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Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of
Jesus Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it i ...

Jesus Christ
, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A
feast A banquet (; ) is a formal large meal or feast, where a number of people consume food together. Banquets are traditionally held to enhance the prestige of a host, or reinforce social bonds among joint contributors. Modern examples of these pur ...
central to the
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koi ...

Christian
liturgical year The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be obs ...

liturgical year
, it is preceded by the season of
Advent Advent is a season of the liturgical year The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, ...

Advent
or the
Nativity Fast In Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious ...
and initiates the season of
Christmastide Christmastide is a season of the liturgical year The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast ...

Christmastide
, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on
Twelfth Night ''Twelfth Night'', or ''What You Will'' is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–1602 as a Twelfth Night (holiday), Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season. The play ce ...
. Christmas Day is a
public holiday A public holiday, national holiday or legal holiday is a holiday A holiday is a day set aside by Norm (social), custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holid ...
in many countries, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as
culturally Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in ...
by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the
holiday season The Christmas season, also called the holiday season (often simply called the holidays), or the festive season, is an annually recurring period recognized in many Western and other countries that is generally considered to run from late November ...
organized around it. The traditional Christmas narrative recounted in the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
, known as the "Nativity of Jesus", says that Jesus was born in
Bethlehem Bethlehem (; ar, بيت لحم , "House of Meat"; he, בֵּית לֶחֶם ', , "House of Bread"; ; la, Bethleem; initially named after Canaanite fertility god Laḫmu) is a city in the central West Bank, State of Palestine, Palestine, a ...

Bethlehem
, in accordance with
messianic prophecies The New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Biblical canon#Christian canons, Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachi ...
. When
Joseph Joseph is a common masculine given name, derived from the Hebrew Yosef (יוֹסֵף). The form "Joseph" is used mostly in English, French and partially German-speaking (alongside "Josef") countries. This spelling is also found as a variant in th ...

Joseph
and
Mary Mary may refer to: People * Mary (name) Mary is a feminine Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Although femininity is socially constru ...
arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a
stable A stable is a building in which livestock Livestock are the domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and car ...
where the
Christ Child The Christ Child, also known as Divine Infant, Baby Jesus, Infant Jesus, Child Jesus, the Holy Child, and Santo Niño, refers to Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ from his Nativity of Jesus, nativity to age 12. The four canonical gospels, ac ...
was soon born, with
angels An angel is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such ...

angels
proclaiming this news to shepherds who then spread the word. Although the month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, the church in the early fourth century fixed the date as December 25. This corresponds to the date of the
winter solstice The winter solstice, also called the hibernal solstice, occurs when either of Earth's geographical pole, poles reaches its maximum axial tilt, tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern Hemisphere, Nort ...

winter solstice
on the Roman calendar. It is exactly nine months after
Annunciation The Annunciation (from Latin '), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the ...

Annunciation
on March 25, also the date of the spring equinox. Most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the
Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, speci ...
, which has been adopted almost universally in the
civil calendar The civil calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, specific day wi ...
s used in countries throughout the world. However, part of the
Eastern Christian Churches Eastern Christianity comprises Christian traditions and church families that originally developed during classical and late antiquity in Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part ...
celebrate Christmas on December 25 of the older
Julian calendar The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century B ...
, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. For Christians, believing that
God In monotheism, monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, creator, and principal object of Faith#Religious views, faith.Richard Swinburne, Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Ted Honderich, Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxfo ...
came into the world in the form of man to atone for the
sin In a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine, sanctified places, prophecy, prophecies, ...

sin
s of humanity, rather than knowing Jesus' exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas. The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and
secular Secularity, also the secular or secularness (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...
themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving; completing an
Advent calendar An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Since the date of the Advent Sunday, First Sunday of Advent varies, falling between November 27 and December 3 inclusive, many Advent calendars ...
or
Advent wreath The Advent wreath, or Advent crown, is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of in the of the . It is traditionally a practice, although it has spread to many other . It is an with four s, sometimes with a fif ...

Advent wreath
;
Christmas music Christmas music comprises a variety of genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European lang ...
and
caroling A carol is a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance or a popular character. The verb caroling (or "to carol") also refers to the singing of carols. Today the carol is represent ...
; viewing a
Nativity play A Nativity play or Christmas pageant is a Play (theatre), play which recounts the story of the Nativity of Jesus. It is usually performed at Christmas, the Calendar of saints, feast of the Nativity. Liturgical The term "Nativity Drama" is used ...
; an exchange of
Christmas card A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas Christmas (or the Feast of the Nativity) is an annual festival commemorating Nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on ...

Christmas card
s;
church service A church service (or simply a service) is a formalized period of Christian communal worship Worship is an act of usually directed towards a . For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a God. An act of wor ...
s; a special meal; and the display of various
Christmas decoration A Christmas decoration is any of several types of ornamentation used at Christmastime and the greater holiday season. The traditional colors of Christmas are pine A pine is any Pinophyta, conifer in the genus ''Pinus'' () of the family (b ...

