Loves going out and about in Canberra and writing about her adventures! Also addicted to coffee, high teas, escape rooms, and dressing up.
Published December 8th 2019
How to keep the magic alive on Christmas Eve
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.'
Clement Clarke Moore
Here in Australia, December 24 or Christmas Eve is one of the most special, beautiful nights of the year. After all, it's the night when that jolly old gift-giver, Santa Claus, goes on his annual pilgrimage and takes to the skies in his sleigh (or ute) pulled by flying reindeer (or kangaroos) and delivers presents to all the good children of the world. For Christians, it's also the night before Christmas Day, December 25, when Jesus Christ is traditionally said to have been born.
Christmas Eve is my favourite night of the year. Even though I'm older now, I still feel that magic in the air that I once did when I was a child, and I still step out of my doorway into the dark night and search the skies for Santa Claus (even when I'm stepping out of a Midnight Mass church service).
Whether it's Santa or Jesus (or both) as your reason for the season, here are twelve ideas for you and your family to help make your Christmas Eve a very merry one.
1. Prepare a Christmas Eve box for the kids. Like that Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas Eve box has become a phenomenon in recent years-well, to some parents at least! The general idea of the box is that it's a way to help young children break up the anticipation of the next day with some small gifts and activities. They can be as simple as a cardboard box or as elaborate as an engraved wooden chest, filled with sweets, pyjamas, films, books and games. If you're planning on driving around on Christmas Eve to see the lights or attending a Christmas Eve dinner with family or friends, then a Christmas Eve box for your little ones will come in handy.
2. Have a Christmas movie night. Get into your pjs, pop some popcorn, grab some ice cream, snuggle on the couch and get ready for a night of Christmas movies! The choices are endless. For example, Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone, Arthur Christmas, The Santa Clause, and Miracle on 34th Street are perfect with kids. For a more adult audience, then National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Deck the Halls, Love Actually, Bad Santa, Scrooged, and Die Hard are good choices!
3. Have a Christmas Eve games night. Keep the whole family entertained with a games night on Christmas Eve. There are plenty of fun simple games you can do on the night such as a candy cane hunt, gift wrap relay race, and Pin the Nose on Rudolph. For some great ideas, check out these sites: Icebreaker Ideas, Play Party Plan and The Spruce.
4. Follow the Icelandic tradition of gifting books to each other and reading them on Christmas Eve.
Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. It's known as Jolabokaflod, or "Christmas Book Flood." Thanks in large part to social media, this tradition is now spreading beyond Iceland and all around the world. There are plenty of Christmas-themed books for children available in all libraries, bookshops and the major retailers. Why not start building your collection and have them ready for a great night of reading together on Christmas Eve?
5. Drive around your neighbourhood and search for Christmas lights. One of my favourite Christmas Eve traditions. We drive around the neighbourhood and surrounding areas looking for houses and streets lit up for Christmas. We listen to Christmas songs in the car as we drive around and feast on cherries, chocolates and mince pies. And we make sure we get home before midnight.
6. Invite family and friends over for a Christmas Eve feast. In many countries and cultures such as those of Austria, Iceland, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Sweden, Christmas Eve-rather than Christmas Day-is the time when gifts are opened and feasts with family and friends are enjoyed. In Lithuania, for example, the Christmas Eve meal is the most important meal of the year during which twelve meatless dishes are served. Similarly in Poland where the Christmas Eve dinner-also comprising twelve dishes to represent the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ-excludes meat.
Of course, if you don't follow any of these traditions, then it's not necessary to have a meatless Christmas Eve dinner. Or why not add an Aussie flavour to it? In my family, we usually feast on prawns, oysters and pavlova on Christmas Eve.
7. Get the kids to make a gingerbread house.
There are plenty of do-it-yourself gingerbread house kits available in all the major retailers such as Aldi, Coles, Big W, Kmart, and David Jones. Make a gingerbread house then devour it while you watch your Christmas movies!
8. Settle in for a night of 'Carols by Candlelight'.
A beloved Australian tradition that began in 1938, Carols by Candlelight sees the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne light up on Christmas Eve as families and friends gather to celebrate the festive season while raising funds for Vision Australia's children's services. Canberrans don't need to go to Melbourne to experience it. All you have to do is turn on the television. Carols by Candlelight is broadcast live every year on national television on Christmas Eve.
9. Jump in the pool!
If it's stinking hot and you have a pool (or your friendly next door neighbours have one!), then jump in and cool off. You could also throw in a watermelon, play with it, then when you get out of the pool, cut it up and eat it, of course! Apparently that's a Christmas tradition in South Africa according to my South African friend. I will definitely be throwing a watermelon into my pool this Christmas Eve.
10. Reach out to someone in need.
Christmas isn't a most wonderful time of the year for everyone. In fact, it's the worst time for a lot of people, including those who have lost loved ones, have children or other family members in hospital, have escaped violent households and relationships, those who are all alone, and those who simply can't afford to give their children presents. If you know of a family, friend or neighbour in need, why not invite them over to your place on Christmas Eve for a meal or a night of Christmas games and movies? You could also put together a hamper/gift box and leave it secretly on their doorstep on Christmas Eve.
11. Ring the bells at St Andrews Church.
Come to St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve between 7.30pm and 10.00pm to see their Christmas lights and life size nativity scene. Enjoy family activities, walk through the church, and play Christmas carols on the church bells. Then stay on for Midnight Mass. St Andrews Church is located at 1 State Circle, Forrest.
12. Attend a Midnight Mass service.
The Christmas Eve midnight church service is one of the popular Christmas traditions of the Western Christian church around the world. If you've never been to one or you don't know what it is, the midnight church service (or midnight mass in the Catholic and Anglican traditions) is basically a church service that occurs on or before midnight on December 24 every year. Why? Because Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, is believed to have been born at midnight on Christmas Eve. If you've never been to a Midnight Mass before but would like to try it out this Christmas Eve, then check out my tips here on how to make the most of your first Midnight Mass service.
However, you celebrate Christmas Eve this year-whether it's lazing about in the pool with a giant watermelon or feasting on twelve meatless dishes or driving around town to see the Christmas lights or reading books together or settling in for a night of Die Hard and waiting for that precious moment when the arch villain Hans Gruber falls off Nakatomi Tower-may your Christmas Eve be full of joy and magic!
"He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!"