Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas Day 24th December, 6th January for
Orthodox Christians, the celebrated birthday of Jesus.
Christmas Eve is the day that contains the evening, or first evening, of
Christmas, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of
Nazareth. It is a culturally significant celebration.
The reason why Christmas starts on Christmas Eve is that the traditional
Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, Christians hold that Jesus was
born at night. The idea of Jesus being born at night is reflected in the fact
that Christmas Eve is referred to as "Holy Night" in German, "the Good Night"
In Western culture, Christmas Eve is mostly celebrated on December 24. In the
Julian calendar, which is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, so
Christmas Eve for the adherents of those Churches coincides with January 6.
Roman Catholics and Anglicans traditionally celebrate Midnight Mass, which
begins either at or sometime before midnight on Christmas Eve. This ceremony,
which is held in churches throughout the world, marks the beginning of Christmas
Methodists celebrate in the early evening, come to their church to celebrate
Holy Communion with their families. The mood is very solemn, and the only
visible light is the candles upon the Lord's Table. Others celebrate the evening
with services of light, which include singing the song "Silent Night" as a
variety of candles are lit.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas Eve is referred to as Paramony means
"preparation". It is the concluding day of the Nativity Fast and is celebrated
as a day of strict fasting. In some traditions, nothing is eaten until the
first star appears in the evening sky.
In some Orthodox cultures, after the Vesperal Liturgy the family returns home
to a festive meal, but one at which Orthodox fasting rules are still observed,
i.e., no meat or dairy products are consumed.
In some parts of Central and Eastern Europe such as Russia, Ukraine, Poland
and Lithuania, a traditional meatless 12 dishes Christmas Eve Supper is served
on Christmas Eve before opening gifts. This is known as the "Holy Meal". The
twelve dishes symbolize the Twelve Apostles.
In Bulgaria, the meal consists of an odd number of lenten dishes in compliance
with the rules of fasting. They are usually the traditional sarma, bean soup,
pastry with a fortune in it, stuffed peppers, nuts. The meal is often
accompanied with wine or Bulgaria's traditional alcoholic beverage rakia.
While other Christian families throughout the world celebrate the Christmas
Eve meal with various meats, Italians and Sicilians celebrate the traditional
Catholic "Feast of the Seven Fishes" which was historically served after
a 24 hour fasting period.
The Christmas Eve supper is usually held in candle light, in the evening after
the first star appears in the sky. The star symbolizes the birth of Jesus in
The centerpiece of the decorations is often a Christmas tree decorated with
fairy lights, tinsel, angels, stars and other seasonal ornaments. Outdoor
light sculptures are also becoming increasingly popular. Light sculptures
may be placed on driveways, roofs or in gardens.
Night time on Christmas Eve is a very exciting time for young children. It is
the time when Santa Claus comes. The season begins on the Eve, where Santa
Claus makes his rounds delivering gifts to good children.
In the evening, people will hang up stockings on the fireplace or the end
of their bed. Children hope that Santa Claus, a mythical figure thought to
represent an ancient European saint, will enter their home via the chimney
and fill their stocking with gifts, sweets and oranges.
These Christmas stockings are often red with a white fluffy trim, although
they may be of any design and are often much bigger than the socks that they
Many people use this day to deliver gifts to friends and leave presents for
service providers such as mail carriers and newspaper delivery personnel.