" because I don't even know what do people usually do. And so far my experience hasn't be great on StackExchange as no one (apart from a little indication from you and davidlol in these comments) has told what I COULD DO. Even "Christian masses" is a new word for me.
    – Aditya
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 11:09

1 Answer 1


The best way to celebrate Christmas in Rome is by keeping Christ in Christmas. Most churches and basilicas will have church services on every day that you plan to be in Rome. That would include churches of other denominations other than Catholic (Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant).

Besides going to a church service, which would be open to all, even non-Catholics and non-Christians, you may wish to take advantage of the Urbi et Orbi Blessing of the Pope at Vatican City on Christmas Day. While attending Catholic religious services called the Mass, please keep in mind that only practicing Catholics in the state of grace may receive Holy Communion.

For practicing Catholics, the Urbi et Orbi Blessing is an occasion to obtain a plenary indulgence. For those actually in Rome, those attending the actual ceremony will have the opportunity to see the pope.

The Urbi et Orbi address and blessing are given each Easter and Christmas from the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, at noontime, and are broadcast worldwide through the European Broadcasting Union and other linkups. The address concludes with greetings in many languages in relation to the feast celebrated.

The Roman Catholic Church grants a plenary indulgence by the willful grace and intent of the Pope, on the usual conditions, to those who "devoutly receive" the blessing that the Pope imparts Urbi et Orbi.

Since 1985, this indulgence is granted not only to the people in Saint Peter's Square, but also to those who though unable to be physically present, "piously follow" it by radio or television. - Urbi et Orbi (Wikipedia)

While in Rome one may chose to visit the Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore which for those who believe contains a relic of the Holy Crib of Jesus.

The Holy Crib

In the crypt under the high altar lies the celebrated relic known as the Holy Crib. A statue of Pope Pius IX kneeling before the ancient wooden pieces of the manger serves as an example to the faithful who come to see the first humble crib of the Savior. Pius IX's devotion to the Holy Crib led him to commission the crypt chapel, and his coat of arms is visible above the altar. The precious crystal urn trimmed in silver, through which the faithful can venerate the relic, was designed by Giuseppe Valadier. The Papal Basilica St. Maria Maggiore

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    On the Feast of St. John the Apostle (Dec. 27) some of the faithful bring wine to be blessed by their parish priests. I Do this regardless if priest has this custom or not. Of coarse I bring along with me a copy of the Rituale Romanum and ask if he would not mind blessing a bottle or two for me. I have never been refused. If is a centuries old tradition. Why is wine associated with St John the Apostle?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 13:05

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