|Julaftonen (Christmas Eve), a watercolor|
painted 1904–05 by Carl Larsson (1853–1919)
In Western culture, Christmas Eve is mostly celebrated on December 24. However, the Coptic, Serbian, Russian, Macedonian, and Georgian Orthodox Churches, as well as the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, use the Julian calendar, which is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, so Christmas Eve for the adherents of those Churches coincides with January 6 of the following year in the Gregorian calendar.
Roman Catholics and Anglicans traditionally celebrate Midnight Mass, which begins either at or sometime before midnight on Christmas Eve. This ceremony, which is held in churches throughout the world, marks the beginning of Christmas Day.
A popular joke is to ask what time Midnight Mass starts, but in recent years some churches have scheduled their "Midnight" Mass as early as 7 p.m. In Spanish-speaking areas, the Midnight Mass is sometimes referred to as Misa del Gallo, or "Missa do Galo", in Portuguese ("Rooster's Mass"). In the Philippines, this custom lasts for nine days, starting on December 16 and continuing daily up to December 24, during which Filipinos attend dawn Masses, usually starting at around 4:00–5:00 a.m. In 2009 Vatican officials scheduled the Midnight Mass to start at 10pm so that the 82 year old Pope Benedict XVI would not have too late a night.
Whilst not performing any kind of Mass per se, the Church of Scotland have a Watchnight (similar to the one on Hogmanay) service beginning just before midnight where carols are sung.
Lutherans traditionally carry on Christmas Eve Eucharistic traditions typical for Germany and Scandinavia. "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. Christmas Vespers are popular in the early evening, and midnight services are also widespread in regions which are predominately Lutheran. The old Lutheran tradition of a Christmas Vigil in the early morning hours of Christmas Day (Christmette) can still be found in some regions. In eastern and middle Germany, congregations still continue the tradition of "Quempas singing": separate groups dispersed in various parts of the church sing verses of the song "He whom Shepherds once came Praising" (Quem pastores) responsively.
Methodists celebrate the evening in different ways. Some, in the early evening, come to their church to celebrate Holy Communion with their families. The mood is very solemn, and the only visible light is the Advent Wreath, and the candles upon the Lord's Table. Others celebrate the evening with services of light, which include singing the song "Silent Night" as a variety of candles (including personal candles) are lit. Other churches have late evening services at 11 pm, so that the church can celebrate Christmas Day together with the ringing of bells at 12 am. Others offer Christmas Day services as well. Each church is able to celebrate Christmas Eve evening and Christmas Day in their own special way.
The Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast annually from King's College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve has established itself as one of the signs that Christmas has begun in the United Kingdom. It is broadcast to other parts of the world via the BBC World Service.
Other churches hold a candlelight service. Some services re-enact the Nativity.
|Greek icon of the Nativity in Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece|
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas Eve is referred to as Paramony ("preparation"). It is the concluding day of the Nativity Fast and is celebrated as a day of strict fasting by those devout Orthodox Christians who are physically able to do so. In some traditions, nothing is eaten until the first star appears in the evening sky, in commemoration of the Star of Bethlehem. 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 readings from the Old Testament are chanted, recounting the history of salvation. After the dismissal at the end of the service, a new candle is brought out into the center of the church and lit, and all gather round and sing the Troparion and Kontakion of the Feast.
In the evening, the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Nativity is composed of Great Compline, Matins and the First Hour. The Orthodox services of Christmas Eve are intentionally parallel to those of Good Friday, illustrating the theological point that the purpose of the Incarnation was to make possible the Crucifixion and Resurrection. This is illustrated in Orthodox icons of the Nativity, on which the Christ Child is wrapped in swaddling clothes reminiscent of his burial wrappings. The child is also shown lying on a stone, representing the Tomb of Christ, rather than a manger. The Cave of the Nativity is also a reminder of the cave in which Jesus was buried.
The services of Christmas Eve are also similar to those of the Eve of Theophany (Epiphany), and the two Great Feasts are considered one celebration.
In some Orthodox cultures, after the Vesperal Liturgy the family returns home to a festive meal, but one at which Orthodox fasting rules are still observed; i.e., no meat or dairy products (milk, cheese, eggs, etc.) are consumed (see below for variations according to nationality). Then they return to the church for the All-Night Vigil.
