Although most Christians believe that Jesus was born on December 25, the eve of that day is also considered a holiday. It is connected with an old way of counting time. When Jesus was on Earth, the day started at sunset and ended at sunset the next evening. What is more, according to the Bible Jesus was born at night, so the night between December 24 and 25 is special for Christians. In many cultures at midnight there is the first liturgy of Christmastide called the Midnight Mass.
Many traditions and customs are connected with Christmas Eve, although they may vary depending on the country or the culture. It is common for families to gather together in the evening, sing Christmas carols and eat a special meal. Giving each other gifts in the evening, December 24, is also popular in many countries. In the United States gifts are rather opened in the morning, December 25. Symbols connected with Christmas Eve could be a Christmas tree, a shooting star and Christmas decorations often appearing in colors associated with Santa Claus, white and red. A popular motif is also a reindeer, a snowflake, ivy and a mistletoe. The Christmas Eve evening is also a joyful moment for many children – they often help to decorate the house with lights or other decorations and hang up stockings on the fireplace hoping to get some sweets from the Santa.
In the United States Christmas Eve is not an official federal holiday. In some states, however, it is a day off – fully or in part. Christmas Eve is a state holiday in states such as: Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. In Virginia, Kansas or North Dakota December 24 is a partial day off. Educational institutions are usually closed for the whole day, while many shops are open with shorter opening hours.
Did you know?
One of the most prominent Christmas Eves in the history of mankind, especially American people, was 24 December 1968. On that special day the three astronauts of Apollo 8 – Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman – have read the story of Creation from the biblical Book of Genesis as the orbited the Moon. It was also the most watched television broadcast at that time.
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