During the holidays, churches, synagogues and other houses of worship hold annual services and celebrations during the month of December. In recent years, these houses of worship have expanded their holiday services and events to appeal to not only church members, but also to the public.
At the Falls Church Presbyterian Church, associate pastor Megan Klose said they will have their regular Sunday worship on December 18th followed by a “special” Christmas carol fellowship hour at 11:30 a.m. as well as a new event called “Cookies and Carols.” On Christmas Eve, a Christmas Eve Blessings and Carols service will begin at 8:00 p.m., followed by a regular Sunday worship service on Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m. The public is invited to attend these services and events, with Klose stating people are welcome to attend the Christmas Day service in their pajamas.
After the Christmas holidays, the church will also hold a New Year’s Day service on Sunday, January 1st. Klose said the purpose of holding these services and events is to “worship God and to celebrate as a community,” while also welcoming those who want to be a part of the church. She followed by saying the church wants to welcome and affirm people of all genders and sexual orientations.
“We are a community of recovering perfectionists and welcome folks with faith and with doubts,” Klose said.
The Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington celebrates Chanukah this year with services and events starting December 11th through December 21st. Some of these events include a Pre-Chanukah on Ice, an ice skating event held on December 15th at Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating in Arlington, and a Chanukah Festival in Old Town Alexandria on December 19th with the annual Menorah lighting followed by a public Menorah lighting on December 20th in Arlington.
Robert Wallace, the senior pastor at McLean Baptist Church said they will be holding their annual 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service on December 24th, also stating it’s the church’s largest attended service of the year. On the last Sunday prior to Christmas — December 18th — the church invites anyone in their congregation that morning to stand with the choir and sing the “Hallelujah” chorus. This is a beloved tradition for the church and has been missed since the rise of the pandemic.
McLean’s Christmas Eve service is open to the public, and is modeled on the church’s “standard” Sunday morning service with an emphasis on music and a candle lighting closing out the service with the holding of participants’ hands and singing of “Silent Night.”
One unique event McLean Baptist Church held recently was their service of consolation, which Wallace said was an opportunity for church members and the public to come together and “offer grief and worship because sometimes the holiday season brings a lot of grief for people.” This service is held annually for those who would want to attend in future years.
“The goal is always to bring a worshipful experience together,” Wallace said. “The hope is that someone who has come to that service will feel welcomed into this fellowship of people and also leave feeling as though they have been a part of something special.”
Similar to McLean’s service of consolation, Immanuel Presbyterian Church recently held their Blue Christmas Service on Wednesday, December 14th. The event, which was open to the public, offered people who may be grieving a safe space to embrace their sadness as well as support others who may feel the same way in a worship ceremony.
Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church will be celebrating Chanukah by welcoming the public to attend their services where one can sing their “favorite holiday tunes, savor the aroma of latkes” and watch their young vocalists “shine with as much brilliance as the flames of the chanukiyah.”
The Falls Church Episcopal will be hosting numerous holiday events and services just in time for the holidays. Ellie Bangay, the director of communications and digital ministries at the church, said The Falls Church Episcopal will start off their holiday service by hosting a live nativity scene with lights on Saturday, December 17th from 6:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. The event will feature a walkthrough of the nativity scene with live animals, carol singers and Christmas lights. Last year, Bangay said the event saw 600 people attend.
On Sunday morning, December 18th, the Church will have their advent lessons and carols service, which Bangal calls a “traditional” service with carol singing, communion, coffee and snacks. On Christmas Eve, two services will be held at 4:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; the former event will be a narrated nativity scene performed by the church’s children, while the latter service will be a Festal Holy Eucharist with performances by the choir and instrumentalists. On Christmas morning, a Holy Eucharist will be held with performing carolists.
Bangay said the goal of hosting the live nativity scene is to “welcome the community to our campus to show that we’re open to everybody” and “to give the community something fun to do.” As for their other holiday services, Bangay stated the church “wants everybody to experience the Christmas story” and for people to enjoy coming and seeing “a traditional service” that people can join in.
Columbia Baptist Church is looking forward to celebrating the holidays by offering various services, including a unique spin on their traditional Christmas Eve worship. Kristin Clifton, the communications manager at the church, said on Thursday , December 15th, a service of remembrance will be held for those who may have lost a loved one this year. The service is open to church members, as well as their family and friends, and gives them the opportunity to put a butterfly on a wreath in memory of the person or people whose lives they are celebrating.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will both be celebrated by Columbia Baptist Church with worship services; however, an afternoon service on December 24th will be held for young children and their families. This service, which is held at 3:00 p.m., is described by Clifton as being “festive” and “loud,” with a petting zoo set up outside the church so children can participate in their own holiday worship.
At Strawberry Park in the Mosaic District in Fairfax, a community Menorah lighting will be held on December 20th from 5:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.
Dulin Methodist Church will have a live-streamed and in-person family service on Christmas Eve at 5:00 p.m., followed by a Traditional Lessons and Carols service at 8:00 p.m. A 10:00 a.m. live-streamed and in-person will be held on Christmas Day. Christ Crossman United Methodist Church will have a Lessons in Carols at 5:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, an in-person service will be held 10:00 a.m. At Galloway United Methodist Church, a Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service at 5:00 p.m., followed by a Christmas Morning Worship service on Christmas Day at 11:00 a.m.