Depending on where you’re from as well as where you’re currently living, I could start by wishing everyone a happy Christmas, but while in some cases it would be correct, in others it would simply be premature wishing on my part. Why do some countries celebrate Christmas on the 24 December and others on the 25, and which way is the right way?
Growing up in Paris, I remember celebrating Christmas on both the 24 and 25 December, but then again, that could have been because of my family’s tendency to do things extra, no matter what. After I moved to London and stayed there for my first British Christmas ever, I found out that in the UK, most people celebrate Christmas on the 25. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, until I stumbled upon the divisive question online.
Shortly after, while speaking to a Danish friend who was asking me when I usually celebrate the actual holiday, I realised two things: one, I have no idea what the custom is in France, and two, people are highly involved in this superficial debate. That’s when I decided to really look into it.
In the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Denmark and Finland (and perhaps even more countries), Christmas Eve, which is on 24 December, represents the start of Christmas. Shops tend to remain open in the morning to accommodate last-minute shoppers, but in the afternoon people start getting together with other family members to have dinner and deliver presents under the tree when no one is looking.
The 25 December meanwhile, was originally considered more of a religious holiday spent worshipping, which explains why people still celebrate Christmas the day before. Now, why start one day early, you ask?
A Christian liturgical day always starts and ends at sunset. In Southern Scandinavia, for example, the liturgical day on which Christ was born by tradition starts at 5 p.m. on the 24 and ends at the same time on the 25 December. Celebrating Christmas on the 25 would imply having Christmas dinner the day after the event, as the liturgical day ends when the sun sets on the 25. Christmas Eve is therefore celebrated on the 24 while Christmas morning is celebrated on the 25, which also explains my confusion as to why some people—meaning me and my family—celebrate on both days.
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However, even this explanation is not completely correct. Whether people celebrate the holiday on the 24 or the 25 varies from one country to another, even within one region. Furthermore, in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, people celebrate Christmas on the 7 January during the next year, due to their churches using the Julian calendar.
Christmas Eve means the evening before a religious holiday, Christmas in this case. This tradition of celebrating a specific holiday in the evening leading to that day goes all the way back to the Jewish calendar, on which each numbered ‘day’ of any month is considered to begin and end at sundown rather than at midnight. Jesus was, after all, Jewish.
That explains why, for many, Christmas starts at sundown on 24 December. The 25 is then considered the ‘Holy day’, which is spent praying and resting—basically minding your own business!
As mentioned previously, some churches (mainly Orthodox churches) use a different calendar for their religious celebrations. In Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and other countries, they use the old ‘Julian’ calendar and therefore celebrate Christmas on 7 January. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church also celebrates Christmas on the 7, which is the 29 of Tahsas in their calendar).
Most people in the Greek Orthodox church celebrate Christmas on 25 December but some still use the Julian calendar and so celebrate Christmas on 7 January too! Same applies to some Greek Catholics. In Armenia, the Apostolic church celebrates Christmas on 6 January 6.
There you have it, Christmas day can be celebrated on many different dates depending on where you live, which religious beliefs you hold, and long time traditions. Merry Christmas, I hope that helped!
As our social calendars fill up with work parties, ‘friendsmas’ roasts and gorging ourselves on the sofa, it may seem that leftover food and creating debris is unavoidable. There are always hundreds of roasties, litres of gravy, bowls of sprouts left untouched. The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) states that between 30 and 50 per cent of all food produced globally goes straight into landfill, and in the midst of the climate crisis it’s vital we take responsibility for, and make fundamental changes to our consumption habits.
Read on for ten absolute crackers to suit a plethora of scenarios:
1. Take a lunch box everywhere
A solid opener, no-shame scavenging; stick your leftover roast potatoes in there, your mum’s half-eaten dessert, the rest of the cheeseboard no-one needed. It’s an imperative bit of kit, and if someone looks at it disapprovingly, it’s only because they’re jealous they didn’t think of it.
2. Classic leftover meals
So, you’ve now got a huge box of surplus meat and vegetables, then what? Forgotten over the last two generations, thrifty post-war meals using leftovers were national staples before the global food market made us all lazy and nutrient-deficient. Here are a few delicious options you could cook up after a big Christmas do.
– Toad in the Hole (Yorkshire batter and sausages traybake)
– Bubble & Squeak patties (mashed veg and spuds in fried cakes)
– Cheese & braised red cabbage toastie (with cranberry sauce)
– Turkey pasta bake with creamy mushrooms and thyme
– Broccoli and stilton soup (add a little gravy to the stock)
3. Love thy neighbour
If you live next to or near someone who you think might not be able to cook for themself, be a darling and take them over a hot meal. It’s no effort to plate up something from your leftovers and microwave it for them. If you’re feeling extra cute, leave a few After Eights and a cuppa tea.
4. Sprouts are boss
Being a former avoider, I’m now very much a brussel lout. These incredible flavour orbs are related to cabbage, aid enzymatic digestion and boost blood circulation. It’s best to peel bad leaves off all the uncooked sprouts you have left in one go, as it’s really boring. Try shredding in a sprout, apple, fennel bulb and caraway seed slaw with a honey and mustard dressing, or stirfry with onions, mushrooms and cream for a toast topping.
5. Pudding for breakfast
This one is for the heads. We all know cold spuds is a legitimate morning snack, but what about a slab of gateaux with your first coffee? Victoria sponge and builders’ tea? Christmas pudding with a herbal brew or lemon cheesecake and OJ? After a hefty sugar punch to complement the caffeine, prepare for a pre-lunch crash.
6. Wonderful wild herbs
Wonderful for so many reasons, including the fact that they’re very hardy so they grow absolutely everywhere, are easy to identify, and can help you spend no money and reduce your plastic consumption. Learn to harness their incredible flavours, because they lift everything—add chopped rosemary to roasting potatoes or a sprig of thyme in your G&T, steep mint and fennel in a pot after dinner for a digestive tea. Forage responsibly; don’t pick unless you’re certain, and never strip or uproot a plant.
7. Pickle it
Vegetable skins are delicious, packed with fibre and, if grown organically, host beneficial bacteria and minerals from the soil. If you can’t convince the chef to keep the skins on your carrots, don’t despair. Stealthily make this sour side dish; pickle with 150ml vinegar, 150ml water, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp salt, star anise, chopped garlic and a bay leaf. Heat on the hob until sugar melts, then add to skins in a bowl. They only need an hour to marinate, then whip them out at the dinner table and blow their tiny minds.
8. Surplus citrus
There will undoubtedly be tonnes of clementines in your vicinity, so nab some, slice thinly on the horizontal and dry on a radiator to create some beaut, fragrant decorations. String them together like a boss.
What about all the half-drunk bottles of wine and warm lager dregs littering the kitchen? Don’t throw down the sink, it’s a precious resource—naturally fermented liquids with deep umami and sour flavours. Stick them all in a labelled bottle in the fridge to store and use them to build a tasty base for a gravy or a stock. If you’re feeling experimental, add a raw vinegar mother and store for 6 weeks to turn this waste product into a delicious cupboard essential.
10. Local resource redistribution
There’s no need to eat every chocolate that enters your periphery; take those spare sweets to your local hostel or homeless shelter. And if you have any cooking or washing-up skills at all, you could be in-demand. Ring ahead to see if they’re serving hot meals over the holiday period, and whether they might benefit from your time and expertise.