Christmas Eve marks the end of the Advent period and the start of the Christmas Season.
Each year Christmas Eve falls on 24 December.
In most north eastern European countries the Christmas Eve meal is the most important part of the celebrations. This is also when Children open presents rather than waiting till Christmas day morning as is tradition in the British Isles and America.
Christmas Eve is a particularly exciting time for children across the world. This is the evening when gifts are delivered by Father Christmas (Santa Claus) to all those who have been good throughout the year.
Traditionally, children write a letter to Santa which includes a wish list of the presents they would like for Christmas. The letter is either posted, sent up the chimney or put in the stocking on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve children hang up their stockings. Either hanging from the mantelpiece of the fire place or at the end of their beds. It is also customary to leave a present for Santa and his reindeer. A mince pie and tot of brandy is left out for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer.
Christmas Eve Customs and Traditions
Christmas Eve is traditionally the time for families to decorate their homes and churches to celebrate the start of Christmas.
The period of Advent, a four week fast, that precedes Christmas Eve is a popular way of counting down to Christmas. The tradition of opening advent calendars or lighting candles on an advent wreath are customary ways to count the days to Christmas.
It’s also customary to attend church services on Christmas Eve. Early evening services include dramatisations of the Nativity play and singing of Christmas Carols. Midnight Mass services take place just before midnight on Christmas Day to welcome the Christmas period.
In Germany, Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend) is when the Christmas Tree (Tannenbaum) is decorated and presents are opened. A traditional Christmas Eve meal consists of carp. Much of Germany is landlocked and this explains why a river fish rather than sea fish is traditionally eaten.