Christmas decoration
s, including
Christmas tree A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist wh ...

Christmas tree
s,
Christmas lights Christmas lights (also known as fairy lights, festive lights or string lights) are lights often used for decoration in celebration of Christmas, often on display throughout the Christmas and holiday season, Christmas season including Advent and C ...

Christmas lights
,
nativity scene #REDIRECT Nativity scene#REDIRECT Nativity scene In the Christian tradition, a nativity scene (also known as a manger scene, crib, crèche (or ), or in Italian ''presepio'' or ''presepe'', or Bethlehem) is the special exhibition, particularly d ...

nativity scene
s,
garland A garland is a decorative braid, knot or wreath of flowers, leaves, or other material. Garlands can be worn on the head or around the neck, hung on an inanimate object, or laid in a place of cultural or religious importance. garlands on a Christma ...

garland
s,
wreath A wreath () is an assortment of s, , s, s, or various materials that is constructed to form a circle . In English-speaking countries, wreaths are used typically as household ornaments, most commonly as an . They are also used in ceremonial ev ...

wreath
s,
mistletoe Mistletoe is the common name for obligate{{wiktionary, obligate As an adjective, obligate means "by necessity" (antonym '' facultative'') and is used mainly in biology in phrases such as: * Obligate aerobe 300px, Aerobic and anaerobic bacte ...

mistletoe
, and
holly ''Ilex'' (), or holly, is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classificati ...

holly
. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as
Santa Claus Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch ...

Santa Claus
,
Father Christmas Father Christmas is the traditional English name for the personification Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of h ...
,
Saint Nicholas Saint Nicholas of Myra, ; la, Sanctus Nicolaus (traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christend ...

Saint Nicholas
, and
Christkind The Christkind (; ), sometimes also called ''Christkindl'', is the traditional Christmas gift-bringer in Austria, Switzerland, southern and western Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the eastern part of Belgium, Portu ...

Christkind
, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of
traditions A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of conscious ...
and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. Over the past few centuries, Christmas has had a steadily growing economic effect in many regions of the world.


Etymology

The English word "Christmas" is a shortened form of "
Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew/Aramaic ( AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, is the central figure of Christianity, the Major religious groups, world's largest ...

Christ
's
Mass Mass is the quantity Quantity is a property that can exist as a multitude or magnitude, which illustrate discontinuity and continuity. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less", or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value ...
". The word is recorded as ''Crīstesmæsse'' in 1038 and ''Cristes-messe'' in 1131. ''Crīst'' (
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
''Crīstes'') is from Greek ''Khrīstos'' (Χριστός), a translation of
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
''Māšîaḥ'' (מָשִׁיחַ), "
Messiah In Abrahamic religions, a messiah or messias (; , ; , ; ) is a salvation, saviour or liberator of a group of people. The concepts of ''Messiah in Judaism, mashiach'', Messianism#Judaism, messianism, and of a Messianic Age#Judaism, Messianic Ag ...
", meaning "anointed"; and ''mæsse'' is from Latin ''missa'', the celebration of the
Eucharist The Eucharist (; grc-gre, εὐχαριστία, eucharistía, thanksgiving) also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper, among other names, is a that is considered a in most churches, and as an in others. According to the , the r ...

Eucharist
. The form ''Christenmas'' was also used during some periods, but is now considered archaic and dialectal. The term derives from Middle English ''Cristenmasse'', meaning "Christian mass"."Christmas" in th
Middle English Dictionary.
''
Xmas '': "Give her a for Xmas" Xmas (also X-mas) is a common abbreviation An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from ...

Xmas
'' is an abbreviation of ''Christmas'' found particularly in print, based on the initial letter
chiThe initialism CHI may refer to: Health *Catholic Health Initiatives Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) is a national Catholic healthcare system, with headquarters in Englewood, Colorado. CHI is a nonprofit, faith-based health system formed, in 19 ...
(Χ) in Greek ''Khrīstos'' (Χριστός) ("Christ"), although numerous
style guides A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting and design of documents. It is often called a style sheet, although that term also has other meanings. The standards can be applied either for general use, or b ...
discourage its use. This abbreviation has precedent in Middle English ''Χρ̄es masse'' (where "Χρ̄" is an abbreviation for Χριστός).


Other names

In addition to "Christmas", the holiday has had various other English names throughout its history. The
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
s referred to the feast as "midwinter", or, more rarely, as ''Nātiuiteð'' (from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...
''nātīvitās'' below). " Nativity", meaning "birth", is from Latin ''nātīvitās''. In Old English, ''Gēola'' (''
Yule Yule (also called Jul, Julblot, jól, jólablót, joulu, "Yule time" or "Yule season") is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandin ...
'') referred to the period corresponding to December and January, which was eventually equated with Christian Christmas. "Noel" (or "Nowel") entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French ''noël'' or ''naël'', itself ultimately from the Latin ''nātālis (diēs)'' meaning "birth (day)".


