Updated COVID Protocols as of May 14. READ MORE

Advent and Christmas

We will post information about Advent activities and Christmas liturgies as it becomes available from the Office of Worship.

If you have any questions about any of these postings, please email corona@rcab.org or call the hotline: 617-746-5750.

In-Person Christmas Liturgies at the Discretion of the Pastor

If a Pastor feels that in-person Christmas liturgies will present a significant risk due to the challenges of controlling attendance and enforcing social distancing protocols, the Pastor may opt for livestream only. Some parishes have already decided on this option.

Christmas Flowers, Crèches and Decorations

Christmas flowers, crèches and other decorations are allowed, with considerations. If displaying decorations that generally draw crowds for viewing, please ensure the objects are far enough away so that the community cannot congregate around the display or touch the objects. Flowers are permitted, but in order to minimize hand-to-hand contact, please refrain from distributing them to the congregation at the end of the celebration. 

Preparing Parishioners and Visitors

Let your regular parishioners know that this Christmas season is going to be a challenge because of the continued social distancing protocols. Encourage them to charitable reaction.

CONSIDER THE PERSONAL HEALTH RISK: Remind our regular people that because there will be people there who are not usually there, and therefore not practiced in the protocols, things will likely be a bit more chaotic, and that they should make a judgment about whether or not to come with that perspective in mind.

BE MINDFUL OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN AWAY FOR A WHILE: Christmas season is a time when many are drawn to Christmas liturgies after having been away from Church for a while. With this in mind, it is critical that pastors remind congregants of the protocols: mask wearing, social distancing, communion in one species and in the hand only, no congregational singing, and a nod to neighbors during the sign of peace.

Please prepare your ushers and greeters to give these reminders as well.

CHECK SIGNAGE: Make sure your COVID-19-related signage is well-placed and in good repair.

Registration System

Even parishes that are not using registrations now should probably consider a registration system for Christmas.
  • This will allow a follow on email to the registration reminding them in writing of the protocols – masks, distancing, temperatures if in the red zone, come early but not too early, no congregational singing, list kept if in the red zone, no gathering after Mass.
  • This is also a good opportunity for parishes to fill in their email list.

Dispensation Still in Effect

Remind people that Mass attendance still is not required.


POINT PEOPLE TO STREAMS: your own parish stream; CatholicTV; other national streams; the Vatican

Try to increase the number of people who can participate in person by streaming:

  • A church hall or lower church could be used IF there is sufficient ventilation.  It would be staffed by volunteers, and Holy Communion would be brought to the participants at the right time.
  • A remote space could be rented or borrowed – a school gymnasium, for instance -and the Mass streamed to that site, and Holy Communion distributed.

PROMOTING THE CATHOLIC TV MASS:  Assuming that CatholicTV will be broadcasting from the Cathedral, they will likely make a “spot” that could be sent to Parishes to distribute to their email lists and on their social media encouraging people to attend Mass that way.

Outdoor Masses Allowed

OUTDOOR MASSES:  If the weather allows, an outdoor Mass could be a good last-minute overflow option.

Giving Trees

Giving trees are permitted this year with encouragement to minimize contact in the process – checking people off a list of gift options or online sign up as opposed to removing and returning tags from the tree.

Keep Up-to-Date on State and Local Requirements

STATE AND LOCAL REQUIREMENTS ARE ALWAYS SUBJECT TO CHANGE: Remind folks that State regulations and parish situations can change at the last minute, and that they should check in on the parish website before coming to Mass for any last-minute updates.

Celebrating the Octave of Christmas

Encourage the faithful to celebrate not just Christmas Eve/Day, but to consider attending Mass on ANY day of the Octave of Christmas, since the celebration goes on. Since there is no obligation to attend on Christmas this year, people could be encouraged to register/attend on one of these other days. One way to facilitate greater attendance during the Octave and might be to add an early evening Mass such as a 5:30pm, and to consider programming some of the same seasonal music for these Masses.