The next morning, Christmas Day, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated again, but with special features that occur only on Great Feasts of the Lord. After the dismissal of this Liturgy, the faithful customarily greet each other with the kiss of peace and the words: "Christ is Born!", to which the one being greeted responds: "Glorify Him!" (these are the opening words of the Canon of the Nativity that was chanted the night before during the Vigil). This greeting, together with many of the hymns of the feast, continue to be used until the leave-taking of the feast on December 29.
The first three days of the feast are particularly solemn. The second day is known as the Synaxis of the Theotokos, and commemorates the role of the Virgin Mary in the Nativity of Jesus. The third day is referred to simpy as "the Third Day of the Nativity". The Saturday and Sunday following December 25 have special Epistle and Gospel readings assigned to them. December 29 celebrates the Holy Innocents.
Orthodox 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 year. During this time one feast leads into another: December 25–31 is the afterfeast of the Nativity; January 2–5 is the forefeast of the Epiphany.
Further information: List of Christmas dishes
In some parts of Central and Eastern Europe such as Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania, a traditional meatless 12-dishes Christmas Eve Supper is served on Christmas Eve before opening gifts. This is known as the "Holy Meal". The table is spread with a white cloth symblic of the swaddling clothes the Child Jesus was wrapped in, and a large white candle stands in the center of the table symbolizing Christ the Light of the World. Next to it is a round loaf of bread symbolizing Christ Bread of Life. Hay is often displayed either on the table or as a decoration in the room, reminiscent of the manger in Bethlehem. The twelve dishes (which differ by nationality or region) symbolize the Twelve Apostles.
The Holy Meal was a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire, but during the era of the Soviet Union it was greatly discouraged as a result of the official atheism of the former former regime. It is coming back in Russia and continues to be popular in Ukraine.
The main attribute of Holy Meal in Ukraine is kutia, a sweet grain pudding. The other typical dishes are borscht, Vareniki, a traditional Christmas compote called uzvar and dishes made of fish, phaseolus and cabbage.
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. As well as a round, unleavened loaf of bread and salt, which are necessary, this meal may comprise roast fish, cooked beans, sauerkraut, noodles with ground walnuts, honey, and wine.
In Bulgaria, the meal consists of an odd number of lenten dishes in compliance with the rules of fasting. They are usually the traditional sarma, bob chorba (bean soup), fortune pita (pastry with a fortune in it), stuffed peppers, nuts. The meal is often accompanied with wine or Bulgaria's traditional alcoholic beverage rakia.
While other Christian families throughout the world celebrate the Christmas Eve meal with various meats, Italians and Sicilians celebrate the traditional Catholic "Feast of the Seven Fishes" which was historically served after a 24 hour fasting period. Although pre-Christmas fasting is not a popular custom still practiced, Italian-Americans still enjoy meatless Christmas Eve feast and attend the Midnight Mass.
In various cultures, a festive dinner is traditionally served for the family and close friends in attendance, when the first star (usually Sirius) arrives on the sky.
Families in some Slavic countries reserve a place for guests (alluding to Mary and Joseph looking for shelter in Bethlehem).
Jewish on Christmas Eve
Further information: Christmas controversy
The significant amount of vacation travel, and travel back to family homes, means that Christmas Eve is also frequently linked to social events and parties, worldwide. Due to the family gathering and religious worship activities that are central to Christmas Eve for Christians but which Jews do not typically engage in, a series of events on the night of December 24 have been made available to Jews in various regions of the world. Matzo Ball events and parties are an option for single Jews. Jews in interfaith relationships may prefer to participate in Chrismukkah events and parties. However, plenty of Jewish people are invited to Christmas Eve parties and will attend, and some host Christmas Eve parties for others.
This article may contain original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding references. Statements consisting only of original research may be removed. More details may be available on the talk page. (December 2009)
During the Reformation in 16th–17th century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve. It is the night when Santa Claus (or some variant thereof) makes his rounds delivering gifts to good children.