Nativity

The gospels of Luke and Matthew describe Jesus as being born in
Bethlehem Bethlehem (; ar, بيت لحم , "House of Meat"; he, בֵּית לֶחֶם ', , "House of Bread"; ; la, Bethleem; initially named after Canaanite fertility god Laḫmu) is a city in the central West Bank, State of Palestine, Palestine, a ...

Bethlehem
to the
Virgin Mary According to the gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message, but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out; in this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrat ...

Virgin Mary
. In the book of Luke, Joseph and Mary traveled from
Nazareth Nazareth ( ; ar, النَّاصِرَة, ''an-Nāṣira''; he, נָצְרַת, ''Nāṣəraṯ''; arc, ܢܨܪܬ, ''Naṣrath'') is the largest Cities in Israel, city in the Northern District (Israel), Northern District of Israel. Nazareth i ...

Nazareth
to Bethlehem for the census, and Jesus was born there and placed in a manger. Angels proclaimed him a savior for all people, and shepherds came to adore him. The book of Matthew adds that the magi followed a
star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma Plasma or plasm may refer to: Science * Plasma (physics), one of the four fundamental states of matter * Plasma (mineral) or heliotrope, a mineral aggregate * Quark ...

star
to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, born the
king of the Jews This article is an overview of the kings of the Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy), United Kingdom of Israel as well as those of History of ancient Israel and Judah, its successor states and classical period kingdoms ruled by the Hasmonean dynas ...
. King Herod ordered the less than two years old in Bethlehem, but the family fled to Egypt and later returned to Nazareth.


History

The nativity sequences included in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke prompted early Christian writers to suggest various dates for the anniversary.Hijmans, S.E., ''Sol: The Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome,'' 2009, p. 584. Although no date is indicated in the gospels, early Christians connected Jesus to the Sun through the use of such phrases as "Sun of righteousness.". The Romans marked the winter solstice on December 25. The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome on December 25, AD 336. In the 3rd century, the date of the nativity was the subject of great interest. Around AD 200,
Clement of Alexandria Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria ( grc, Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς; – ), was a and philosopher who taught at the . Among his pupils were and . A convert to Christianity, he was an educated man who was ...
wrote: Various factors contributed to the selection of December 25 as a date of celebration: it was the date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar and it was nine months after March 25, the date of the vernal equinox and a date linked to the conception of Jesus (celebrated as the
Feast of the Annunciation The Feast of the Annunciation, contemporarily the Solemnity of the Annunciation, and also called Lady Day In the Western liturgical year The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consis ...
). Christmas played a role in the
Arian controversy The Arian controversy was a series of Christianity, Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theology, Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversie ...
of the fourth century. After this controversy ran its course, the prominence of the holiday declined for a few centuries. The feast regained prominence after 800 when
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
was crowned emperor on Christmas Day. In Puritan England, Christmas was banned due to being associated with drunkenness and other misbehaviour. It was restored as a legal holiday in England in 1660, but remained disreputable in the minds of many people. In the early 19th century, Christmas festivities and services became widespread with the rise of the
Oxford Movement The Oxford Movement was a movement of High Church The term ''high church'' refers to beliefs and practices of Christian ecclesiology In Christian theology Christian theology is the theology of Christianity, Christian belief and practi ...
in the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
that emphasized the centrality of Christmas in Christianity and charity to the poor, along with
Washington Irving Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American short-story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories " Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and " The Lege ...

Washington Irving
,
Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian e ...

Charles Dickens
, and other authors emphasizing family, children, kind-heartedness, gift-giving, and
Santa Claus Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch ...

Santa Claus
(for Irving), or
Father Christmas Father Christmas is the traditional English name for the personification Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of h ...
(for Dickens).


Introduction

Christmas does not appear on the lists of festivals given by the early Christian writers Irenaeus and Tertullian. Origen and Arnobius fault the pagans for celebrating birthdays, which suggests that Christmas was not celebrated in their time. Arnobius wrote after AD 297. The
Chronograph of 354 File:Chronography of 354 Mensis Iunius.png, 270px, Personification of June The ''Chronograph of 354'' (or "Chronography"), also known as the ''Calendar of 354'', is a compilation of chronological and calendrical texts produced in 354 AD for a weal ...
records that a Christmas celebration took place in Rome eight days before the
calendsThe calends or kalends ( la, kalendae) is the first day of every month in the Roman calendar. The English language, English word ''calendar'' is derived from this word. Use The Ancient Rome, Romans called the first day of every month the ''calends ...
of January. This section was written in AD 336, during the brief pontificate of
Pope Mark Pope Mark ( la, Marcus) was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, ...

