You see, I was born in Georgia, USA while my wife Soma was born in Germany. Come Christmastime we always have a debate going, since those German Folk celebrate differently than we do. Hence the problem.
Growing up in America, I was taught to believe that Christmas was the day Jesus was born, i.e., the same day we celebrate his birthday. We waited all night for Santa Claus to come, then tear into the living room on Christmas morning to find our toys and gifts scattered around the tree. The orgy of ripping open packages and squealing over stuff carried us over until about mid-morning, when the novelty finally wore off. Christmas DAY was the day Jesus was born. Santa Claus had spoken!
Those Germans in Catholic Bavaria, on the other hand, have the strange notion that Jesus was born the night BEFORE Christmas, i.e., on Christmas EVE! They celebrate with their meager little dinner at night, followed by the setting up and lighting of the Christmas tree by the Christ Kind (Christ child), and the singing and opening of gifts, usually followed by a Christmas Mass at the church. By the time Christmas DAY rolls around, the only thing to do is hang out with friends or go to a coffeehouse.
Now I don’t know about you, but Christmas Eve taking the place of Christmas Day makes about as much sense to me as roller-blading in an ice storm. I mean, how in the Heck does someone get born the day BEFORE they were born? Huh??
(I later found out the historical Jesus was probably born in the springtime, sometime between 7 and 4 BC, and that we celebrate Christmas in December because that coincided with the pagan Yule or winter solstice festivities. The the newly-Christianized Romans felt it was easier to convert the pagans if they just merged the two celebrations! But I digress . . . why confuse a good story with the facts?!)
The actually DEFINITION of “Eve” is “the day or period of time immediately before an event or occasion.” That occasion? the birth of Jesus, yes? Of COURSE, Sherlock!
Nevertheless, my wife insists that Jesus was born on the 24th – the time when all good Germans exchange gifts and sing Hallelujah to the baby Jesus who brings all the gifts and does all the work. Santa doesn’t even come – he’s already sent his cousin, “Father Christmas,” on December the 6th, so Santa can even cross Germany off his travel itinerary!!
How’s that for irony: Jesus was born the day BEFORE he was born, gets to do all the work, Santa gets a break, and as long as I don’t complain too much about it, no one gets hurt!
I think my sister-in-law may have given us an out, however . . . she explains that “Mary’s water broke” on the 24th, and that Jesus was born just after midnight.
I can live with that.