In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, where St. Nicholas (sveti Mikuláš/szent Mikulás) gives his sweet gifts on December 6, the Christmas gift-giver is the Child Jesus (Ježíšek in Czech, Jézuska in Hungarian and Ježiško in Slovak).
In most parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, presents are traditionally exchanged in the evening of December 24. Children are commonly told that presents were brought either by the Christkind (German for: Christchild) or the Weihnachtsmann (German name of Santa Claus). Both leave the gifts, but are in most families not seen doing so.
In Finland, Joulupukki, and in Sweden Jultomten, personally meets children and gives presents in the evening of Christmas Eve.
In Argentina, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Quebec, Romania, Uruguay, and Sweden, Christmas presents are opened mostly on the evening of the 24th, – this is also the tradition among the British Royal Family, due to their mainly German ancestry – while in Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, English Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, this occurs mostly on the morning of Christmas Day.
In other Latin American countries, people stay awake until midnight, when they open the presents.
In Spain, gifts are traditionally opened on the morning of January 6, Epiphany day ("Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos"), though in some other countries, like Argentina and Uruguay, people receive presents both around Christmas and on the morning of Epiphany day.
In the Netherlands, gift giving on Christmas Day is a fairly new phenomenon, because of the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas on December 5.
Main article: Christmas worldwide
Further information: Christmas and Philippines
In the Philippines, the predominantly Roman Catholic Christian country in Asia, Christmas Eve is usually celebrated by attending the "Misa de Aguinaldo" which is celebrated hours before the clock ticks 12 A.M. signifying the arrival of Christmas Day. After attending church, Filipino families usually hold a feast named Noche Buena to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A great variety of food is eaten during this feast, an event that usually is done with great preparation. Foods being prepared include the famous lechón, quezo de bola, hamón (Christmas ham), roast chicken and Edam cheese, called Queso de bola. Despite the fact that some families are poor, they still find a way to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ with a Toast of honor, followed by family time and merry-making.
Christmas Eve is celebrated as a couple's holiday; significant others spend time together at a nice place and exchange gifts.
In Latin America, Christmas Eve, known in Spanish as La Noche Buena (English translation – the good night) and in Portuguese as Véspera de Natal (English: Christmas Eve), is celebrated by staying up until midnight. Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans serve roast pork (pernil). At midnight, gifts and presents are opened, with families coming together exchanging presents and the children go to church with their families. Afterwards the children often play with their new presents and fireworks are traditional, it is not quite a silent night.
As in Latin America, Christmas Eve is also known as Nochebuena in Spain. There are two important traditions: attending Christmas Mass, and enjoying a meal with friends and family.
There is a wide variety of typical foods one might find on plates across Spain on this particular night, and each region has its own distinct specialities. It is particularly common, however, to start the meal with a seafood dish such as prawns or salmon, followed by a bowl of hot, homemade soup. The main meal will commonly consist of roast lamb, or seafood, such as cod or shellfish. For dessert, there is quite a spread of delicacies, among them are turrón, a dessert made of honey, egg and almonds that is Arabic in origin. Seafood is very common.
Special dishes and desserts include: Pavo Trufado de Navidad - turkey with truffles Mariscos y Pescado - shellfish and fish Polvorones - a special kind of candy (usually bought at a candy shop) made of almonds, flour and sugar Turrón - a nougat sort of candy, made with honey and almonds Mazapanes - marzipan
Réveillon de Noël
In France and some other French-speaking areas, one tradition is a long family dinner, called a réveillon, is held on Christmas Eve. The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning "waking"), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond.
Réveillon is generally of an exceptional or luxurious nature. For instance, appetizers may include lobster, oysters, escargots or foie gras, etc. One traditional dish is turkey with chestnuts. Réveillons in Québec will often include some variety of tourtière. Dessert may consist of a bûche de Noël. In Provence, the tradition of the 13 desserts is followed: 13 desserts are served, almost invariably including: pompe à l'huile (a flavoured bread), dates, etc. Quality wine is usually consumed a such dinners, often with champagne or similar sparkling wines as a conclusion.
