Nittel Nacht

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Nittel Nacht[1] is a name given to Christmas Eve by Jewish scholars in the 17th century,[2] although Rabbi Samuel Eidels already observed the day by the late 16th century.[2] In the Middle Ages (in Christendom), Jews were forbidden from appearing in public during the high Christmas holidays,[3] and as such the day marked the beginning of a siege of sorts for certain Jewish populations. Jewish mystics believed apostates were conceived on the day and as a result Rabbis forbade married couples from sex on Nittel Nacht.[2] Studying the Torah was also forbidden,[2] although some read the Toledot Yeshu instead.[2] Passing the time playing card games or chess was also popular.[2]

After the advent of the Gregorian Calendar, Orthodox Christians and Catholic Christians observed Christmas Eve on two separate dates; this led to Rabbinic debate, and Nittel Nacht is observed in accordance with the local Christian community. Certain pious Jews observed Nittel Nacht twice each year.[2]

In modern times, with less tense Judeo-Christian relations, Nittel Nacht is less observed, although certain Orthodox denominations still observe it.[2]

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  1. ^ Yiddish, Leil Hannital in Hebrew. See Shkalim, Esther; Diana Schiowitz; Frieda Horwitz (2006). A mosaic of Israel's traditions: holidays, feasts, fasts. Devora. p. 137. ISBN 1-932687-56-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cohen, Benyamin (2009-12-23). "Holy Night: The little-known Jewish holiday of Christmas Eve. Seriously.". Slate. 
  3. ^ Isaac Landman, ed. (1942). The Universal Jewish encyclopedia ...: an authoritative and popular presentation of Jews and Judaism since the earliest times. 8. The Universal Jewish encyclopedia, Inc. p. 224. 

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