Packages glistening in gift wrap and curl ribbon have already made their way under some San Angelo trees, where children count down the hours until it’s time tear them open with the hope of finding all that was written on their wish lists this year.
In other homes, Santa hasn’t arrived yet, and eager children will be listening for sleigh bells and crunching cookies after sundown, hoping to catch a glimpse of the big man in his red and white suit.
In a recent poll conducted from Dec. 18 to Dec. 20, 68 respondents provided information about their gift opening practices, 63 percent of which said they open their gifts on Christmas Day, while only 26.5 percent responded that they open gifts Christmas Eve.
Another small minority comprised of 10 percent of those who participated said they open either one on Christmas Eve and the remainder on Christmas Day or have two rounds of gift opening due to large families.
In a blog post on the subject found at straightdope.com, one respondent from the UK questions the logic of opening gifts on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is, by definition, not Christmas. It's the day before.
Santa hasn't been yet.
Jesus hasn't been born yet.
Do you open your birthday presents the day before your birthday?
Don't get me wrong, I totally understand that customs are different. But when I was growing up, Christmas presents were for Christmas morning. And they still are.
In the UK, a jolly bearded fellow dubbed Father Christmas is the bringer of gifts, and like the United States’ Santa Claus, visits homes on Dec. 24 doling out presents to the good boys and girls.
The figure who delivers the gifts varies worldwide, and has a lot to do with religion and location. Although the UK is less than a one-hour flight from mainland Europe, a number of eastern and western European countries—such as Germany, Poland, Austria, Portugal, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic to name a few—open their gifts on Christmas Eve. This is also true of several countries in South America.
Rather than the Coca Cola man bringing the gifts, however, in many places in Europe the child Christ (das Christkindl) appears on Dec. 24 and leaves gifts behind. St. Nick, by contrast, appears on the night of Dec. 5 and fills childrens’ boots with nuts, fruit and candy.
Although most families in English-speaking countries will wait until Christmas Day to open their gifts, some, whose heritage stems from European countries, maintain the traditions of their distant relatives, brought over with them as they immigrated to the United States and beyond.