Christmas Eve

December 2424 DecemberEve of NativityMidnight MassDecember 24thEve of the NativityJulafton (Sweden)night beforeOrthodox Christmas EveVigil
Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus.wikipedia
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Christmas traditions

ChristmasChristmas holidaysother European traditions
Christmas Day is observed around the world, and Christmas Eve is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.
The sending and exchange of Christmas card greetings, observance of fasting and special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents.

Midnight Mass

celebrated around midnight
Since tradition holds that Jesus was born at night (based in Luke 2:6-8), Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth.
In many Western Christian traditions Midnight Mass is the first liturgy of Christmastide that is celebrated on the night of Christmas Eve, traditionally beginning at midnight when Christmas Eve gives way to Christmas Day.

Simbang Gabi

In the Philippines, the custom has expanded into the nine-day Simbang Gabi, when Filipinos attend dawn Masses (traditionally beginning around 04:00 to 05:00 PST) from 16 December, continuing daily until Christmas Eve.
This is similar to the nine-day series of dawn Masses leading to Christmas Eve practiced in Puerto Rico called Misa de Aguinaldo.

Nine Lessons and Carols

Festival of Nine Lessons and CarolsFestival of Lessons and CarolsLessons and Carols
The annual "Nine Lessons and Carols", broadcast from King's College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve, has established itself a Christmas custom in the United Kingdom.
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a service of Christian worship, traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve.

Misa de Gallo

Christmas Midnight MassesMisa de Gallo (sometimes referred to as Misa de Aguinaldo, "gift mass")practiced in Puerto Rico
In Spanish-speaking areas, the Midnight Mass is sometimes referred to as Misa de Gallo, or Missa do Galo in Portuguese ("Rooster's Mass").
Misa de Gallo (Spanish for "Rooster's Mass", also Misa de los Pastores, "Shepherds' Mass;" Portuguese: Missa do Galo) is a name for the Roman Catholic Mass celebrated around midnight of Christmas Eve and sometimes in the days immediately preceding Christmas.

Royal Hours

The liturgical celebration begins earlier in the day with the celebration of the Royal Hours, followed by the Divine Liturgy combined with the celebration of Vespers, during which a large number of passages from the Old Testament are chanted, recounting the history of salvation.
The Royal Hours is celebrated only three times a year: on the Eve of the Nativity, the Eve of Theophany, and Great Friday.

Vespers

Vesperalvespergreat vespers
The liturgical celebration begins earlier in the day with the celebration of the Royal Hours, followed by the Divine Liturgy combined with the celebration of Vespers, during which a large number of passages from the Old Testament are chanted, recounting the history of salvation. Christmas Vespers are popular in the early evening, and midnight services are also widespread in regions which are predominantly Lutheran.
On strict fast days when food and drink are prohibited before vespers, e.g., Christmas Eve, the Annunciation when it falls on a weekday of great lent, or Holy Saturday, Vespers is joined to the Divine Liturgy, functioning in place of the typica as the framework of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Catechumens.

Nativity play

NativityChristmas pageantpageant
"Krippenspiele" (Nativity plays), special festive music for organ, vocal and brass choirs and candlelight services make Christmas Eve one of the highlights in the Lutheran Church calendar.
In Germany, the Weihnachten services on Christmas Eve include a children's mass called Weihnachtsgeschichte, which features a Krippenspiel ("crib play").

Divine Liturgy

LiturgyDivine Liturgiesliturgical
The liturgical celebration begins earlier in the day with the celebration of the Royal Hours, followed by the Divine Liturgy combined with the celebration of Vespers, during which a large number of passages from the Old Testament are chanted, recounting the history of salvation.
The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great (4th century), used on the five Sundays of Great Lent, and on Saint Basil's feast day (January 1). On the eves of the Nativity and Theophany, and on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, it is celebrated as a vesperal liturgy. In some traditions, Saint Basil's Liturgy is also celebrated on the Exaltation of the Life-giving Cross on September 14. In all, this liturgy is used 10 times during the liturgical year.

Advent wreath

Advent candleadvent candlesadvent crown
On Christmas Eve, the Christ Candle in the center of the Advent wreath is traditionally lit in many church services.
An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

King's College, Cambridge

King's CollegeKingKing’s College
The annual "Nine Lessons and Carols", broadcast from King's College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve, has established itself a Christmas custom in the United Kingdom.
In particular, it has broadcast its Nine Lessons and Carols on the BBC from the Chapel on Christmas Eve for many decades.

Father Christmas

Legendary Christmas gift-bearing figures including Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkind, and Saint Nicholas are also often said to depart for their annual journey to deliver presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve, although until the Protestant introduction of Christkind in 16th-century Europe, such figures were said to instead deliver presents on the eve of Saint Nicholas' feast day (6 December).
In Ireland in 1853, on the other hand, presents were being left on Christmas Eve according to a character in a newspaper short story who says "... tomorrow will be Christmas. What will Santa Claus bring us?"

