Christmas Falls on a Saturday This Year. What Does that Mean for Mass Obligations?

Yes. Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass on both Christmas Day, Saturday, Dec. 25, and on the following day, Sunday, Dec. 26.

Each obligation must be fulfilled, so one Mass on the afternoon of Christmas will not fulfill both obligations.
Each obligation must be fulfilled, so one Mass on the afternoon of Christmas will not fulfill both obligations. (photo: EvGavrilov / Shutterstock)

As much as some of us would like a few extra days to prepare, Christmas 2021, ready or not, is Saturday, Dec. 25.

“How will I possibly finish my shopping and house cleaning by then?” is not the only urgent question that faithful Catholics are asking themselves this week. What about Christmas weekend Masses? Because the holiday falls on Saturday, are Catholics obligated to attend Mass twice?

Yes. Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass on both Christmas Day, Saturday, Dec. 25, and on the following day, Sunday, Dec. 26. 

Each obligation must be fulfilled, so one Mass on the afternoon of Christmas will not fulfill both obligations.

Each obligation may be fulfilled by attendance at a Mass celebrated in a Catholic rite on the day itself, or on the evening of the preceding day. 

The obligation for Christmas can then be fulfilled by attendance at any Mass on the evening of Christmas Eve, or at any time on Christmas Day.

And the obligation for the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas can be fulfilled by attendance at any Mass on the evening of Christmas Day, or on the Sunday itself.

Some of you (likely those who already have their shopping done and gifts wrapped) may already be looking ahead to New Year's weekend. Do the same obligations apply?

No. Saturday, Jan. 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, but it’s not a holy day of obligation this year. However, Masses will still be offered in observance of the solemnity. Check your local parish’s schedule.

Looking way ahead to next year, the schedule is pretty simple: Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both fall on Sunday.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]

Duccio’s ‘Pentecost’ (1308)

Pray the Pentecost Novena

The prayer recalls and invites Catholics to participate in the nine days that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles spent in prayer after Christ ascended into heaven.