Christmas Eve is always celebrated on 24 December. If Christmas Day falls on a weekend, then this holiday may be observed on a different day.
Countries and regions which officially have Christmas Eve as a public holiday are shown on the right.
Even if it is not a public holiday, be aware that many businesses in Europe will give employees the afternoon or the whole day as a holiday.
As Christmas is traditionally a time to spend with families, a lot of people may leave work early to travel home or visit relatives, so this is not a good day to arrange business meetings.
Christmas Eve marks the culmination of the Advent period before Christmas that started on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve. Many churches will mark the end of Advent with midnight church services.
In Latin America, Christmas Eve marks the end of a nine day period before Christmas, called 'Las Posandas' which represents the none months of labour for the Virgin Mary before she gave birth to Jesus.
On the night of Christmas Eve, children around the world will leave food and drink for whoever will come to their house and bring them presents. Who this is, depends on what part of the world you live. It might be Santa Claus or Father Christmas; but in Switzerland it will be the Christchild who delivers the presents. In Denmark, it's the Christmas elf; in Sweden, it'll be a small man and in Finland, it'll be the Christmas goat!
In Latin America, Christmas Eve is known as 'Nochebuena' or 'Navidad' and is the time when families have their traditional Christmas Dinner, often after attending a late mass called 'Misa de Gallo'.
All shops close at noon on Christmas Eve. In the afternoon, the Christmas dinner is prepared and some families may go to church to hear the Christmas Gospel. In the evening, Christmas dinner is served with duck, turkey or goose being popular meats.
After the meal is finished, the Christmas tree is lit. It is tradition for families to walk around the tree singing Christmas carols. Finally it's time to unwrap the presents, before coffee and sweets then bedtime.
People buy (or make) presents for their relatives and friends in the preceding couple of weeks (so this period is the absolute boom of the year for most stores). Public transport stops operating at about 4 p.m.
In Japan, Christmas traditions arrived with Portuguese and Spanish missionaries in the 16th century, but the celebrations have been more popular in recent times as a result of Japan's increasing internationalisation. It is not seen as a particularly significant religious holiday but as a chance for families to spend time together as part of the year end activities.
One custom that has been become popular is eating strawberry shortcake and fried chicken on Christmas Eve. It has been said that the tradition of buying fried chicken may in part be a result of the similarity between a certain Colonel and Father Christmas - who is charmingly known as 'Uncle Chimney' in Japan.
On Christmas Eve, Christian Lebanese attend midnight mass. As a consequence of the colonial past, Santa Claus is known by his French name, Papa Noël. Gifts are either dropped off at church or Papa Noël makes a personal appearance at the home.
Christmas Eve is not a national holiday in Luxembourg, however under a special working agreement, insurance companies have the day as a holiday and banks close in the afternoon.
In Norway, a custom is to hide all household brooms on Christmas Eve. It was once believed that witches came out on Christmas Eve and stole the brooms to ride the skies.
Good children get oranges, apples and nuts. Naughty children are supposedly carried away in the saint's big sack and told to clean up after his donkey. (Samichlaus, the Swiss Santa Claus, does not have reindeer.) On December 24 the Christkind (Christ Child) comes, bringing the Christmas tree and gifts. Candies and sweet cakes are brightly wrapped and placed under the tree.