Pope Mark
. In the East, the birth of Jesus was celebrated in connection with the
Epiphany Epiphany may refer to: * Epiphany (feeling), an experience of sudden and striking insight Religion * Epiphany (holiday), a Christian holiday celebrating the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ ** Epiphany season, or Epiphan ...
on January 6. This holiday was not primarily about the nativity, but rather the
baptism of Jesus The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist John the Baptist ''Yohanān HaMatbil''; la, Ioannes Baptista; grc-gre, Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής, ''Iōánnēs ho baptistḗs'' or , ''Iōánnēs ho baptízōn'', or , ''Iōánnēs ho pr ...

baptism of Jesus
. Christmas was promoted in the East as part of the revival of
Orthodox Christianity Orthodoxy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
that followed the death of the pro-
Arian Arianism is a Christological doctrine first attributed to Arius Arius (; grc-koi, Ἄρειος, ; 250 or 256–336) was a Cyrenaic The Cyrenaics or Kyrenaics ( grc, Κυρηναϊκοί; ''Kyrēnaïkoí'') were a sensual hedonist Greek ...
Emperor
Valens Flavius Valens (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ) ...

Valens
at the
Battle of Adrianople The Battle of Adrianople (9 August 378), sometimes known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis, was fought between an Eastern Roman Empire, Eastern Roman East Roman army, army led by the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens and Goths, Gothic rebels (largely T ...
in 378. The feast was introduced in
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
in 379, in
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
by
John Chrysostom John Chrysostom (; gr, Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος; 14 September 407) was an important Early Church Father The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential ...
towards the end of the fourth century, probably in 388, and in
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern Egypt but also in Sudan and Libya * Coptic language, a Northern Afro-Asia ...

Alexandria
in the following century.


Solstice date

December 25 was the date of the
winter solstice The winter solstice, also called the hibernal solstice, occurs when either of Earth's geographical pole, poles reaches its maximum axial tilt, tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern Hemisphere, Nort ...

winter solstice
in the Roman calendar.Bradt, Hale, ''Astronomy Methods'', (2004), p. 69.
Roll, p. 87.
Bruma
", ''Seasonal Festivals of the Greeks and Romans''
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
,
Natural History Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...

18:59
/ref> A late fourth-century sermon by
Saint Augustine In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being ...

Saint Augustine
explains why this was a fitting day to celebrate Christ's nativity: "Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase." Linking Jesus to the Sun was supported by various Biblical passages. Jesus was considered to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied by
Malachi Malachi, Malachias, Malache or Mal'achi (; ) was the traditional writer of the Book of Malachi, the last book of the Neviim (Prophets) section in the Tanakh, Hebrew Bible. According to the 1897 Easton's Bible Dictionary, it is possible that Ma ...

Malachi
: "Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings." Such solar symbolism could support more than one date of birth. An anonymous work known as ''De Pascha Computus'' (243) linked the idea that creation began at the spring equinox, on March 25, with the conception or birth (the word ''nascor'' can mean either) of Jesus on March 28, the day of the creation of the sun in the Genesis account. One translation reads: "O the splendid and divine providence of the Lord, that on that day, the very day, on which the sun was made, March 28, a Wednesday, Christ should be born". In the 17th century,
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

Isaac Newton
, who, coincidentally, was born on December 25, argued that the date of Christmas may have been selected to correspond with the solstice.Newton, Isaac,
Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John
'' (1733). Ch. XI. A sun connection is possible because Christians considered Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4:2: "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall."
Conversely, according to Steven Hijmans of the University of Alberta, "It is cosmic symbolism ... which inspired the Church leadership in Rome to elect the southern solstice, December 25, as the birthday of Christ, and the northern solstice as that of John the Baptist, supplemented by the equinoxes as their respective dates of conception."Hijmans, S.E.,
Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome
'' 2009, p. 595.


Calculation hypothesis

The calculation hypothesis suggests that an earlier holiday held on March 25 became associated with the Incarnation.Bradshaw, Paul F.

, ''The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy of Worship'', Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd., 2002.
Christmas was then calculated as nine months later. The calculation hypothesis was proposed by French writer
Louis Duchesne Louis Marie Olivier Duchesne (; 13 September 1843 – 21 April 1922) was a France, French priest, philology, philologist, teacher and a critical historian of Christianity and Roman Catholic liturgy and institutions. Life Descended from a family ...
in 1889.Roll, pp. 88–90.
Duchesne, Louis, ''Les Origines du Culte Chrétien,'' Paris, 1902, 262 ff.
In modern times, March 25 is celebrated as
Annunciation The Annunciation (from Latin '), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the ...

