Thousands spent their night before Christmas and early Christmas morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the annual midnight Mass this year.

It’s a tradition that dates back to 1879.

What You Need To Know

  • A small group calling for a ceasefire in Gaza marched outside St. Patrick's Cathedral as midnight Mass took place

  • Timothy Cardinal Dolan's message is that the light of Christmas is needed more than ever during dark times, especially with the Israel-Hamas war

  • The faithful continued to flock to the cathedral Christmas Day not only for Mass, but as a tourist destination

It is a coveted ticket that is only by lottery.

Christmas Day is much easier to get in, with several Masses all day. And people from around the world and locals came to the cathedral for a sense of peace and unity amid a world with war and deep division.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, in his homily, said there was a cloud over the holiday due to ongoing war, specifically between Israel and Hamas.

“We’re not naïve, there’s darkness in the world. There’s darkness in our country,” Dolan said. “There’s darkness in our beloved city, there’s darkness in our hearts.”

That cloud was evident as pro-Palestinian protesters marched outside, the heavy police presence keeping them at a distance from the cathedral.

By the morning, it was calm on Fifth Avenue. More worshippers returned, saying church and prayer is what is needed in these dark times.

“Really important, positive message to the world,” said Linda McKagan, who was visiting from England. “With everything that’s going on. Really emotional.”

People came across the ocean to see one of the largest cathedrals, not only for Mass, but as a tourist destination.

“My mom she’s hiding, she actually follows it on Instagram and has done for ages, so it was like a big thing that we made sure we were going to come visit when we came to New York,” said Megan Bateman, who was also visiting from England.

Others, like Manny Muino, came from just across the East River, not content with his own church in Brooklyn.

“The people, Dolan, he’s just tremendous,” Muino said. “And the ambiance of the church.”

Dolan didn’t only preach to those fortunate enough to fill the pews inside St. Patrick’s. His eminence made an appearance to the crowds outside, too.

He reminded people why Christmas is even more important.

“It’s good to tag the darkness, because then I say we need light, and that’s what Christmas is about,” Dolan said. “That’s our prayer. I need light, I need the savior, I need Christmas.”