Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have recently seen weather forecasters making predictions for Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Eve Night, and for Christmas Day. One also reads of Christmas Eve Eve, with two eves.

Are those all meaningful and distinct (and clear to all!) , or are there redundancies or contradictions there? Is there a better way to say those?

Given the apparent existence of a Christmas Eve Day and a Christmas Eve Night, is the period between those Christmas Eve Eve, or is it just Christmas Eve? Or does Christmas Eve Eve mean the day (or the night?) before Christmas Eve, so two days then before Christmas proper?


Me, I always thought of the eve as being the night before a holiday (or anything else), not the entire calendar day before as it seems now to mean — and I wonder when and why that has changed.

So Christmas Eve Night seems like a pleonasm to me. And it seems that I am not alone based on this article published on Christmas Eve Eve Eve of 2012:

Just when I thought I was catching on to all the Christmas traditions, I hear the phrase “Christmas Eve eve” or “the eve of Christmas Eve.” When did that sneak in, and what the heck does it mean?

It looks like Easter Eve is (or at least was) sometimes used for Holy Saturday, sometimes the same as or related to Easter Vigil. Indeed, Anton Chekov wrote a story with the title Easter Eve about the night before Easter. But now we see people talking about Good Friday Eve instead of Maundy Thursday. Thanksgiving Eve has now been seen in the wild, and even Halloween Eve to mean October 30th, which seems to go by the name of Devil’s Night in some circles. Even so, Halloween Eve seems like another double: All Hallows’ Eve Eve.

share|improve this question
2  
I'd say that Xmas Eve Eve was the evening of Dec 23rd. I agree with Jay. It's just a joke. MW3UDE says: ": the evening or the day before a holiday, a saint's day, or any important day", which is not at all helpful, only equivocal (ambiguous) = "It's one or the other but I don't know which". –  user21497 Dec 25 '12 at 6:09
    
@BillFranke If Christmas Eve Eve is a joke, it is a not uncommon one. Here are 66 hits in the recent newswire alone. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 6:22
    
I think "Christmas Eve Eve" would be Dec 23. If there was a forecaster who used "Christmas Eve Eve" to mean roughly 5-7 PM on Dec 24, well, I'll just say, that forecaster had better be one damn accurate meteorologist! Otherwise, I'd go looking somewhere else for my weather information... :^) –  J.R. Dec 25 '12 at 11:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Originally, "Christmas Eve" meant the night before Christmas day.

Today we count days from midnight to midnight. That is, we begin each new day at midnight. On the ancient Jewish calendar, the day went from sunset to sunset. That is, sunset marked the beginning of a new day. When Christians borrowed holidays from the Jews, they borrowed this idea of the holiday starting at sunset. (See, e.g., http://www.catholicdoors.com/misc/christmaseve.htm)

Somewhere along the line we switched to the Roman practice of starting the day at midnight, but retained the "eve" of some holidays as the night before. So the night before Christmas day, that is, the night of December 24, is Christmas Eve. The night before New Years, that is, December 31, is New Years Eve. (That's the only holidays I can think of where we do this. Nobody talks about "Fourth of July Eve" or "Veterans Day Eve". Maybe there are other examples.)

Many people now use "Christmas Eve" to mean the entire day before Christmas and not just the night. From there it's a short step, I guess, to saying "Christmas Eve Eve" to mean December 23. But this is not accepted practice; it's more of a joke.

share|improve this answer
    
I can find instances of “Thanksgiving Eve”, such as here on Wikipedia: “A traditional New England Thanksgiving, for example, consisted of a raffle held on Thanksgiving eve (in which the prizes were mainly geese or turkeys), a shooting match on Thanksgiving morning (in which turkeys and chickens were used as targets), church services, and then the traditional feast. . . .” And apparently Holy Saturday is sometimes called “Easter Eve”. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 6:20
2  
There are also quite a few for Halloween Eve, which looks like another double like Christmas Eve Eve. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 6:30
4  
@tchrist: Nah, let's not muddle the waters. Halloween Eve, at best, is a PIN number, while Christmas Eve Eve is a PI number number. –  RegDwigнt Dec 25 '12 at 17:19

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.