Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, the widely celebrated annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. It occurs on December 24 in the Western Christian Church, and is considered one of the most culturally significant celebrations in Christendom and the Western world, where it widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.
One reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition, which in turn is based in the story of creation in Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day." This liturgical day is followed for all days in the Eastern rite, and the custom of beginning Christmas celebration (as well as Sunday and the other major festivals) in the preceding evening is preserved in western Churches that have altered the liturgical day to start at midnight, for example the Roman Catholic Church. Many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening before holidays; for example, the Nordic Lutheran churches. In some languages, such as the Scandinavian, Christmas Eve is simply referred to as "Christmas Evening".
Since Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born at night (based in Luke 2:6-8), Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth. The idea of Jesus being born at night is reflected in the fact that Christmas Eve is referred to as "Heilige Nacht" ("Holy Night") in German, "Nochebuena" ("the Good Night") in Spanish and similarly in other expressions of Christmas spirituality, such as the song "Silent Night, Holy Night".
Christmas is also celebrated as a secular holiday by some non-Christians; however, in other regions, such as in the Indian subcontinent, though not celebrated by non-Christians, Christmas Eve is nevertheless known as "the big day" (Hindustani baṛā din) by non-Christian religionists, including Hindus and Muslims.
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“Frankly, I do not like the idea of conversations to define the term unconditional surrender. ... The German people can have dinned into their ears what I said in my Christmas Eve speechin effect, that we have no thought of destroying the German people and that we want them to live through the generations like other European peoples on condition, of course, that they get rid of their present philosophy of conquest.”
—Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945)