Annunciation
. This holiday was created in the seventh century and was assigned to a date that is nine months before Christmas, in addition to being the traditional date of the equinox. It is unrelated to the
Quartodeciman Quartodecimanism (from the Vulgate The Vulgate (; , ) is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sa ...
, which had been forgotten by this time. Forgotten by everyone except the Jews, of course, who continued to observe
Passover Passover, also called Pesach (; he, פֶּסַח '), is a major Jewish holiday Jewish holidays, also known as Jewish festivals or ''Yamim Tovim'' ( he, ימים טובים, , Good Days, or singular , in transliterated Translitera ...
; also a Quartodeciman feast. Early Christians celebrated the life of Jesus on a date considered equivalent to 14 Nisan (Passover) on the local calendar. Because Passover was held on the 14th of the month, this feast is referred to as the Quartodeciman. All the major events of Christ's life, especially the passion, were celebrated on this date. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions Passover, presumably celebrated according to the local calendar in Corinth. Tertullian (d. 220), who lived in Latin-speaking North Africa, gives the date of passion celebration as March 25. The date of the passion was moved to Good Friday in 165 when
Pope Soter Pope Soter ( la, Soterius) was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an , , or appointed member of the who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the , , , , , and churches, as well as the , bishops claim , a di ...

Pope Soter
created Easter by reassigning the Resurrection to a Sunday. According to the calculation hypothesis, the celebration of the Quartodeciman continued in some areas and the feast became associated with Incarnation. The calculation hypothesis is considered academically to be "a thoroughly viable hypothesis", though not certain. It was a traditional Jewish belief that great men were born and died on the same day, so lived a whole number of years, without fractions: Jesus was therefore considered to have been conceived on March 25, as he died on March 25, which was calculated to have coincided with 14 Nisan. A passage in ''Commentary on the Prophet Daniel'' (204) by
Hippolytus of Rome Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 – c. 235 AD) was one of the most important second-third century Christian theologians, whose provenance, identity and corpus remain elusive to scholars and historians. Suggested communities include Palestine, Egypt, A ...
identifies December 25 as the date of the nativity. This passage is generally considered a late interpellation. But the manuscript includes another passage, one that is more likely to be authentic, that gives the passion as March 25. In 221,
Sextus Julius Africanus :''For the first century orator, see Julius Africanus. For others with this name, see Africanus.'' Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 160 – c. 240; Greek: Σέξτος Ἰούλιος ὁ Ἀφρικανός or ὁ Λίβυς) was a Christian tra ...
(c. 160 – c. 240) gave March 25 as the day of creation and of the conception of Jesus in his universal history. This conclusion was based on solar symbolism, with March 25 the date of the equinox. As this implies a birth in December, it is sometimes claimed to be the earliest identification of December 25 as the nativity. However, Africanus was not such an influential writer that it is likely he determined the date of Christmas. The treatise ''De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis Domini nostri Iesu Christi et Iohannis Baptistae,'' pseudepigraphically attributed to
John Chrysostom John Chrysostom (; gr, Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος; 14 September 407) was an important Early Church Father The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential ...
and dating to the early fourth century, also argued that Jesus was conceived and crucified on the same day of the year and calculated this as March 25. This anonymous tract also states: "But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December ... the eight before the calends of January 5 Decembernbsp;..., But they call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord...? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice."


History of religions hypothesis

The rival "History of Religions" hypothesis suggests that the Church selected December 25 date to appropriate festivities held by the Romans in honor of the Sun god Sol Invictus. This cult was established by Aurelian in 274. An explicit expression of this theory appears in an annotation of uncertain date added to a manuscript of a work by 12th-century Syrian bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi. The scribe who added it wrote: In 1743, German Protestant Paul Ernst Jablonski argued Christmas was placed on December 25 to correspond with the Roman solar holiday ''Dies Natalis Solis Invicti'' and was therefore a "paganization" that debased the true church.Christmas
", ''Encarta''. 2009-10-31.
However, it has been also argued that, on the contrary, the Emperor Aurelian, who in 274 instituted the holiday of the ''Dies Natalis Solis Invicti'', did so partly as an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already important for Christians in Rome. Hermann Usener and others proposed that the Christians chose this day because it was the Roman feast celebrating the birthday of Sol Invictus. Modern scholar S. E. Hijmans, however, states that "While they were aware that pagans called this day the 'birthday' of Sol Invictus, this did not concern them and it did not play any role in their choice of date for Christmas." Moreover, Thomas J. Talley holds that the Roman Emperor Aurelian placed a festival of Sol Invictus on December 25 in order to compete with the growing rate of the Christian Church, which had already been celebrating Christmas on that date first. In the judgement of the Church of England Liturgical Commission, the History of Religions hypothesis has been challenged"Although this view is still very common, it has been seriously challenged" – Church of England Liturgical Commission, ''The Promise of His Glory: Services and Prayers for the Season from All Saints to Candlemas'' (Church House Publishing 1991 ) quoted i
"The Date of Christmas and Epiphany"
.
by a view based on an old tradition, according to which the date of Christmas was fixed at nine months after March 25, the date of the vernal equinox, on which the
Annunciation The Annunciation (from Latin '), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the ...

