Christmas Eve occurs on December 24 each year (the night before Christmas Day). The holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus and is observed around the world.
These frequently asked questions about the history and background of this celebration day will help you discover more about this special day.
When is Christmas Eve?
The holiday Christmas Eve occurs the day and evening before Christmas Day on December 24 each year.
What day is Christmas Eve this year?
Christmas Eve this year falls on Thursday, December 24, 2020.
Here’s a handy chart for upcoming Christmas Eves.
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FAQs on the holiday
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the night before Christmas.
Who observes Christmas Eve?
Most Christians, as well as many non-Christians, celebrate Christmas Eve each year.
What are other names for Christmas Eve?
Christmas Eve is also known as the night before Christmas, the day before Christmas, and Christmas Evening.
What is the meaning of Christmas Eve? Why is it significant?
Christmas Eve is the evening before the traditional birthday of Jesus Christ. Although the Bible doesn’t specify the exact date of Jesus’ birth, the date of December 25 was chosen to celebrate his birth.
Some believe Church elders possibly chose this date to combat pagan festivals honoring the sun traditionally celebrated that same day.
What do people do on the night before Xmas?
Many traditions make up this celebration. Homes are adorned with lights and decorations, families are traveling to visit relatives, and friends gather to enjoy holiday festivities. Here are some additional customs and traditions typically observed:
Hang stockings for Santa – Children (and adults too!) traditionally hang stockings on the fireplace mantle, each marked with their names. Then on the night before Christmas, old St. Nick drops a gift or two in each stocking if the children have been good that year.
Play fun games – Friends and family play gift-giving games like White Elephant, where fun gag gifts are opened (and sometimes taken away) by each member in the group.
Exchange gifts – Some families choose to do their gift-giving on Christmas Eve instead of, or in addition to, Christmas Day.
Attend church services – Worshipers attend services, including a special midnight mass and candlelight services.
Christmas Eve family routine video
Read a Christmas book – A favorite tradition of book lovers is to read The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore or A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens on Christmas Eve.
Dine together – Families often gather together to enjoy a feast and celebration.
Visit Santa – Santa sometimes makes an appearance to bring gifts for the children on Christmas Eve. But if he is a no-show at your house, he can also be found at the shopping mall.
Hang mistletoe – The custom holds that whoever stands beneath the mistletoe should be — an ancient vestige of the plant’s association with fertility.
Shop for gifts – Last-minute Christmas shoppers scramble to cross the last items off their lists on Christmas Eve day.
Decorate the Christmas tree – Most trees will be already decorated by Christmas Eve, but if yours is still bare, make decorating part of your celebration.
More ideas for fun
See the Christmas lights – Take a drive through your neighborhood to check out the lights.
Bake cookies – Spread holiday cheer by baking fresh Christmas cookies.
Track Santa online – Go online to noradsanta.org, and you’ll be able to track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve.
Give Christmas cards – Many people enjoy exchanging Christmas cards.
Visit relatives and friends – The holiday season is the perfect time to connect with relatives and friends.
Holiday travel – As the song says, go “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” and all your holiday destinations.
Visit baby Jesus – You can view manger scenes in just about any Christian churchyard. You’ll see statues of Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, as well as the shepherds and animals paying tribute to our savior’s birth.
Merry and bright
Go caroling – Singing door-to-door on Christmas Eve can also be called wassailing or mumming.
Light a Yule log – Place a Yule log in the fire, and you will be celebrating an ancient tradition with roots in Paganism.
Watch a movie – The day before Christmas is the perfect time to settle in and watch a classic Christmas movie like A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, or Home Alone.
Make gingerbread house – The tradition of making a gingerbread house comes from Germans who immigrated to America in the 19th century.
Enjoy a hot cocoa or egg nog – These two Christmas drinks are perfect for kids and adults.
Help others enjoy Christmas – Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Or, if you are able, make a financial contribution to help the less fortunate enjoy Christmas.
Is Christmas Eve an official holiday?
Christmas Eve is not an official federal holiday, but some businesses observe it by closing for the day or staying open only a half-day. Other workplaces like shopping malls, grocery stores, and convenience stores maintain a normal workday. Most schools are closed.
Christmas Eve history
People began celebrating the night before Christmas or Christmas Eve because Jesus was born sometime during the night. Early observers of the holiday engaged in celebratory feasts, drinking, dancing, and story-telling.
The Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and dates back to the 4th century. The word ‘Christmas’ comes from the words “Christ mass.”
Some historians believe the date of Christmas was chosen by the Christian church in Europe to replace pagan solstice festivals. In choosing the same date as the pagan celebrations, the church also co-opted many of their traditions, like the Yule log and decorating with holly.