Utilize Expanded Mass Schedule Options

Parishes should take full advantage of the hours permitted for Christmas Eve Masses, in other words, to spread out Masses to allow for sanitization, but perhaps adding Masses at times not typically done, such as 8 or 9pm. Some might try: 3pm, 5:00pm, 7pm, 9pm, Midnight.

Books and Other Giveaways

It is permitted to give away books, such as Dynamic Catholic/Matthew Kelly books, or other items such as ornaments, etc., as long as masked parish volunteers hand out these items one by one, just as for the bulletin or the Pilot. It is recommended to announce to the congregation after Communion, or another appropriate time, that these volunteers will be offering these giveaways so that the faithful know ahead of time what is being offered to them as they exit. It is not permitted to leave any such items on tables for the taking during a Christmas, Holy Day or Sunday Mass to reduce the chances of people gathering around and handling different items.

Christmas Music, Carols and Concerts

  1.  Due to the nature of Christmas repertoire, it may be difficult if not impossible to restrain the impulse of people in the congregation to sing. While this familiar music can be included, take care to limit the number of such hymns if possible.
  2. All cantors, pianist/organist/guitarist, and other singers should wear well-fitted masks even while singing. A “well-fitted” mask: 1) has no gaps, 2) fully covers the nose, and 3) is tight around the edges.
  3. During the celebration of Christmas Masses and worship events leading up to Christmas (like Lessons and Carols), a parish could have up to four singers plus the main accompanist (e.g. Organ/Piano/Guitar) and an additional instrument (e.g. Trumpet)
    • Even if the instrumentalists also sing, there should be no more than four singers.
    • There should be a clear instruction that the congregation is not to sing.
    • All musicians must be a minimum of six feet from each other in all directions.
    • Singers must stand in a straight line, all facing one way, and not in the traditional curved formation.
    • It is preferable that the singers be in the choir loft, distanced from each other and masked.  If that is not possible, they should be as far from the congregation as possible.
    • Rehearsal parameters: Because rehearsal involves continuous singing for an extended period of time, unlike the Mass with its intermittent singing, some different considerations come into play
      • Space: Use a very large space with proper airflow and high ceilings, ideally the church itself, a large parish hall or gymnasium. This makes it comparable to singing outside
      • Time: Maximum rehearsal time of 30 minute intervals.
      • Breaks: Take a 20-minute break. All participants must leave the room and allow the air to cycle
    • Any wind instrumentalists should use an appropriate mask for themselves and for their instrument
    • See the Office of Worship Website for further documentation and supporting studies for these protocols:  https://www.bostoncatholic.org/divine-worship
  4. LESSONS AND CAROLS/CHRISTMAS CONCERTS: This could be done live under the same restrictions as for Mass, OR as a livestreamed or pre-recorded/video-edited event—with a small, socially-distanced, masked Schola of up to 4 singers (SATB) who may sing the musical meditations along with an instrumentalist. Wind instruments are permitted with an appropriate covering. See information above. Parishes in red-designated communities must postpone these events until out of the red category.

Christmas Pageants

  • Outdoors: Pageants can be held outdoors, weather permitting, just as many Living Nativities are. For some roles that require physical proximity (i.e. the Holy Family, the Angels), persons playing those roles could all be members of the same household.  Masks should still be worn by all participants and spectators even outdoors.
  • Online: Different families could pre-record different scenes at home and a video editor could splice them together to be shown at a pre-determined time, and then made available online throughout the Christmas season. Have family watch party at home.


If your parish has a Christmas Eve tradition of individual candle lighting by the congregation, please refrain from this tradition this year.


  1. Every effort must be made to ensure the maximum ventilation in our churches, even through the winter.
  2. If it is at all possible, windows and doors should remain open, although only during the time the church is occupied.
  3. People should be informed of this early and probably repeatedly, so that they can come to Mass dressed warmly enough.

Christmas Eve Vigil Mass Times

Posted on October 5, 2020

To assist pastors with regards to your Christmas Eve planning well in advance, Cardinal Seán is giving permission for the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston to have a Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve 2020 as early as 3:00PM. This permission is to be understood as applying only to that one day, and only this year.