Annunciation
was celebrated.''Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church'' (Oxford University Press, 2005, ), article "Christmas". With regard to a December religious feast of the deified Sun (Sol), as distinct from a solstice feast of the birth (or rebirth) of the astronomical sun, Hijmans has commented that "while the winter solstice on or around December 25 was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas". "Thomas Talley has shown that, although the Emperor Aurelian's dedication of a temple to the sun god in the Campus Martius (C.E. 274) probably took place on the 'Birthday of the Invincible Sun' on December 25, the cult of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days, as one might expect."Michael Alan Anderson, ''Symbols of Saints: Theology, ritual, and kinship in music for John the Baptist and St. Anne (1175–1563)'' The University of Chicago, UMI / ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, Ann Arbor 2008, pp. 42–46, . The ''Oxford Companion to Christian Thought'' remarks on the uncertainty about the order of precedence between the religious celebrations of the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun and of the birthday of Jesus, stating that the hypothesis that December 25 was chosen for celebrating the birth of Jesus on the basis of the belief that his conception occurred on March 25 "potentially establishes 25 December as a Christian festival before Aurelian's decree, which, when promulgated, might have provided for the Christian feast both opportunity and challenge".


Relation to concurrent celebrations

Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus' birth, with some claiming that certain elements have origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated by pagan populations who were later Christianization, converted to Christianity. The prevailing atmosphere of Christmas has also continually evolved since the holiday's inception, ranging from a sometimes raucous, drunken, carnival-like state in the Middle Ages, to a tamer family-oriented and children-centered theme introduced in a 19th-century transformation. The celebration of Christmas was banned on more than one occasion within certain groups, such as the Puritans and Jehovah's Witnesses (who do not celebrate birthdays in general), due to concerns that it was too unbiblical. Prior to and through the Early Christianity, early Christian centuries, List of winter festivals, winter festivals were the most popular of the year in many European pagan cultures. Reasons included the fact that less agricultural work needed to be done during the winter, as well as an expectation of better weather as spring approached."Christmas – An Ancient Holiday"
, ''The History (U.S. TV channel), History Channel'', 2007.
Celtic nations, Celtic winter herbs such as
mistletoe Mistletoe is the common name for obligate{{wiktionary, obligate As an adjective, obligate means "by necessity" (antonym '' facultative'') and is used mainly in biology in phrases such as: * Obligate aerobe 300px, Aerobic and anaerobic bacte ...

mistletoe
and ivy, and the custom of kissing under a mistletoe, are common in modern Christmas celebrations in the English-speaking countries. The pre-Christian Germanic peoples—including the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse—celebrated a winter festival called
Yule Yule (also called Jul, Julblot, jól, jólablót, joulu, "Yule time" or "Yule season") is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandin ...
, held in the late December to early January period, yielding modern English ''yule'', today used as a synonym for ''Christmas''.Simek (2007:379). In Germanic language-speaking areas, numerous elements of modern Christmas folk custom and iconography may have originated from Yule, including the Yule log, Yule boar, and the Yule goat. Often leading a ghostly procession through the sky (the Wild Hunt), the long-bearded god Odin is referred to as "the Yule one" and "Yule father" in Old Norse texts, while other gods are referred to as "Yule beings".Simek (2010:180, 379–380). On the other hand, as there are no reliable existing references to a Christmas log prior to the 16th century, the burning of the Christmas block may have been an early modern invention by Christians unrelated to the pagan practice. In eastern Europe also, old pagan traditions were incorporated into Christmas celebrations, an example being the Koleda, which was incorporated into the Christmas carol.


Post-classical history

In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in western Christianity focused on the visit of the Biblical Magi, magi. But the medieval calendar was dominated by Christmas-related holidays. The forty days before Christmas became the "forty days of St. Martin" (which began on November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours), now known as Advent.Murray, Alexander
"Medieval Christmas"
, ''History Today'', December 1986, 36 (12), pp. 31 – 39.
In Italy, former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent. Around the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5); a time that appears in the liturgical calendars as Christmastide or Twelve Holy Days. The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066. By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. Richard II of England, King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which 28 oxen and 300 sheep were eaten. The Yule boar was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. Christmas carol, Caroling also became popular, and was originally performed by a group of dancers who sang. The group was composed of a lead singer and a ring of dancers that provided the chorus. Various writers of the time condemned caroling as lewd, indicating that the unruly traditions of Saturnalia and Yule may have continued in this form. "Lord of Misrule, Misrule"—drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling—was also an important aspect of the festival. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, and there was special Christmas ale. Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy,
holly ''Ilex'' (), or holly, is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classificati ...

holly
, and other evergreens. Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was usually between people with legal relationships, such as tenant and landlord.McGreevy, Patrick. "Place in the American Christmas,"
JSTOR
), ''Geographical Review'', Vol. 80, No. 1. January 1990, pp. 32–42. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
The annual indulgence in eating, dancing, singing, sporting, and card playing escalated in England, and by the 17th century the Christmas season featured lavish dinners, elaborate masques, and pageants. In 1607, James I of England, King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games. It was during the Protestant Reformation, Reformation in 16th–17th-century Europe that many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the
Christ Child The Christ Child, also known as Divine Infant, Baby Jesus, Infant Jesus, Child Jesus, the Holy Child, and Santo Niño, refers to Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ from his Nativity of Jesus, nativity to age 12. The four canonical gospels, ac ...
or ''Christkindl'', and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.Forbes, Bruce David, ''Christmas: a candid history'', University of California Press, 2007, , pp. 68–79.


