Christmas Eve occurs annually on December 24th. The anticipation of Christmas is often cause for celebration. Stockings are hung. Last minute gifts are wrapped. Dishes are prepared for the big day. Cookies are left for Santa. Churches open their doors for solemn services.
It is also the day Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus take off on his journey delivering gifts around the world.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Some people open presents on this day rather than Christmas. Leave out some milk and cookies for Santa. Use #ChristmasEve to post on social media.
Hearkening back to 16th century when Christian traditions were first influenced by winter solstice celebrations, decorating and preparing for Christmas Day took place the evening before. This included putting up the tree, decorating with mistletoe and holly, bringing in the Yule log and making dishes for the Christmas meal.
Jewish traditions have historically influenced Christian practices. One such practice is that the church day traditionally begins in the evening. Christian churches have celebrated Christmas Eve in part because it is believed that Jesus was born at midnight. Many churches today hold Christmas Eve services or Midnight Masses. They may also hold candlelight vigils, Nativity productions or sing carols.