Nine Lessons and Carols

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a traditional service, which is celebrated every year on Christmas Eve in Anglican and Presbyterian and some Catholic and Protestant communities primarily in the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the end of the celebration: Nine Biblical passages (lessons ) and nine Christmas and hymns ( carols ) are alternately recited and sung. Become best known is the celebration that takes place every year in King's College Chapel in Cambridge. It is transmitted by the BBC on the radio since 1928.


The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was held on Christmas Eve 1880 by 22 clock in the evening in a barn in Truro in Cornwall instead. It was held by the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson ( 1829-1896 ). The original idea for this form of Gottestdienstes came from G. H. S. Walpole, who later became Bishop of Edinburgh. Soon other churches joined and took over the format.

The well-known celebration in King's College, Cambridge was first organized in 1918 by Dean Eric Milner -White and under the musical direction of the organist Arthur Henry Mann and the Choir of King 's College. According to Milner -White, the spiritual power of worship rises more readings than the music, because in the cited Bible passages come the "development of God's love expressed, as it appears in the words of the Bible " ("The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God ... " seen" ... through the windows and the words of the Bible " ).

Since 1919 the process has remained essentially unchanged. The service begins in the candle-lit church with the song Once In Royal David 's City. Following an address by the Dean, the church prays the Lord's Prayer before Bible passages from the Old and New Testaments to be carried forward, the fall of the prophetic writings to the birth of Jesus Christ and salvation. The songs, the singing of the choir and the congregation shared between the readings, change from year to year. In addition, a new carol is awarded as a commissioned work since 1983 in each year. It will be premiered in celebration.

Transmission in broadcasting

Since 1928, the BBC transmits the worship of Cambridge. During the Second World War, when the old church windows had been removed as a precaution, to protect them from war damage, the celebration has been sent from the unheated church. Only in 1930 the transmission failed.

The show begins shortly after 15 clock local time and lasts one and a half hours, until about sunset. It will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 and a time delay repeats on BBC Radio 3 the following day in the afternoon. In the early 1930s - the exact date is not known - began the BBC so, the festival also in their foreign service, the former BBC Empire Service to transmit on shortwave. The BBC World Service continues this tradition. The program therefore has many loyal listeners where it must be received in all parts of the world, the BBC. Today also about 300 public radio stations in the U.S. and the Australian Broadcasting take over the broadcast live or delayed. Since 1963 there is an abridged version of the British television BBC Two ( ' Carols from King 's "). It is previously recorded and broadcast on Christmas Eve.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, making it next to the Christmas message of the Queen one of the traditional BBC broadcasts of the year. Many hear the transmission incidentally during their Christmas preparations. There are also recordings of Decca and EMI. Since October 2012, the King's College Choir distributes the recordings of his music on his own label. The first release was a double CD titled Nine Lessons & Carols (2012 release) with a cross-section of recordings since 2007.


  • A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols - on the site of King's College, Cambridge