Fasting

fastfastsfasted
It is the concluding day of the Nativity Fast and is observed as a day of strict fasting by those devout Byzantine Christians who are physically capable of doing so. In some traditions, nothing is eaten until the first star appears in the evening sky, in commemoration of the Star of Bethlehem.
The paramony or Eve of Christmas and of Theophany (Epiphany)

Feast of the Seven Fishes

While other Christian families throughout the world celebrate the Christmas Eve meal with various meats, Italians (especially Sicilians) celebrate the traditional Catholic "Feast of the Seven Fishes" which was historically served after a 24-hour fasting period.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Festa dei sette pesci), also known as The Eve (La Vigilia, cognate to The Vigil), is an Italian-American celebration of Christmas Eve with dishes of fish and other seafood.

Twelve Days of Christmas

twelve days12 Days of ChristmasChristmas season
Byzantine Christians observe a festal period of twelve days, during which no one in the Church fasts, even on Wednesdays and Fridays, which are normal fasting days throughout the rest of the year.
The Nativity of Christ is a three-day celebration: the formal title of the first day (i. e. Christmas Eve) is "The Nativity According to the Flesh of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ", and celebrates not only the Nativity of Jesus, but also the Adoration of the Shepherds of Bethlehem and the arrival of the Magi; the second day is referred to as the "Synaxis of the Theotokos", and commemorates the role of the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation; the third day is known as the "Third Day of the Nativity", and is also the feast day of the Protodeacon and Protomartyr Saint Stephen.

Nativity Fast

Christmas fastChristmas fastsFast of the Nativity
It is the concluding day of the Nativity Fast and is observed as a day of strict fasting by those devout Byzantine Christians who are physically capable of doing so. In some traditions, nothing is eaten until the first star appears in the evening sky, in commemoration of the Star of Bethlehem.
The Eve of Nativity (December 24) is a strict fast day, called Paramony (lit.

Wigilia

Christmas EveChristmas Eve supper
A similar tradition (Wigilia, or 'Christmas Vigil') exists in Poland.
Wigilia is the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland, held on December 24. The term is often applied to the whole of Christmas Eve, extending further to Pasterka - midnight Mass, held in Roman Catholic churches all over Poland and in Polish communities worldwide at or before midnight.

Pasterka

Midnight Mass is popular in Poland (pasterka).
On Christmas Eve (December 24) and on Christmas Day, the masses can be celebrated from three different liturgical texts, each suited to a specific sacrament of the Eucharist.

Kūčios

Kūčios ("Holy Meal") is the most important event of the year and family reunion.
Kūčios or Kūtės (Samogitian Dialect) is the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Lithuania, held on the twenty fourth of December.

Serbian Christmas traditions

Detinjcitheir own customs regarding ChristmasBadnjak ceremony
In accordance with the Christmas traditions of the Serbs, their festive meal has a copious and diverse selection of foods, although it is prepared according to the rules of fasting.
The Serbian name for Christmas Eve during the day is Badnji dan.

Santa Claus

SantaKris Kringlemall Santa
Legendary Christmas gift-bearing figures including Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkind, and Saint Nicholas are also often said to depart for their annual journey to deliver presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve, although until the Protestant introduction of Christkind in 16th-century Europe, such figures were said to instead deliver presents on the eve of Saint Nicholas' feast day (6 December).
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved ("good" or "nice") children on Christmas Eve (24 December) and the early morning hours of Christmas Day (25 December).

Hogmanay

New YearHogmanay 2017Hogmanay at the Gardens
The Church of Scotland no longer holds Hogmanay services on New Year's Eve, however.
Still, in Scotland Hogmanay and New Year's Day are as important as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Nittel Nacht

Nittel Nacht is a name given to Christmas Eve by Jewish scholars in the 17th century.
Nittel Nacht is a name given to Christmas Eve by Jewish scholars in the 17th century, observed as early as the late 16th century by Rabbi Samuel Eidels.

Matzo Ball

The Ball
These include the Matzo Ball, The Ball, and a number of local events organized by Jewish communities and local Jewish Federations in North America.
The Matzo Ball is an annual Christmas Eve nightlife event and party held in a number of major cities in the United States and Canada targeted primarily at young Jewish singles and organized by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals.

It's a Wonderful Life

1946 film of the same nameIt's a Horrible LifeIt's a Wonderful Laugh
Typical contemporary activities have usually been limited to "Chinese and a movie" —consuming a meal at a Chinese restaurant, which tend to be open for business on the Christmas holiday, and watching a movie at the theater or at home, stereotypically a rerun of It's a Wonderful Life.
The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers).