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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.

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    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
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    @tchrist - You're not going to get a "detailed canonical answer" since the term is quite informal. But "eve" is generally accepted, in some contexts, to mean "the day before". Unless you're George Carlin, of course. – Hot Licks Dec 19 '16 at 1:51
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    I assume there's some kind of hat for starting or awarding a bounty. – Dan Bron Dec 19 '16 at 17:36
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+200

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.

  • 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
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    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
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    @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
  • @RegDwigнt some seem to be, some seem to be the sort of nonsensical misapplication of eve described here. At least one seems to be a female character named "Eve". – Jon Hanna Dec 19 '16 at 1:44
  • This is a good answer, but you might want to add something about the word "Eve" being obsolete outside of this usage. I think it will reinforce your point about OP's expression being mostly a joke. – Spencer Dec 19 '16 at 23:24
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Mrs. Claus introduced this terminology in 1987

SANTA: Not so merry. The elves are behind and it is Christmas Eve.

MRS. CLAUS: Yes, last night was Christmas Eve Eve.
And the night before that was Christmas Eve Eve Eve.
And the night before that was Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve

SANTA: I know dear.

MRS.CLAUS: My favorite is the day after Christmas. That's when I get to say Christmas followed by 364 Eves. Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve...

(Rough Night at the North Pole, first performed 12 December 1987, Group Repertory Theatre, North Hollywood California)

  • Or if next year is a leap year.... And I thought Christmas coming earlier every year was driven by commercialism:0 – Edwin Ashworth Sep 20 '19 at 11:39
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Ecclesiastically, the eve of a feast was the night before. However, in common use, the eve is the day before.

Christmas Eve Eve isn't a commonly-used term, so has no formal definition but I interpret Christmas Eve as the day before Christmas, and Christmas Eve Eve as the day before that. (Or perhaps the Christmas ere-eve).

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According to Fowler's Concise Dictionary of Modern English Usage:

  • Eve means 'the evening or day before' (as in Christmas Eve) and, in figurative use, also means 'the time just before an event' (as in the eve of the election). In the following examples, eve is literal in the first two phrases, is figurative in the third and may be either in the last two: On Christmas Eve - On the eve of Saint Agnes - on the eve of great developments - on the eve of a battle - on the eve of departure. The meaning in particular cases is often clear from the context.
  • Christmas eve eve appears to be a colloquial form used to refer to the 23rd of December:

    There is a UD entry for Christmas Eve Eve . Its 6k plus up thumbs probably make it worth a look.

  • The day before Christmas Eve, 2 days before Christmas.

    • Stay away from the malls on Christmas Eve Eve.

    • Today is Christmas Eve Eve.

From When The Snow Falls:

  • Today's Christmas Eve eve,” Roberta went on. “It's when Gary and I always celebrated. We never could do Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as there were always his sisters and brother or his mom, when she was alive, and of course his dad, long ago. We made a pact to always celebrate on the twentythird . . . today.

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