|Polish Opłatki (Christmas Wafer)|
in a basket,
In Poland, largely Roman Catholic, the traditional Christmas meal is known as Wigilia ("Vigil"), and being invited to attend a Wigilia dinner with a family is considered a high honour. Before eating, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings with each other by sharing a piece of Christmas wafer (Opłatki), usually blessed by the presiding Bishop, and stamped with a religious image, such as the Nativity scene. There is a tradition of having either 7 or 12 (or its multiple) Lenten (meatless) dishes. One has to try every single dish to avoid bad luck next year. Dishes are usually fish, cabbage, forest mushroom (like boletus) and poppyseed based, with carp or herring being very important in Wigilia Polish culture. The most common dishes are Borscht with uszka, or fish soup, carp with potato salad, Pierogi, Golabki filled with Kasza, pickled Herring and kompot.
After dinner, children open presents from under the Christmas Tree. Later, people attend Midnight Mass to solemnly celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Serbia, Republika Srpska and Montenegro
Serbian Christmas traditions and Badnjak (Serbian)
The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, which is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian, so Christmas Eve (December 24) as celebrated by the Serbs coincides with January 6 on the latter calendar. In Serbian Christmas traditions, the head of household goes in the morning into a forest to select a young, straight oak tree and fell it. A log cut from this tree, up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) long, is called badnjak and has an important role in the celebration. It is in the evening ceremoniously taken into the house and laid on the fire that burns on the house’s fireplace called ognjište, whose hearth is without a vertical surround. The burning of the badnjak is accompanied by prayers to God so that the coming year may bring much happiness, love, luck, riches, and food. Since most houses today have no ognjište on which to burn a badnjak, it is symbolically represented by several leaved oak twigs. For the convenience of people who live in towns and cities, they can be bought at marketplaces or received in churches.
The Serbs also take a bundle of straw into the house and spread it over the floor, and then walnuts on it. Before the table is served for the Christmas Eve dinner, it is strewn with a thin layer of straw and covered with a white cloth. The head of household makes the Sign of the Cross, lights a candle, and censes the whole house. The family members sit down at the table, but before tucking in they all rise and a man or boy among them says a prayer, or they together sing the Troparion of the Nativity. After the dinner young people visit their friends, a group of whom may gather at the house of one of them. Christmas and other songs are sung, while the elderly narrate stories from the olden times.
Since the early 1990s, the Serbian Orthodox Church has, together with local communities, organized public celebrations on Christmas Eve. The course of these celebrations can be typically divided into three parts: the preparation, the ritual, and the festivity. The preparation consists of going and cutting down the tree to be used as the badnjak, taking it to the church yard, and preparing drink and food for the assembled parishioners. The ritual includes Vespers, placing the badnjak on the open fire built in the church yard, blessing or consecrating the badnjak, and an appropriate program with songs and recitals. In some parishes they build the fire on which to burn the badnjak not in the church yard but at some other suitable location in their town or village. The festivity consists of getting together around the fire and socializing. Each particular celebration, however, has its own specificities which reflect traditions of the local community, and other local factors.
In the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, a coin is concealed in a bread loaf and the host breaks a piece of the loaf at the dinner table for each member of the household: it is believed that the one who gets the piece of bread with the coin will be fortunate in the forthcoming year. The dinner is according to the rules of fasting: fish, baked beans, sauerkraut, walnuts and red wine are common. The dessert may consist of apples and dried fruits: plums, dates, figs. The table is usually not cleared after the dinner and until the next morning, to leave some food for the holly spirits – a custom which probably comes from pagan pre-Christian times.
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the meal features a fish soup and breaded roasted carp with potato salad.
In some parts of Hungary, a traditional supper called fish soup halászlé is served at Christmas Eve meal, although it is also consumed at other times of the year. The day is otherwise a fast-day.
Further information: Yule
In Germany, traditions vary from region to region. Carp is eaten in many parts of the country. Potato salad with frankfurter or wiener sausages is popular in some families. Another simple meal which some families favour, especially in regions where Christmas Eve still has the character of a fast day, is vegetable or pea soup. In some regions, especially in Schleswig-Holstein where Danish influence is noticeable, a roasted duck or goose filled with plums, apples and raisins is family tradition. In other regions, especially in Mecklenburg and Pomerania, many families prefer kale with boiled potatoes, special sausages and ham. Many families have developed new traditions for themselves and eat such meals as meat fondue or raclette. In almost all families in all parts of Germany you find a wide variety of Christmas cookies baked according to recipes typical for the family and the region.
