Christmas: Holiday, Celebration, Traditions, History & Facts

Christmas is an annual festival that is celebrated on December 25th in the Gregorian calendar. It is as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Updated: July 3, 2022

Christmas is an annual festival that is celebrated on December 25th in the Gregorian calendar. This has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world. It is as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the countries and is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians. However,it is also celebrated by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

Facts of Christmas:

Christmas wasn't widely observed until after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and declared it the Roman empire's favored religion. Although the month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, the church in the early fourth century fixed the date as December 25. Western Christians officially began celebrating December 25 as the birth of Jesus in 336 AD. 

Most Christians celebrate the festival on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar. This has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world. Christians, believe that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity. So this reason is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas rather than the exact birth date.

There are many different traditions and theories which signifies the reason of Christmas celebration on December 25th
The traditional narrative behind Christmas celebrations is known as The Nativity of Jesus. Accordinf to this when Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary, arrived at the city of Bethlehem, they had no lodgings. They were confined to a stable in an inn, which is where Jesus was born.
As per early Christian tradition, the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th. So it's still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December. March 25th was also the day when the world had been made as per some early Christians. It is also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult.

March 25th was chosen because christains believe that was the day on which Jesus died as an adult and they thought that Jesus was born and had died on the same day of the year.

As Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti' took place in December around 25th of December, it was considered as the time to celebrated Christmas too. The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting which usually fall on December 21st or 22nd. This means the winter was over and spring was coming and the pagans celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. The Winter Solstice is known as Yule in Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe and is where we get Yule Logs from. In Eastern Europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda. The Roman Festival of Saturnalia is celebrated between December 17th and 23rd to honour the Roman god Saturn. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means 'birthday of the unconquered sun' and was held on December 25th when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place and was the 'birthday' of the Pagan Sun god Mithra.
As Jesus was a Jew, this could be another reason that the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas.

The name 'Christmas' is derived from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service which is sometimes called Communion is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The 'Christ-Mass' service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset and before sunrise the next day. So people celebrate it at Midnight and thus the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.

Importance Of Christmas

Christmas is one of the most important as well as popular festivals celebrated in more than 160 countries throughout the world, by all age groups. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who is also known as 'The Son Of God' in the Christian religion. The first day of celebration is the day before Christmas, which is known as Christmas Eve. It is celebrated on December 24, every year, according to the Gregorian calendar. The second day is Christmas Day, which is celebrated on December 25 every year. The third day is celebrated on the day after Christmas, on December 26 which is known as Boxing Day. The customs of celebration associated in various countries with Christmas have a mixure of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the festival include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and caroling, lighting a Christingle, viewing a Nativity play, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a special meal and pulling Christmas crackers

Christmas Decorations

This also include the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, figures are associated with Christmas such as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind brings gifts to children during the Christmas season. The holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses asgift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity.

Christmas History

The special decorations at Christmas has a long history. In the 15th century, it was the custom at Christmas for every house and all the parish churches to be decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green in London. The heart shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolize the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed. The traditional colors of Christmas decorations are red, green, and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion, while green symbolizes eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter, and gold is the first color associated with Christmas, as one of the three gifts of the Magi, symbolizing royalty.

Christmas Tradition

The Christmas tree is considered by some as Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship. Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments. On Christmas, the Christ Candle in the center of the Advent wreath is traditionally lit in many church services. Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, stockings, wreaths, and angels. Both the displaying of wreaths and candles in each window are a more traditional Christmas display. The concentric assortment of leaves, usually from an evergreen, make up Christmas wreaths and are designed to prepare Christians for the Advent season. Candles in each window are meant to demonstrate the fact that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate light of the world. Christmas lights and banners may be hung along streets, music played from speakers, and Christmas trees placed in prominent places. A special Christmas family meal is traditionally an important part of the holiday's celebration, and the food that is served varies greatly from country to country. Special desserts such as Christmas pudding, mince pies, fruit cake and Yule log cake are also prepared. Spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon are often added. The finished serving is often garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg. Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting exchanged between friends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. The exchanging of gifts such as gold, frankincense, and myrrh is one of the core aspects of Christmas celebration now a days.

Christmas Celebration

How Do We Celebrate Christmas Day?

The celebration include the 12 Days of Christmas which starts on Christmas Day and last until the evening of the 5th January. This is also known as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration. The days are celebrated as below:

Day 1 (25th December):

It is the Christmas Day celebrating the Birth of Jesus

Day 2 (26th December):

The day is celebrated on honor of St Stephen's Day. He was the first Christian martyr (someone who dies for their faith). It's also the day when the Christmas Carol 'Good King Wenceslas' takes place.  It is also known as Boxing Day.

Day 3 (27th December):

St John the Apostle (One of Jesus's Disciples and friends)

Day 4 (28th December):

The day is celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Innocents when people remember the baby boys which King Herod killed when he was trying to find and kill the Baby Jesus.

Day 5 (29th December):

The day is celebrated on honor of St Thomas Becket. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered on 29th December 1170 for challenging the King's authority over the Church.

Day 6 (30th December):

The day is celebrated on honor of St Egwin of Worcester.

Day 7 (31st December):

This is the New Year's Eve known as Hogmanay in Scotland. This day is traditionally celebrated to honor Pope Sylvester I. He was one of the earliest popes in the 4th Century. In many central and eastern European countries including Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czechia, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Slovakia, Switzerland and Sloveni, a New Year's Eve is still sometimes called 'Silvester'. New Year's Eve was a traditional day for 'games' and sporting competitions in the UK. During the middle ages it was the law that, Archery which was a very popular sport, had to be practiced by all men between ages 17-60 on Sunday after Church. This was done in purpose of getting ready lots of very good archers in case the king need to go to war.

Day 8 (1st January):

1st January is celebrated to honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Day 9 (2nd January):

The day is celebrated on honor of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two important 4th century Christians.

Day 10 (3rd January):

This day celebrates Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially 'named' in the Jewish Temple. It's celebrated by different churches on various dates.

Day 11 (4th January):

The day is celebrated on honor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the past it also celebrated the feast of Saint Simon Stylites who lives on a small platform on the top of a pillar for 37 years.

Day 12 (5th January):

The day is also known as Epiphany Eve. The day is celebrated on honor of St. John Neumann who was the first Bishop in American. He lived in the 19th century.

People hold large parties during Twelfth Night. Usually, the roles in society were reversed in these parties with the servants being served by the rich people. Dated back to medieval and Tudor times, Twelfth Night marked the end of 'winter' which had started on 31st October with All Hallows Eve (Halloween). At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten which is made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. In Roman celebrations of Saturnalia, a dried pea or bean was cooked in the cake. Whoever found it was the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule for night. The Lord of Misrule led the celebrations and was dressed like a King (or Queen).

During Twelfth Night it was traditional for different types of pipes to be played, especially bagpipes. Lots of games were played including ones with eggs. 

Twelfth Night is also known as Epiphany Eve. It's also traditional to take your Christmas decorations down following Twelfth Night.

What is the best drink for Christmas?

There are more than 260 Christmas drinks for all ages, including eggnog and hot chocolate, Christmas cocktails and mulled wine.

Which country has Christmas Day first?

New Zealand has the Christmas day first as they see the sun first on Christmas morning.

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