|Also called||Christmas Evening
Day before Christmas
Night before Christmas
|Significance||Day or evening preceding the traditional birthday of Jesus|
|Observances||Gift shopping, gift giving, goodwill greetings, Midnight Mass, other church services, meals, preparations for the arrival of Christmas gift-bringers, preparing for Christmas|
|Date||24 December (Western Churches and Eastern Orthodox churches that use the Revised Julian Calendar), 5 January (Armenian Apostolic Church), 6 January (Eastern Orthodox Churches that follow the Old Julian Calendar and most Oriental Orthodox Churches), 18 January (Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem)|
|Related to||Christmas Day, Christmastide, New Year’s Eve|
Christmas Eve is celebrated in different ways around the world, varying by country and region. Elements common to many areas of the world include the attendance of special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers, and the giving and receiving of presents. Along with Easter, Christmastime is one of the most important periods on the Christian calendar, and is often closely connected to other holidays at this time of year, such as Advent, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St. Nicholas Day, St. Stephen’s Day, New Year’s, and the Feast of the Epiphany.
During World War I in 1914 and 1915 there was an unofficial Christmas truce, particularly between British and German troops. The truce began on Christmas Eve, 24 December 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 there were calls for visits across the “No man’s land” when small gifts were exchanged. The truce also allowed a breathing space during which recently killed 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.