Christmas Eve and Day: Meaning, Date, History, Activities & Meals

July 11, 2022 4 min read

Christmas was traditionally a Christian festival commemorating Jesus' birth, but in the early twentieth century, it also became a secular family holiday celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians. The secular holiday is frequently devoid of Christian elements, with the mythical figure of Santa Claus serving as the central figure. Let’s find out some interesting information about this famous holiday! 

1. What is the Date of Christmas?

Even though most people celebrate Christmas on December 25th (or the late afternoon/evening of December 24th), there are some other dates to consider! Some people still follow the Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on January 7th! On January 7th, some Greek Catholics also celebrate.

2. History of Christmas 

Christmas has its roots in both pagan and Roman cultures. In the month of December, the Romans observed two holidays. The first was Saturnalia, a two-week festival honoring their agricultural god Saturn. They celebrated the birth of Mithra, their sun god, on December 25th. Both celebrations were wild, drunken bashes. Also in December, on the darkest day of the year, pagan cultures lit bonfires and candles to ward off the darkness. The Romans adopted this custom for their own celebrations. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, Christian clergy were unable to put a stop to pagan customs and celebrations. Because no one knew when Jesus was born, they adapted a pagan ritual into a celebration of his birthday. 

3. Christmas Eve’s Activities

Dinner time

Take the time to have dinner with the people you care about, regardless of your plans for the evening, where you are, or who you are with. Prepare or order some food, have some desserts, and enjoy the conversation and company!

Secret Santa or secret friend

The tradition of giving and receiving gifts is shared by many countries, and while it is usually reserved for Christmas Day, Secret Santas are ideal for Christmas Eve. Organize a Secret Santa with your friends to spread the holiday cheer.

Keep and create traditions

From making eggnog and cooking your favorite childhood Christmas dish to organizing a yearly movie night with your companions, the Christmas season is the ideal time to try a new tradition.

Have a feast of seven fishes

Even though some dishes (such as salted cod and fried smelts) are regarded as traditional, the fishes aren't set in stone, so choose your favorites. Seafood pasta or pasta with fish sauce, crab dip or shrimp appetizers, and, of course, fried calamari are all possibilities. The meal could even be a potluck, with guests bringing their favorite fish dish to share.

Make Christmas cards

Visiting family on Christmas Day but not in the habit of sending store-bought cards? Plan a card-making party the night before. Make sure you have plenty of construction paper, markers, glue, Christmas stickers, and other supplies on hand, and then get crafty. Your relatives will appreciate receiving homemade holiday cards. 

Attend mass

Even if your family is deeply religious, it is easy to lose sight of the reason for the season as you go about your holiday shopping and decorating. 

Play the stocking guessing game

Here’s a twist on the beloved Christmas stocking tradition: Put a small object into each Christmas stocking (avoid sharp items and those that’ll damage the stocking). Having the rest of the family try to guess what each object is, simply by feeling through the stocking and/or shaking for noise.

Write letters To Santa

Writing letters to Santa is a long-standing tradition. Use our messages to Santa generator and template to incorporate it into your children's holiday celebrations.

Set up a Christmas photo booth

Photo booths are ideal for any Christmas party. Simply find a suitable Holiday Background, a few props such as selfie frames, and a camera to get the party started.

See some Christmas lights

This Christmas Eve, take the family on a tour of the local lights. Load everyone into a car and pack some festive road snacks like hot chocolate, Christmas cookies, and candy canes.

Attend a church service

Many churches host a special Christmas Eve service, making it an excellent activity for religious families. It's also a good reason to get the entire family dressed up in their best Christmas attire to commemorate the true meaning of Christmas.

Build a snowman

Building a snowman is one of the most traditional and enjoyable Christmas activities to incorporate into your family's traditions. To bring the snowman to life, add a hat, scarf, buttons, sticks, and other accessories.

Get your personalized gifting done

Eventually, don't let the holiday season leave you pressed for time and stressed about figuring out gifts under the tree. Check out our holiday and Christmas gifts for some ideas.

4. Meals On Christmas Eve

Prime rib

This is the rib roast recipe you'll use again and again.

Mashed potatoes

This is the one and only recipe you'll ever need for creamy, dreamy mashed potatoes.

Beef tenderloin

Don't be put off by its appearance (or size)!

Roasted red potatoes

This recipe allows for golden and crisp potatoes.

Peppermint bark

Every holiday season, we can't wait to get our hands on peppermint bark. Fortunately, you can whip up a batch in under 10 minutes.

Baked feta bites

If you like our Cranberry Brie Bites, we have some exciting news for you: there's a new holiday app in town that was inspired by another fan favorite, Baked Feta Pasta.

Gingerbread cookies

The holidays aren't complete unless you make gingerbread cookies at least once.

Boozy grinch punch

If the holidays are stressing you out, Grinch Punch was made for you. It's a no-fuss Christmas punch that's perfect for your next party!

Sugar cookie martinis

Drinking a martini while decorating sugar cookies sounds like the perfect Christmas party.

Air fryer pork chops

These are coated in Parmesan and spices for the perfect crust, and the quick cooking time in the air fryer keeps them from drying out. In an instant, you have a holiday-ready dinner.

Snowball cookies

These traditional Snowball Cookies are well worth the effort! If you're on a low-carb diet, we've got a keto-friendly version of walnut snowball cookies for you as well.

Braised lamb shank

Braised lamb shanks may sound intimidating, but they couldn't be simpler—we swear.

Honey-glazed carrots

The caramelized honey butter transforms plain, boring carrots into the most addictive side dish.

Cheesy holiday potatoes

Crispy, creamy, and cheesy, these potatoes are a holiday staple.

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