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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Christmas Eve

Christmas celebrations in the denominations of Western Christianity have long begun on the night of the 24th, due in part to the Christian liturgical day starting at sunset.

The practice of celebrating the evening before Christmas Day is an echo from ancient Jewish reckoning. Among earlier Jews, a day began at six in the evening and ran until six the following evening, based on the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day ".

Christmas Eve was then celebrated with roaring fires, story-telling, feasting, drinking and dancing.

Julaftonen by Carl Larsson 1904 edit

Legend has it Martin Luther was the first person to put candles on a Christmas tree. The story goes that on Christmas Eve, 1538, the founder of the Protestant church was gazing at the stars twinkling through the branches of the fir trees as he mediated on the incarnation. He was so inspired by the sight that when he arrived home he set up a tree and decorated it with candles.

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, inaugurated the Christmas watchnight service in 1740, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal Services. His intention was to provide Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to times of drunken revelry.

Disaster hit the church at St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria when the church organ broke down just before Christmas in 1818. The curate, 26-year-old Josef Mohr, realized it couldn't be repaired in time to provide music on Christmas Eve. He recounted his troubles to his friend, a headmaster and amateur composer named Franz Gruber, while giving him as a present a poem he had written two years earlier. Gruber was so taken by the rhythm of the poem that he set it to music, and that Christmas Eve there was music after all when Mohr played his guitar as the pair sung the song. It was the first public performance of "Stille Nacht" or "Silent Night".

During World War I in 1914 and 1915 there was an unofficial Christmas truce between British and German troops demonstrating the power for good that is inherent in the season. 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.As they did so, they celebrated by singing Christmas carols, most notably "Stille Nacht." The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols. The two sides shouted Christmas greetings to each other and as word spread men from both sides of the Western Front ventured into no man's land to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs.

An artist's impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915

On Christmas Eve 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman gazed beyond the barren moonscape at the beauty and color of the earth rising. As they saw from a distance the separations of day and night and of land and water described in Genesis 1, they were inspired to read from the Bible the account of God's creation of the earth during a Christmas Eve television broadcast. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever.

In Japan, Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. People don't spend Christmas with family (most people in Japan are Buddhist), but instead Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents.

In Bolivia, Mass of the Rooster is celebrated on Christmas Eve with roosters brought to midnight mass. Supposedly a rooster was the first to announce the birth of Jesus.

On Christmas Eve at 3pm, it's a tradition for the people of Sweden to sit down to watch From All Of Us To All Of You, the 1958 Walt Disney Christmas special. It's a collection of classic Disney cartoons introduced by Jiminy Cricket and nearly half the Swedes watch it.

In Finland, Santa Claus delivers presents on Christmas Eve not on a reindeer-driven sleigh but on a goat named Ukko.

Poinsettias have long been popular decorations for churches and homes during the Christmas festival. The name of the plant in Mexico, "Nochebuena" literally means "a good night" in Spanish, but this is also the name that is given to Christmas Eve, so for Mexicans, this is the Christmas Eve flower.

Sources Daily Express,

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