1.) Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther is credited with creating the first Christmas tree by decorating it with lighted candles.
2.) Italians celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an iconic seven-course meal of seafood fare. The tradition dates back to the early 1900s.
3.) A popular superstition exists among some that farm animals kneel in honor of Jesus at midnight on Christmas Eve.
4.) During WWI fighting troops from both sides of the conflict enacted Christmas truces, in which British and German soldiers sang Christmas carols, lit candles, and exchanged greetings across the front lines.
5.) On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts read the creation story from the Book of Genesis in the Bible from outer space.
Christmas Eve Quotes
We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.
William Thomas Ellis
I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.
Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart… filled it, too, with a melody that would last forever.
May you have the gladness of Christmas, which is hope; The spirit of Christmas which is peace; The heart of Christmas which is love.
Ada V. Hendricks
I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness, and peace to this world.
Norman Vincent Peale
Christmas is the day that holds all time together.
Funny Christmas Eve Quotes
There are three stages of man: he believes in Santa Claus; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus.
One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.
I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.
Christmas Eve Blessings
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
Hamilton Wright Mabie
God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If He gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.
It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.
The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light—in a little cruse—lasted as long as they say; but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day: Let that nourish my flickering spirit. Charles Reznikoff
Short Christmas Eve Quotes
Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but of reflection.
Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.
Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality.
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale
Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance- each beautiful, unique, and gone too soon. Deborah Whipp
Christmas is like candy: it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever.
Richelle E. Goodrich
Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glitter and glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago.
Freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin—inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night.
John J. Geddes
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!
Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
Heartfelt Christmas Quotes
What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.
Agnes M. Pahro
Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day to spend in the warm circle of family and friends.
My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.
We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Christmas Eve sayings
Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other
Christmas Eve ought to be a very joyful evening to us in all its associations, in all the truths which it naturally brings to the soul. A man’s soul is to be as the heavens were on the night when the shepherds looked up and saw them full of angels as well as stars.
Henry Ward Beecher
I wish this Christmas Eve brings for you the gifts of happiness, good health & joy!
A little smile, a word of cheer, A bit of love from someone near, A little gift from one held dear; best wishes for the coming year. These make a merry Christmas!
John Greenleaf Whittier
Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.
Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with a melody that would last forever.
Bess Streeter Aldrich
Christmas Eve, a perfect night to express affection for your family, to forgive those who failed you, and to forget past mistakes.
Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness.
There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.
Christmas… is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.
Bless us, Lord, this Christmas with quietness of mind. Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.
Helen Steiner Rice
Christmas Eve, a perfect night to express affection for your family, to forgive those who failed you, and to forget past mistakes.
It’s Christmas Eve! It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer; we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.
It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
Holiday lyrics and book sayings
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Clement Clark Moore, The Night Before Christmas
The time draws near the birth of Christ;
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam
Silver bells, silver bells,
It’s Christmas time in the city.
Ray Evans, Silver Bells
Christmas is coming; the geese are getting fat,
Please to put a penny in an old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.
Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.
Sir Walter Scott
A Christmas Eve poem
At midnight’s hour the solemn sound,
The moaning swell
Hark, to the sound of that mystic bell,
Steals o’er my heart like a magic spell!
Tolls this bell upon my ear
A cloud of frosty light
So soft and clear,
This long December night.
A chant of praise,
For peaceful days.
Christmas Eve, watching the fire,
This dreary night, with visions bright;
Cheerful faces gladden my Christmas Eve
Upon a ghostly Winter’s night.
“Christmas Eve, Ten Years Ago” by Louis Charles
Christmas Eve captions for Instagram
Oh, Deer! What a year!
Santa: Our cookies are better than the other houses!
There’s no place like home for the holidays.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas.
Friends don’t give friends fruitcakes.
Where the treetops glisten…
We believe in the magic of Christmas.
Peace, Love, and Joy!
It’s all good until Santa checks the naughty list.
My favorite color is Christmas lights.
All is calm; all is bright.
Freak out because it’s the night before Christmas!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Nothing says Christmas like a fruitcake.
Dear Santa, “I never judged you.”
It’s a December to remember.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animal.
Joy to the world.
Christmas says “Buy, Buy” before “Hello.”
Santa, before I prepare my defense, how much do you already know?
The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.
The weather outside is frightful.
Santa, is it too late to be nice?
Be naughty; save Santa the trip!
Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle.
All I want for Christmas is you!
Let it snow!
Eat, drink, and be merry!
Naughty is the new nice.
I ate Santa’s cookies. #noregrets
Dear Santa, please refer to my Pinterest boards.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
‘Tis the season to be jolly.
Dear Santa, “Define nice.”
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Jingle all the way!
By Jill Taylor
Jill writes about family, cooking, and holidays.
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