There are many traditions, customs and activities around Christmas, but what about Christmas Eve? In many countries and regions of the world, Christmas Eve is almost as important as Christmas Day. Here are some of these many traditions, customs, and activities based around the night before Christmas:
Cookies and Milk
An American tradition par excellence for so many children. Several million children leave a box of cookies and milk for Santa while he visits your home, leaving the prescriptions under the tree and downstairs. Many families cook cookies on Christmas Eve or earlier in the day on Christmas Day. The most common cookies for Santa are sugar cookies, usually cut into festive Christmas shapes and decorated with icing, colored sugar or candy.
As many families have more than one Christmas family, many choose to celebrate Christmas with one family on Christmas Eve and another on Christmas Day. In addition, some families have a tradition that everyone opens one of their gifts on Christmas Eve.
In some countries and in the 18th and 19th centuries, many people did not decorate before the arrival of Christmas eve. It is then that they would venture into the forest to pick up and retrieve a tree, and then bring it home and decorate it. Decorating Christmas Eve was an important part of the tradition. Nowadays, most people decorate their homes and plant their trees in late November or early to mid-December.
Whether for Santa Claus or to lie on a tray at a family reunion the next day, many families and especially families with children prepare cookies on Christmas night. The most popular Christmas cookies are sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies. Countries like Mexico, Spain, Greece and Italy all have their own special recipes of cookies that are made at Christmas. In Mexico, they make Bizcochitos, which are flavored with anise, orange and cinnamon. In Spain, they make Almendrados, a traditional biscuit with almonds.
Many countries are also preparing a special meal for Christmas Eve. In Poland, a range of meatless dishes are prepared. In Spain, seafood, hot soup and desserts are common. In the Philippines, they have a huge fever, with many dishes prepared, including roast ham and chicken. In the Scandinavian countries, traditional desserts like Lebkuchen are prepared and served with a huge festival on special Christmas tables called Julbords.
No matter how a country or family celebrates Christmas Eve, all over the world, the key to enjoying Christmas Eve and many special days is the same, being with your loved ones.