Modern history

Associating it with drunkenness and other misbehaviour, the Puritans banned Christmas in England in the 17th century. It was restored as a legal holiday in 1660, but remained disreputable. In the early 19th century, the
Oxford Movement The Oxford Movement was a movement of High Church The term ''high church'' refers to beliefs and practices of Christian ecclesiology In Christian theology Christian theology is the theology of Christianity, Christian belief and practi ...
in the Anglican Church ushered in "the development of richer and more symbolic forms of worship, the building of neo-Gothic churches, and the revival and increasing centrality of the keeping of Christmas itself as a Christian festival" as well as "special charities for the poor" in addition to "special services and musical events".
Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian e ...

Charles Dickens
and other writers helped in this revival of the holiday by "changing consciousness of Christmas and the way in which it was celebrated" as they emphasized family, religion, gift-giving, and social reconciliation as opposed to the historic revelry common in some places.


17th and 18th centuries

Following the Protestant Reformation, many of the new denominations, including the Church of England, Anglican Church and History of Lutheranism, Lutheran Church, continued to celebrate Christmas. In 1629, the Anglican poet John Milton penned ''On the Morning of Christ's Nativity'', a poem that has since been read by many during Christmastide. Donald Heinz, a professor at California State University, states that Martin Luther "inaugurated a period in which Germany would produce a unique culture of Christmas, much copied in North America." Among the congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church, Christmas was celebrated as one of the principal evangelical feasts. However, in 17th century England, some groups such as the Puritans strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the "trappings of Papist, popery" or the "rags of The Beast (Bible), the Beast". In contrast, the established Church of England, Anglican Church "pressed for a more elaborate observance of feasts, penitential seasons, and saints' days. The calendar reform became a major point of tension between the Anglican party and the Puritan party." The Catholic Church also responded, promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. King Charles I of England directed his noblemen and gentry to return to their landed estates in midwinter to keep up their old-style Christmas generosity. Following the Roundhead, Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647. Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with
holly ''Ilex'' (), or holly, is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classificati ...

holly
and shouted Royalism, royalist slogans. The book, ''The Vindication of Christmas'' (London, 1652), argued against the Puritans, and makes note of Old English Christmas traditions, dinner, roast apples on the fire, card playing, dances with "plow-boys" and "maidservants", old Father Christmas and carol singing. The English Restoration, Restoration of Charles II of England, King Charles II in 1660 ended the ban, but many Calvinist clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration. As such, in Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland discouraged the observance of Christmas, and though James VI commanded its celebration in 1618, Church attendance, attendance at church was scant. The Parliament of Scotland officially abolished the observance of Christmas in 1640, claiming that the church had been "purged of all superstitious observation of days". It was not until 1958 that Christmas again became a Scottish public holiday. Following the Restoration of Charles II, ''Poor Robin's Almanack'' contained the lines: "Now thanks to God for Charles return, / Whose absence made old Christmas mourn. / For then we scarcely did it know, / Whether it Christmas were or no." The diary of James Woodforde, from the latter half of the 18th century, details the observance of Christmas and celebrations associated with the season over a number of years. In Colonial America, the Pilgrim Fathers, Pilgrims of New England shared the Puritanical disapproval of Christmas. The Plymouth Pilgrims put their loathing for the day into practice in 1620 when they spent their first Christmas Day in the New World working – thus demonstrating their complete contempt for the day. Non-Puritans in New England deplored the loss of the holidays enjoyed by the laboring classes in England. Christmas observance was outlawed in Boston in 1659. The ban by the Puritans was revoked in 1681 by English governor Edmund Andros, however it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region. At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York (state), New York observed the holiday freely. Pennsylvania German Settlers, pre-eminently the Moravian Church, Moravian settlers of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Nazareth and Lititz in Pennsylvania and the Wachovia, North Carolina, Wachovia Settlements in North Carolina, were enthusiastic celebrators of Christmas. The Moravians in Bethlehem had the first Christmas trees in America as well as the first Nativity Scenes. Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom. George Washington attacked Hessian (soldiers), Hessian (German) mercenaries on the day after Christmas during the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, Christmas being much more popular in Germany than in America at this time. With the atheistic Cult of Reason in power during the era of Revolutionary France, Christian Christmas church service, religious services were banned and the three kings cake was renamed the "equality cake" under Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution, anticlerical government policies.


19th century

In the UK, Christmas Day became a bank holiday in 1834. Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, was added in 1871. In the early-19th century, writers imagined Tudor period, Tudor Christmas as a time of heartfelt celebration. In 1843,
Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian e ...

