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Midnight mass in Paris

Where to celebrate December 24 with festive chanting and prayer

By Alex Dudok de Wit

Every Christmas Eve, the churches and cathedrals of Paris will open their doors to the masses for an evening of communal festive chanting and prayer. The ceremonies come in varying lengths and sizes, the special features and traditions of each venue bringing different embellishments to the proceedings.

Parents and lovers of deep woodwind timbres should head to the Gothic splendour of the Église Saint-Eustache, which boasts activities for children and France's biggest organ. A more modest affair is held at the Église Notre-Dame des Blancs Manteaux, which features a vigil hosted by the Petits Frères des Pauvres (a charity that provides social support for the elderly and infirm).

Notre-Dame de Paris unsurprisingly offers the most packed set list of the lot. Highlights include an audiovisual projection of the opera 'Lumen de Lumine' on a giant screen in the nave, and a 20-metre Christmas tree by the cathedral's entrance. Come here for the chance to have your face broadcast live on Catholic television.

Those looking for a simpler schedule and a later start are well served by ceremonies at the Église Sainte-Elisabeth, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and the Église de la Madeleine. All three consist of performances by various choirs and instrumental ensembles in the run-up to the midnight mass. The latter, in keeping with its tradition, features a stylized manger created by fashion designer Gaëtan Duthu.


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