DECEMBER 24 - Christmas Eve
#025 – Jingle Bells
Christmas Eve, December 24, is the night before Christmas Day, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal.
In Poland, traditional Christmas Eve meals include one or more of the following foods: Golabki filled with Kasza, Pierogi, Borscht, fish soup, carp and pickled Herring. Krupnik is sometimes drunk after dinner.
In Czech Republic and Slovakia, the meal features a cabbage soup and breaded roasted carp with potato salad. Italian Catholics eat seven types of seafood. In some parts of Eastern Europe such as Poland and Lithuania, a traditional meatless 12-dishes Christmas Eve Supper is served before opening gifts. Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans serve roast pork(pernil).
A symbolic Christmas Eve meal used to be a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire, but today it has become virtually extinct in Russia as a result of the official atheism of the former Soviet Union; though it continues to be popular in Ukraine.
On Christmas Eve in Bulgaria the meal consists of an odd number of lenten dishes in compliance with the rules of fasting. They usually are 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.
By the Christmas traditions of the Serbs, this festive meal is copious and diverse in foods, although it is prepared in accordance with the rules of fasting. Besides a round, unleavened loaf of bread and salt, which are necessary, this meal may comprise e.g. roast fish, cooked beans, sauerkraut, noodles with ground walnuts, honey, and wine.
In France and some other French-speaking areas, 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. The food consumed at réveillons 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.
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.
In Denmark the most common meal is roast duck or pork although goose or turkey are also popular. In many families more than one kind of meat is served. The meat is served with gravy, boiled potatoes, sugar glazed potatoes and red cabbage. For dessert a rice and almond pudding with cherry sauce is served. A whole almond is hidden in the pudding. The person who gets the almond wins a small gift.
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.
Christmas Eve is also seen as the night when Santa Claus (or some variant thereof) makes his rounds delivering gifts to good children. In the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary, where St. Nicholas (sveti Mikulá‰) gives his sweet gifts on December 6, the Christmas gift-giver is the Child Jesus (JeÏí‰ek in Czech,Jézuska in Hungarian and JeÏi‰ko in Slovakia), also known to most as Christkind. In Argentina, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, 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 mostly on the morning of Christmas Day. In Finland Joulupukki and in Sweden Jultomten personally meets children and gives presents in the evening of Christmas Eve. In most parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland Christmas presents are opened in the evening of December 24 ('Bescherung') and are brought by Christkind or Christchild (or alternatively by the Weihnachtsmann), who leaves the gifts but is never seen doing so. 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 received presents both around Christmas and on the morning of Epiphany day; there are also some countries, like the rest of Latin America, where people stay awake until midnight, when they open the presents. In the Netherlands gift giving on Christmas Day is a fairly new phenomenon, because of the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas on December 5.
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. At midnight, gifts and presents are opened. Fireworks are also shot off. Fireworks are the main focus of the celebration. It is not a silent night, with families coming together exchanging presents and going to church. After Christmas the children often play with their new presents or go to church with their families.
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.
Iceland and 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 closest family. After that they open gifts and spend the evening together. In Iceland people most often eat hamborgarahryggur and svínabógur.
Polish Oplatki (Christmas Wafer) in a basket.
In Poland 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 giving a piece of Christmas wafer (Op_atki), usually 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 based, with carp being very important in Poland. After the dinner children unpack presents from under the Christmas Tree. Later people attend Midnight Mass to solemnly celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Serbia, Republika Srpska, and Montenegro
Further information: Serbian Christmas traditions and Badnjak
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. According to the Serbian Christmas traditions, the head of household ought to go in the morning into a forest to select a young and strait 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 ognji‰te, 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 ognji‰te 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, throwing 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.
Most households circulate wrapped gifts in the two weeks before Christmas Day. In North America, gifts are most commonly opened on the morning of Christmas Day; however, families may also 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., minor children might open their presents on Christmas Eve and the adults their presents on Christmas morning, or everyone might open their gifts on Christmas morning. In Quebec and among many francophone 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. It is also common tradition throughout North America for children to leave milk and cookies for Santa Claus the night before on a plate before the fireplace. Similar traditions occur in Mexico; however, the name given is, as in Spain, Nochebuena.
In the Philippines, the predominantly Roman Catholic Christian country in Asia, Christmas Eve is usually celebrated by attending the "Rooster's Mass or Misa del Gallo 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, jamón (Christmas ham), roast chicken (turkey did not gain much popularity in the Philippines), barbecued meats, pancit, among many others. Despite the fact that some families are poor, they still find a way to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ through eating, family time and merry-making.
It is traditional in Finland to bring candles to the graves of loved ones on Christmas Eve and All Saints Day.
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. The declaration takes place on the Old Great Square of Turku, Finland's official Christmas City and former capital, 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 has is based on a pre-20th century belief that the spirits of the dead return and have a sauna on the usual sauna hours.
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. To the days following Christmas, Christmas decoration are put up, and gingerbreads and saffron buns are baked, often homemade. Many people also make gingerbread houses out of lebukchens. Christmas dishes and meals are always served on Julbord (Christmas table), and often contains Christmas ham and the world-famous Janssons frestelse. Many families also see 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. To the days following Christmas, families light a new light each Sunday each advent. The first advent, many cities across the country have a Christmas-themed parade, with lots of Santa Clauses.
In Denmark, during Christmas Eve an elaborate dinner is eaten with the family, consisting of roast pork, roast duck or roast goose with potatoes, red cabbage and gravy. For dessert is rice pudding with a cherry sauce, traditionally with an almond hidden inside. The lucky finder of this almond is entitled to 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.
United Kingdom & Ireland
In the United Kingdom, Christmas is celebrated by putting out decorations before 25 December. On Christmas morning, people generally open up their presents, some attend church. In the early afternoon, people traditionally have Christmas dinner of turkey with their family and some may choose to watch the Queen's speech.
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 1914 Christmas Truce. The text reads 1914—The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce—85 Years—Lest We Forget.
Main article: Christmas truce
During World War I in 1914 and 1915 an unofficial Christmas truce took place. 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
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..."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Twas the Night Before Christmas"
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the houseNot a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;The children were nestled all snug in their beds,While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.Away to the window I flew like a flash,Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snowGave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,With a little old driver, so lively and quick,I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roofThe prancing and pawing of each little hoof.As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;He had a broad face and a little round belly,That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,And laying his finger aside of his nose,And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!
By Clement Clarke Moore