Christmas Eve has many customs and traditions and is widely recognised as the day before the Big Day.
BUT for some December 24 is the most important day in the festive calendar.
One of the most traditionally practiced customs which still exists today is going to a Midnight Mass Church Service, and in many countries, especially Catholic ones such as Spain, Italy, Mexico and Poland, this is the most important service of the Christmas season.
Some people in these countries choose to fast during Christmas Eve, or not eat any meat or fish, and then enjoy the main family Christmas meal after the Midnight Mass Service.
Elsewhere, such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Lithuania, the traditional celebratory meal is eaten in the evening and before the Midnight Service.
Christmas Eve is also the day when people in some countries, like Germany, Sweden and Portugal exchange their presents.
While elsewhere, excited children busy themselves hanging their stockings – or in France placing shoes at the door – anticipating the arrival of Father Christmas in the hope he will fill them with gifts and sweets.
While in many European countries including Germany, Serbia and Slovakia, December 24 is the day when the Christmas tree is loving brought into the home and decorated as a family affair.
Tradition has it that the Yule Log is also brought into the house and lit on Christmas Eve, along with the arrival of Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy, and this is the night communities join forces for heart-lifting Carol singing.
But what are the origins of Christmas Eve?
Christmas Eve is the evening or day before Christmas Day, the widely celebrated annual holiday.
It occurs on December 24 in Western Christianity and the secular world and is considered one of the most culturally significant celebrations in Christendom and Western society, where it is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.
Christians derive the Christmas Eve custom from the Jewish tradition of the holy days beginning at sundown of the previous day.
Christmas is understood as beginning with sundown on December 24 and ending at sundown on the 25th, immediately followed by the Feast of St Stephen.
Christmas Eve, also known as the Vigil of Christmas, is perceived as the culmination of the Advent season.
It’s the day before Christmas Day and is associated with celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth.
However, many Christmas traditions that are around today have their roots in pre-Christian winter festivals – the importance of candles and decorations made from evergreen bushes and trees, which symbolise everlasting light and life.
In Roman times, a mid-winter festival was held with parties and merrymaking, and the exchanging of gifts.
This festival culminated with the celebration of the winter solstice, which fell on December 25 in the Roman calendar.
Today, Christmas is more synonymous with Father Christmas, brightly decorated trees, snowmen and reindeer, but the deeply ingrained traditions remain and while they may differ around the world, they are still time honoured.
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