Christmas Eve takes place on December 24 and is probably one of the best nights of the year! Christmas has the power to reunite families and friends, to warm up our hearts, and remind us that we have so many things to be thankful for. So put on your cozy PJs, light up your fireplace, call your loved ones, and top off your hot cocoa with some fluffy marshmallows!
When is Christmas Eve 2020?
Christmas Eve marks the culmination of the Advent period before Christmas that started on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve. Many churches will mark the end of Advent with midnight church services. During modern times, it is popularly celebrated on the night before Christmas Day.
History of Christmas Eve
The tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve derives partly from Christan liturgical starting at sunset, inherited from Jewish tradition, and based on the Book of Genesis’s Story of Creation, saying the first day starts at the evening and ends during the morning. It is also believed that Jesus, or Jesus of Nazareth, was born during midnight in the region of Palestine. Many historical conceptions on many ancient traditions contributed to the development of Eve celebrations which persisted in the early Christian calendar.
Christmas Eve marks the end of the advent season, the period of preparation for Christmas that begins on November 30 — November 15 in the East. It was on this night that the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks outside Bethlehem saw the bright star in the sky that signaled the birth of Jesus Christ. This is why many churches have services beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas. From the 12th to the 15 century, due to the “Holy Inquisition,” Christian traditions were made mandatory. During the 16 Century, the church was influenced by the “Winter Solstice” celebrations and began Christmas preparations the night prior.
In many parts of Europe, people believe that at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals briefly possess the power of speech. It might have been the traditional association of the ox and the ass with the Nativity scene that gave rise to such superstitions, but the concept of talking animals is probably pagan in origin. A closely related belief, widespread in England and Europe, is that cattle rise in their stalls at midnight on Christmas Eve, or kneel to worship the Christ child.
Despite its Christian significance, there are a number of pagan and supernatural beliefs connected with Christmas Eve. In Scandinavian countries, it is believed that the dead revisit their former homes on Christmas Eve. People make sure that their parlors are tidy and that a good fire is burning before they go to bed. They often light candles, set the table, and leave out plenty of food for their ghostly visitors. They also make sure that the seats of their chairs have been dusted. When they get up in the morning, they wipe the chairs again with a clean white towel. If they find any dirt on the seat, it means that a relative fresh from the grave sat there during the night.
Celebrating Christmas as a holiday became popular in the 19th century. Christmas Eve remains an important part of Christian culture and signifies the birth of Jesus. It’s become even more popular within the last century thanks to a beloved icon: Santa Clause. With the appearance of the jolly man in red, people began preparations such as hanging stockings and leaving out cookies, milk, and sometimes carrots for reindeer.
Christmas Eve took on another meaning other than Santa Claus and Christianity, but it also became a day made for spending time with family and loved ones over dinner, decorating, gift wrapping, and Christmas themed-movies. The holiday unites families and friends, allowing them time to get together and enjoy special and traditional activities, from Europe to North and Latin America, to Asia.
Christmas Eve timeline
The carol "Silent Night" was performed for the first time in public in the Austrian village of Oberndorf on Christmas Eve in 1818 at a midnight mass in the Saint Nicholas church.
In World War I, as a manifestation of the Christmas spirit, French, German and British troops laid down their arms, and soldiers initiated a Holiday ceasefire sharing cigarettes and whiskey.
Astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission became the first humans to orbit the Moon, it was broadcasted live during Christmas Eve
The world's largest Santa, measuring at 21.08 m (69.16 ft) tall, 9.18 m (30.12 ft) wide and 12.62 m (41.4 ft) deep, goes on display in the Municipality of Águeda in Portugal.
Christmas Eve By Numbers
32.8 million – The number of real Christmas trees sold in America during the year 2018.
49% – Nearly half of Americans don’t buy Christmas decorations, according to a Statista survey.
46% – Fortunately, nearly half of Americans don’t mind lying to protect their loved ones’ feelings when they don’t like a gift.
$1496 – U.S. households spent this average during the Christmas holidays in 2019, down from 2018.
22% – The amount of Americans that believe their Christmas spending will leave them in debt.
1 billion – Santa gets approximately this amount of cookies around the world on Christmas Eve.
500 million – And since Santa needs something to wash it down, this amount of glasses are left out worldwide on Christmas Eve.
1,800 miles – If we assume that Santa has to travel 316899308.041 miles on Christmas Eve and that he has 32 hours to do it then Santa will be traveling this speed per second.
500 million – Santa has to leave presents at this estimated amount of households.
8.4 years – The overall age children stop believing in Santa across the United States.
Christmas Eve FAQs
What do you do on Christmas Eve?
On Christmas Eve, many families get together to enjoy a big family dinner. When children are asleep, parents and grandparents will sneakily put presents under the tree from Santa.
What time is Christmas Eve?
Originally, Christmas Eve was celebrated during the night before Christmas, however over time, it’s become a full day affair.
Why is it called Christmas Eve?
The word “eve” means the day or period of time before an occasion or event. So Christmas Eve literally means “the day before Christmas.”
Christmas Eve Activities
No matter your obligations for the night, where you are or who you are spending it with, take the time to have dinner with the people close to you. Prepare some food or order it, have some desserts, and enjoy the conversation and the company!
Secret Santa / secret friend
Many countries share the tradition of giving and receiving gifts, and though it’s usually saved for Christmas day, secret Santas are great for Christmas Eve. Organize a secret Santa with your friends and spread the Christmas spirit.
Keep and create traditions
From cooking your favorite childhood Christmas dish and making eggnog to hosting an annual movie night with your friends, the Christmas season is the perfect time to start a new tradition.
5 MIND-BLOWING FACTS ABOUT CHRISTMAS EVE
The fastest delivery man
Scientists calculated that Santa has to travel at 650 miles a second to do all his work on Christmas Eve.
It used to be a popular tradition in the past century, to sit around and tell scary ghost stories on Christmas Eve.
The Christ candle
On Christmas Eve, the Christ candle in the center of the Advent wreath gets traditionally lit in many church services.
The Nativity scene
It is a tradition of Christians to recreate the nativity scene, including live dramatizations.
Presents come earlier
In some countries, like Australia, Germany, Portland, and some places in Latin America, the presents are exchanged and opened on Christmas Eve rather than at Christmas.
Why We Love Christmas Eve
Light even in the darkest times
For Christians, Christmas is the reminder that God loves humanity so much that he sent his son to save them and forgive their sins. So even in the darkest time, and just as in World War I, Christmas Eve is the night that lights up the world.
Even people who aren’t religious celebrate Christmas and take the time to go home to spend time with family and see friends they haven’t seen all year.
An opportunity to give love
Beyond any commercial and material reason, Christmas Eve is the perfect night to give and receive love. Loving gifts to give include: your company, your support, food for homeless animals, donations to organizations and churches, and more.
Christmas Eve dates