NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Christians around the area celebrated Christmas on Tuesday.

In New York, thousands gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Timothy Cardinal Dolan‘s Christmas message.

From outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral to inside its iconic walls, thousands gathered to welcome Christmas in peace, prayer and unity at Midnight Mass, led by Cardinal Dolan.

“We all want to be home for Christmas, and you are, here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We gather as family for this beautiful Midnight Mass,” Dolan said.

It’s an annual tradition for many families to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, reported CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.

“It’s so important on this night that baby Jesus was born,” said Maricel Aldana.

Every year, people pack the church for the late evening service. It’s so in demand there’s a lottery for tickets.

“It’s a beautiful building and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go there on Christmas Eve,” said Sarah Duran.

The many who could get inside for Midnight Mass still stopped by to pray throughout the day, including New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world.

“We came from Santiago de Chile,” said Alvar Gonzalez. “It’s really amazing. The Christmas spirit in New York, and an experience that we’ll never forget.”

Heightened security was standing by to keep the crowds safe, but it didn’t deter people from coming together to celebrate what Christmas truly means to them.

“I think people act nicer to each other. They remember that this is the time of year that family is important,” said Adelle Dishaw.

“For me, I love the traditions. It brings family together,” one woman said.

“You have to remember the season. So you want to say a prayer, light a candle, and just remember about Jesus and the gift of life,” another said.