Further information: Sinterklaas
In the Netherlands, Christmas Eve is gradually losing its original meaning. In older days, the Catholic part of the country, roughly half, mainly the south, used to attend mass; usually between 11:00pm and 12:30am. This custom is still upheld but by fewer people every year. Christmas Eve is these days a rather normal evening without any special gatherings or meals. The day of Christmas is another matter. That day is a special day for most families. Usually people have elaborate dinners with friends and relatives. The Dutch call December 25 Eerste Kerstdag, "first Christmas day". This day is a national holiday as is December 26, called Tweede Kerstdag, "second Christmas day". In families, it is custom to spend these days with either side of the relatives.
Iceland and Norway
Further information: Jul (Norway)
In Iceland and Norway, Yule (jul/jól) starts on the night of December 24, at 6:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. respectively. Church bells ring at that time and people either sit down for holiday dinner at home or with their family. After that they open gifts and spend the evening together. In Iceland people most often eat hamborgarahryggur and svínabógur, while in Norway there are a wide variety of traditional meals depending on family traditions and geographic location. E.g. In the northern part of the country, Cod and Lutefisk are typical, while in the western part Pinnekjøtt, which is steamed ribs from lamb, that is more common. In the east the most common meal is Ribbe, which is oven cooked Pork ribs.
|It is traditional in Finland to bring candles to the graves of loved ones|
on Christmas Eve and All Saints Day.
Further information: Joulupukki
Most of the traditions, such as Christmas dinner and gift giving, are observed on this day. Santa Claus visits homes in person, played by an older family member or a rent-a-Santa.
The Declaration of Christmas Peace has been a tradition in Finland from the Middle Ages every year, except in 1939 due to the Winter War. It is a custom in many towns and cities.
The most famous one of these declarations is on the Old Great Square of Turku, the former capital of Finland, at noon on Christmas Eve. It is broadcast on Finnish radio (since 1935) and television, and nowadays also in some foreign countries. The declaration ceremony begins with the hymn Jumala ompi linnamme (Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) and continues with the Declaration of Christmas Peace read from a parchment roll:
"Tomorrow, God willing, is the most gracious feast of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, and therefore a general Christmas peace is hereby declared, and all persons are directed to observe this holiday with due reverence and otherwise quietly and peacefully to conduct themselves, for whosoever breaks this peace and disturbs the Christmas holiday by any unlawful or improper conduct shall be liable, under aggravating circumstances, to whatever penalty is prescribed by law and decree for each particular offence or misdemeanour. Finally, all citizens are wished a joyous Christmas holiday."
The Ceremony ends with trumpets playing the Finnish national anthem Maamme and Porilaisten marssi, with the crowd usually singing when the band plays Maamme.
Recently, there is also a declaration of Christmas peace for forest animals in many cities and municipalities, so there is no hunting during Christmas.
In Finland people usually take a Christmas sauna. The tradition is very old. Unlike on normal days, when going to sauna is in the evening, on Christmas Eve it is before sunset. This tradition is based on a pre-20th century belief that the spirits of the dead return and have a sauna at the usual sauna hours.
Further information: Swedish festivities
In Sweden, most Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve, including Santa Claus's distribution of Christmas presents. Until the 20th century, presents were instead distributed by the Yule Goat, still today used as Christmas decoration and remembered by the famous Gävle goat. Christmas dishes and meals are always served on Julbord (Christmas table), and often contain Christmas ham and the world-famous Janssons frestelse. Many families also watch Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (From All of Us to All of You), Karl Bertil Jonssons julafton, or a re-run of the Svensson, Svensson episode God Jul! (Merry Christmas) on the TV channel SVT1.
Further information: Jul (Denmark)
In Denmark, families get together on Christmas Eve and exchange gifts. The evening meal is more elaborate than usual. In certain families more than one kind of meat is served, usually roast duck or goose and roast pork, with gravy, potatoes and red cabbage. In certain families more than one kind of meat is served. For dessert a rice and almond pudding with cherry sauce is served, with an almond is hidden in the pudding. The lucky person who finds the almond wins a small gift. After the meal is complete, the family gather around the Christmas tree to sing Christmas carols and dance hand in hand around the tree. Then the children often hand out the presents which are opened immediately. This is followed by candy, chips, various nuts, clementines, and sometimes a mulled and spiced wine with almonds and raisins called Gløgg is served hot in small cups.
