When does Christmas Eve begin?

Today I almost laughed out loud when a radio announcer said that some business was open until Christmas Eve Eve. Obviously the guy doesn’t realize that Dec. 24 is not Christmas “Eve” all day. What he meant to say was that it stays open until the evening of December 24, and one “Christmas Eve” would have sufficed. Christmas “Eve” doesn’t technically begin until the Vespers of Dec. 24, the Eve of the Festival of our Lord’s Nativity. The actual Festival is December 25, which I am beginning to find many Christians (and congregations) simply ignore. At my previous parish I held a Christmas Day Communion service every year, and it was usually very poorly attended. I’m not expecting this year to be any different, especially since my present congregation hasn’t celebrated Christmas Day for several years I am told.

This is the kind of thing that just irks me about the Modern (or should I say, post-modern) Church. People make such a big stink over “putting the Christ back into Christmas,” and to what end? So that we can all just sit at home on the actual Festival of our Lord’s Nativity and drink our egg-knog? That is about what it amounts to. The same people who blow a gasket at the fact that the schools now call their parties “Winter parties” rather than “Christmas parties” couldn’t care less if Holy Communion was celebrated in honor of this holy day, or if the Gospel is preached.

If we’re going to call ourselves “Church,” then let’s be the Church! Of course I say all of this “in the way of the Gospel.” 😉

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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7 Responses to When does Christmas Eve begin?

  1. Pastor Theodore Cook says:

    Pastor Beisel,
    I am going to differ with you for the sake of argument though I totally agree with you in principle.
    It has been my understanding that the Church follows the Biblical clock with the day beginning at sundown. Therefore, Christmas Eve is the actual beginning of Christmas. One could get real technical if we knew for sure the actual hour of Jesus birth let alone the date. It would possible provide us with two dates since we have an international date line I would love to jump back and forth across so I could claim time travel is real. But I digress.
    We too have a Christmas Day communion service here in Pittsburg. There won’t be too many attending, but those who do appreciate it. The last year Christmas fell on a Sunday one fifth of the 25 attending were from Finland. They even came on time.
    The Incarnation is well worth our attention and that of the people we serve. May the Holy Spirit lead his people to hear the Gospel and receive the Sacrament that Holy Day.
    Peace, Pastor Cook

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Hi Pastor Cook,

    I think you misunderstood me. I agree that Christmas Eve is the beginning of the Christmas celebration. What I said was that Christmas Eve does not actually occur until the Vespers on December the 24th. Christmas Eve is actually the “Eve of the Nativity of our Lord,” and begins with Vespers that EVEning/Afternoon. This is practiced by not changing the paraments from violet to white until the afternoon of December 24. It is not technically Christmas “Eve” at 10:00 a.m. on Dec. 24. Catch my drift?

  3. Pastor Theodore Cook says:

    Pastor Beisel,
    Sorry, not misunderstood. Just misread. I skipped a word in your post thinking you were saying it wasn’t Christmas at the 24th Vespers.
    Hopefully we are done talking past each other making the same point.
    Peace, Pastor Cook

  4. Beisel: Preach it, prophet!

  5. Lincoln says:

    Facebook is awash with people saying they will “keep Christ in Christmas”. Yet I wonder how many will attend mass on Chirstmas day.
    While Christmas Eve is liturgically Christmas day, it doesn’t count if you only attend that service. Vespers prepares for the service the following day, it doesn’t replace it. So if you are going to skip one, skip the preparation service, and attend the real thing (with a real Mass) the day of.
    Now let’s hear all the wailing because I said that vespers doesn’t count.

  6. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    You won’t hear any wailing here, except to say, that Vespers is a good preparation, albeit, not one that is absolutely necessary to celebrate Christ Mass the next day.

    Merry Christ Mass, in three days, that is!

  7. Rev. Robert Mayes says:

    Is it still Christmas Eve if your church doesn’t have Vespers on Dec. 24, but the Divine Service?

    BTW, I see no problem with “Keep Christ in Christmas” as long as you connect it to two more phrases: “Keep the mass in Christmas” (i.e., use the communion liturgy or try to teach towards that); and “Keep Christmas in Christmas” (i.e., don’t ignore or throw out the season of Advent.)

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes

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