Significance of Christmas Eve

Published: 11th December 2009
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The day before Christmas is one that is filled with a mixture of anxiety

and anticipation. There's anxiety at putting all the final plans and finishing

decoration touches in place and getting all the necessary shopping done. There's

also much anticipation about all the merriment and excitement of Christmas day.

Children are usually hardly able to control themselves as they think about the

Christmas gifts they hope to get the next day. They may try to stay up through

the night to catch Santa Claus, or they may just be too excited to sleep.

Christmas Eve is also important for the simple reason that in ancient

custom, and among some cultures today, a holiday or other celebrated day really

starts from sundown of the day before the actual day that is celebrated.

Therefore, festivities and observances for Christmas Day would really begin on

Christmas Eve.

One of the most significant aspects of Christmas Eve however, is related

to religion. Attending Midnight Mass or earlier church services is mandatory for

many people whose religion is Christianity. This is so even for people who

aren't regular churchgoers during the year. Evidence of the importance of these

church services can be seen in the overflow of congregations at the churches.

Many churches will also have an added service earlier in the evening to

accommodate the above normal attendance, and also for individuals like the

elderly who would prefer a service that is earlier than Midnight Mass.

Another important aspect of Christmas Eve celebrations is related to

retail operations. On the day before Christmas, stores make a last ditch effort

to push sales of Christmas and other merchandise. There often are special

promotions last-minute advertised to capitalize on late, desperate Christmas

shoppers and other impulse buyers. This last effort is also aimed at increasing

sales for the Christmas period.

Some stores will remain open late, even up to midnight or just before

midnight. Macy's department store in New York City, which bills that particular

store branch as the world's largest, stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve

of 1867 for the first time. Christmas Eve culminates the single biggest shopping

season, which started the day after Thanksgiving, for retailers.

Christmas Eve is also important for the traditions associated with it. It

is the night when parents have to play the role of Santa Claus and sneak toys

and other Christmas gifts under the Christmas tree to the absolute delight and

surprise of children who awake on Christmas morning to find the presents.

The idea of Santa Claus coming descending chimneys on Christmas Eve to leave

gifts for good boys and girls was made popular by a poem, attributed to Clement

Clarke Moore. In that poem titled 'An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, '

which Moore wrote in 1822 and which is now popularly known as 'Twas the Night

Before Christmas,' Moore described Santa Claus as 'a right jolly old elf' who

went from house to house with his sleigh pulled by reindeers flying through the

air to deliver Christmas presents to all the girls and boys who had been well


Food plays a big role in making Christmas Day special and much of its

preparation often begins on Christmas Eve. Poultry and other meats are often

prepared by letting them stand in a mixture of various herbs and spices,

puddings and pies are baked on Christmas Eve, as well as a fresh batch of

gingerbread and other cookies and treats.

The scents and flurry of activity related to all these preparations also help to

make Christmas Eve a memorable day on its own.

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