Further information: Father Christmas
In the UK, Santa Claus is more traditionally called Father Christmas as the two names are synonyms. In households with younger children the preparations for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve depend on individual family traditions. Sometimes the children will be involved in leaving some sustenance for Father Christmas. Traditionally this would have consisted of a glass of sherry or brandy and a mince pie. The hanging of Christmas stockings to receive presents is a much-loved tradition that is still practiced by many. Few families open their presents on Christmas Eve, the Royal family being a notable exception, and Queen Victoria as a child makes note of it in her diary for Christmas Eve 1832, the delighted 13-year-old princess wrote, "After dinner...we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room...There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees..".
On the day itself, preparations are quickly underway for the Christmas lunch where the whole family will gather for 'turkey and all the trimmings' and the obligatory Christmas Crackers. Attendance at a Christmas Day church service is less popular than it used to be with fewer than 3 million now attending a Christmas Day Church of England service. Watching the Queen's Speech on TV is a tradition that still remains hugely important in many households' Christmas Day typically averaging 10 million viewers on TV and 2m listeners via radio.
Further information: Holiday season
The Christmas celebrations in North America are similar to the celebrations in the United Kingdom. Families decorate the inside and outside of their homes in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. During this time, presents are wrapped and placed near the Christmas tree and families give special treats to their pets. Friends exchange wrapped presents and are told, "Do not open before Christmas!" In the United States, gifts are most commonly opened on the morning of Christmas Day; however, other families choose to open all or some of their presents on Christmas Eve, depending on evolving family traditions, logistics, and the age of the children involved. E.g., adults might open their presents on Christmas Eve and minor children open their presents on Christmas morning, or everyone might open their gifts on Christmas morning. American families usually attend church services, with a special Christmas service held on the Sunday before Christmas.
In Quebec and among many French-speaking families living in other provinces, the Réveillon is held on Christmas Eve with traditional food such as tourtière, attendance at church, and the opening of gifts. Similar traditions occur in Mexico, also in Central America including El Salvador; however, the name given is, as in Spain, Nochebuena.
The Christmas Eve meal includes either honey-baked ham or roast beef with gravy, traditionally served with potatoes and "greens". American tables sometimes feature local dishes as well. Then comes dessert, which includes a variety of sweet pastry, and egg nog sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg. Children are told the story of Virgina's letter to Santa Claus, which is called "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", and it is tradition throughout the United States and Canada, for children to leave a glass of milk and plate of cookies for Santa Claus and a carrot for the reindeer by the fireplace where they've hung their Christmas stockings.
A number of historical events have been influenced by the occurrence of Christmas Eve.
|A cross, left near Ypres in Belgium in 1999, to commemorate the site of the Christmas Truce in 1914. The text reads:|
1914 - The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce - 1999 - 85 Years - Lest We Forget.
Main article: Christmas truce
During World War I in 1914 and 1915 an unofficial Christmas truce took place, particularly that between British and German troops. The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols. The two sides shouted Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No man's land" where small gifts were exchanged. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Funerals took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from Psalm 23. The truce occurred in spite of opposition at higher levels of the military command. Earlier in the autumn, a call by Pope Benedict XV for an official truce between the warring governments had been ignored.
Apollo 8 reading from Genesis
Earth as seen from Apollo 8, December 24, 1968 (NASA)
Main article: Apollo 8 Genesis reading
On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast to that date, the astronauts William Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman of Apollo 8 surprised the world with a reading of the Creation from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an atheist activist, filed a lawsuit under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The suit was dismissed by the US Supreme Court.
In 1969, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp (Scott # 1371) commemorating the Apollo 8 flight around the moon. The stamp featured a detail of the famous photograph of the Earthrise over the moon (NASA image AS8-14-2383HR) taken by Anders on Christmas Eve, and the words, "In the beginning God..."