Thursday, December 25, 2008

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Day Before Christmas

Christmas Eve or the day before Christmas is always a blend of anticipation and anxiety. It’s the final opportunity to get last-minute shopping done. Wrap the last of your Christmas gifts and do final preparations for a traditional Christmas dinner and all the trimmings. Children bounce around the house all day and well into the night in anticipation of the flurry of gifts and presents they expect to receive early the following morning on Christmas day. Most of the time, children are far too excited or nervous to be able to sleep.

The concept of Christmas Eve stems from the concept that in ancient times, and even among some modern day cultures, the holiday or period of celebration day actually
begins at sundown of the day before the actual day that is celebrated. So Christmas Day observances actually begin on the day before Christmas or Christmas Eve.

Midnight Mass and Church Services

For many Christians, attendance of Midnight Mass or church services is obligatory. Even for people who don’t attend church services regularly during the year. The importance of attending Christmas Eve church services is evidenced by the overflow of attendees in church and religious services congregations. Many churches also have services earlier in the evening to allow for overflow crowds during this time of the year. Elderly congregation members also often prefer a service earlier than the traditional one at midnight.

An additional, key aspect of Christmas celebration is related to retail stores. On Christmas Eve, they make a last ditch attempt to extend the sale of Christmas merchandise. There are special sales and last-minute promotions advertised to capitalize on late, desperate or impulse shoppers. This final push is also designed to increase final total sales for the Christmas holiday season.

Macy’s Department Store in 1867

Many stores and shopping malls remain open up to midnight. Macy's Department Store in New York City, known as the world's largest store branch, stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve for the first time in 1867. The Christmas holidays culminate the single most profitable buying season which begins the Friday after Thanksgiving, called “Black Friday”.

Christmas Eve Traditions

Christmas Eve is the night when parents play the role of Santa Claus, sneaking toys
and gifts under the Yuletide tree to the surprise of children who awake early on Christmas morning to claim their presents. The notion of Santa Claus descending chimneys on Christmas Eve and leaving gifts for good little boys and girls is attributed to the popular Clement Clarke Moore (pictured above) poem written in 1822, officially entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. The poem is now usually referred to by the title, “'Twas the Night Before Christmas”. In this poem Santa Claus is described as “a right jolly old elf” who flew from house to house in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer to deliver Christmas gifts to all the good little girls and boys.

It nowadays takes a very young, naïve child to “swallow” the whole notion of Santa Claus, but parents world wide persist – even in countries with no snow, no reindeer and no sleighs. But who am I to change traditions?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

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