Traditions and Customs on Christmas Eve


"Christmas tradition of hanging stockings"

[Photo credits: Sun Muzzled]

Holidays are usually accompanied by special rituals and Christmas is no exception. Traditions and customs on Christmas Eve can be very different from one region to another, but there are certain common characteristics we find across the world.

The Christmas Eve is celebrated on the December 24th all over the world. This is usually the day when the last preparations for the holiday are being made. Most people set up the Christmas tree and the last Christmas decorations in the house. Others, however, shop for presents as this is also the day when Santa is supposed to deliver presents to children all over the world.

Religious traditions. Christmas is the religious celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus. It is one of the most important holidays for the Christian community; therefore, both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches hold special masses on the Christmas Eve. Some countries have masses before the evening, while others celebrate the special mass at midnight to emphasize the importance of this day.

Non-religious traditions. Once the Christ Mass is over, some families in Spain, Mexico, Italy and Poland would go home and dine together. Those who follow this tradition also have the custom to exchange gifts at midnight. Others, on the other hand return home after the Mass and go to sleep so Santa would bring them presents sooner. Exchanging gifts usually takes place on Christmas morning for these families.

In UK and the regions nearby, a Yule log must be brought to the house and burnt on Christmas Eve. The log is then burnt continuously until the 6th of January or the Twelfth Night.

Some cultures believe greenery should not be brought to the house earlier than the Christmas Eve. Otherwise, the house and its residents would suffer from bad luck.

This is also the reason why women and men clean their homes on Christmas Eve, especially in Poland and other East-European countries. It is said that people must dust and swipe the house in order to cast bad luck and evil spirits away from the house.

Once the Christmas tree has been set up and the house has been completely decorated, it is time for hosts to receive guests. As Charles Dickens used to write in his story, this is the time when children gather in small groups and go Carol singing. In return, they would receive ginger bread, sweets and fruits. In East-European countries the traditions and customs on Christmas Eve see children receive pretzels and nuts when carol singing.

"home-backed gingerbread"

[Photo credits: Pixabay]

Even though there is no actual connection between the two, maidens in UK, Poland, Bulgaria and other countries of the world try to guess the name of their future husbands on Christmas Eve. They do this by performing various fastening rituals or by preparing a special Christmas cake called the ‘dumb cake’.

The cake is usually backed by the girl, who wants to get married. When the cake is over, the maiden writes her name initials on top of the cake. She then, places it by the fireplace. It is said that the initials of her future husband will appear next to hers by Christmas morning.

Many traditions and customs on Christmas Eve are related to farm animals. According to the Bible, farm animals were blessed on the night when Jesus Christ was born because they kept him warm. There are many rural regions where people hang fir branches or red bows in cowsheds in sign of animals’ blessings. Some believe farm animals can talk on Christmas Eve.


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