I was always in two minds about the observance of Nittel Nacht. The Chabad custom is not to study Torah on the evening of December 24th, the reason for which is partially spiritual (not wanting to add vitality to the unclean forces which are present at this time) and partly practical (Jews who appeared in public were often attacked at this time, so they refrained from going to yeshiva or kollel). But despite this very good basis for observing Nittel Nacht, I felt somewhat suspicious of it in the past. It seemed too much like acknowledging a day which should not be acknowledged, and so I felt more comfortable sweeping it under the rug.
But this year, as I find myself with a different outlook on the whole December 25th conundrum- balancing family concerns and my own morals- I also have come to appreciate another purpose for Nittel Nacht. Studying Torah, I believe, gives us a purpose. It instils us with a G-dly life force, and by studying Hashem’s laws, we not only honour Him, but advance our own understanding. In short, Torah study is a necessary part of my life. But just as after Yom Kippur we appreciate a glass of water more than ever, perhaps Nittel Nacht will provide a much needed break, and give us a chance to return to Torah study with increased enthusiasm. Perhaps, extraordinarily, we can do what we do best and elevate this night into something very Holy- a chance to strengthen our Torah study over this upcoming week.
For those who wish to observe Nittel Nacht, a useful article can be found here.