Can I Go to Mass on New Year's Eve?

Fulfilling Your Obligation for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Virgin Mary with baby Jesus
Mary, the Mother of God, with the Christ Child. Arpad Benedek / Getty Images

January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, which means that Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day. However, given the custom throughout most of the Western world of ringing in the New Year by staying up with friends and family until midnight, rising early in the morning to attend Mass may be harder than usual. Can you fulfill your obligation to attend Mass on January 1 by going to Mass on New Year's Eve instead?

Yes, You Can Go to Mass on New Year's Eve Rather Than New Year's Day

The simple answer is yes: You can fulfill your obligation to attend Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, on December 31 rather than on January 1, just as you can attend Mass on a Saturday evening to fulfill your Sunday obligation. This isn't a special dispensation for New Year's Day and this particular feast; you can go to a vigil Mass to fulfill your obligation to attend Mass on any holy day.

What Is a Vigil Mass?

A vigil Mass is a Mass celebrated the evening before a Sunday or an important feast (such as a Holy Day of Obligation) that anticipates the celebration on the following day. Not all Masses held on the day before a Holy Day of Obligation, however, are vigil Masses for the holy day, just as not all Masses held on a Saturday are vigil Masses for Sunday. Normally, a vigil Mass will be held no earlier than 4:00 P.M. local time.

And any vigil Mass will clearly be a celebration of the following day's feast (or Sunday, for a Saturday vigil Mass); the readings and prayers will be the readings and prayers proper to the following day's feast.

A Vigil Mass on New Year's Eve Counts for New Year's Day

So, to summarize: If you wish to fulfill your obligation to attend Mass on New Year's Day by attending Mass on New Year's Eve, the Mass you attend must be a vigil Mass for the feast, and not the normal Mass for December 31.

Just as a Saturday morning Mass does not count for your Sunday obligation, any Mass on December 31 that is for December 31—say, a Mass held in the morning of December 31—does not count.

Vigil Masses for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, will be held on the evening of December 31—as noted above, normally no earlier than 4:00 P.M. local time. Check your church bulletin or call your parish office to find the time in your parish.

(In some countries, the obligation to attend Mass on January 1 is abrogated or waived in certain years; see Is January 1 a Holy Day of Obligation? for more details.)