Charles Dickens
wrote the novel ''A Christmas Carol'', which helped revive the "spirit" of Christmas and seasonal merriment. Its instant popularity played a major role in portraying Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion.Rowell, Geoffrey, "Dickens and the Construction of Christmas", ''History Today'', Volume: 43 Issue: 12, December 1993, pp. 17–24. Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, linking "worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation." Superimposing his humanitarian vision of the holiday, in what has been termed "Carol Philosophy", Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today in Western culture, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit. A prominent phrase from the tale, Christmas and holiday season#History of the phrase, "Merry Christmas", was popularized following the appearance of the story. This coincided with the appearance of the
Oxford Movement The Oxford Movement was a movement of High Church The term ''high church'' refers to beliefs and practices of Christian ecclesiology In Christian theology Christian theology is the theology of Christianity, Christian belief and practi ...
and the growth of Anglo-Catholicism, which led a revival in traditional rituals and religious observances. The term Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge became a synonym for miser, with Humbug, "Bah! Humbug!" dismissive of the festive spirit. In 1843, the first commercial Christmas card#History, Christmas card was produced by Sir Henry Cole. The revival of the Christmas Carol began with William Sandys (antiquarian), William Sandys's "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern" (1833), with the first appearance in print of "The First Noel", "I Saw Three Ships", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", popularized in Dickens' ''A Christmas Carol''. In Britain, the Christmas tree#18th and 19th centuries, Christmas tree was introduced in the early 19th century by the German-born Queen Charlotte. In 1832, the future Queen Victoria wrote about her delight at having a Christmas tree, hung with Christmas lights (holiday decoration), lights, Christmas ornaments, ornaments, and presents placed round it. After her marriage to her German cousin Albert, Prince Consort, Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became more widespread throughout Britain.Lejeune, ''Marie Claire''. ''Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe'', p.550. University of Michigan . An image of the British royal family with their Christmas tree at Windsor Castle created a sensation when it was published in the ''Illustrated London News'' in 1848. A modified version of this image was published in ''Godey's Lady's Book'', Philadelphia in 1850.Shoemaker, Alfred Lewis. (1959) ''Christmas in Pennsylvania: a folk-cultural study.'' Edition 40. pp. 52, 53. Stackpole Books 1999. . By the 1870s, putting up a Christmas tree had become common in America. In America, interest in Christmas had been revived in the 1820s by several short stories by
Washington Irving Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American short-story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories " Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and " The Lege ...

Washington Irving
which appear in his ''The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.'' and "Old Christmas". Irving's stories depicted harmonious warm-hearted English Christmas festivities he experienced while staying in Aston Hall, Birmingham, England, that had largely been abandoned, and he used the tract ''Vindication of Christmas'' (1652) of Old English Christmas traditions, that he had transcribed into his journal as a format for his stories. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem ''A Visit From St. Nicholas'' (popularly known by its first line: ''Twas the Night Before Christmas''). The poem helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. This also started the cultural conflict between the holiday's spiritual significance and its associated commercialism that some see as corrupting the holiday. In her 1850 book ''The First Christmas in New England'', Harriet Beecher Stowe includes a character who complains that the true meaning of Christmas was lost in a shopping spree. While the celebration of Christmas was not yet customary in some regions in the U.S., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow detected "a transition state about Christmas here in New England" in 1856. "The old puritan feeling prevents it from being a cheerful, hearty holiday; though every year makes it more so."Restad, Penne L. (1995), ''Christmas in America: a History'', Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 96. . In Reading, Pennsylvania, a newspaper remarked in 1861, "Even our presbyterian friends who have hitherto steadfastly ignored Christmas—threw open their church doors and assembled in force to celebrate the anniversary of the Savior's birth." The First Congregational Church of Rockford, Illinois, "although of genuine Puritan stock", was 'preparing for a grand Christmas jubilee', a news correspondent reported in 1864. By 1860, fourteen states including several from New England had adopted Christmas as a legal holiday. In 1875, Louis Prang introduced the Christmas card#History, Christmas card to Americans. He has been called the "father of the American Christmas card".Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 148 . On June 28, 1870, Christmas was formally declared a Federal holidays in the United States, United States federal holiday.


20th century

During the World War I, First World War and particularly (but not exclusively) in 1914, a series of Christmas truce, informal truces took place for Christmas between opposing armies. The truces, which were organised spontaneously by fighting men, ranged from promises not to shoot shouted at a distance in order to ease the pressure of war for the day to friendly socializing, gift giving and even sport between enemies. These incidents became a well known and semi-mythologised part of popular memory. They have been described as a symbol of common humanity even in the darkest of situations and used to demonstrate to children the ideals of Christmas. Up to the 1950s in the UK, many Christmas customs were restricted to the upper classes and better-off families. The mass of the population had not adopted many of the Christmas rituals that later became general. The
Christmas tree A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist wh ...

Christmas tree
was rare. Christmas dinner might be beef or goose – certainly not turkey. In their stockings children might get an apple, orange, and sweets. Full celebration of a family Christmas with all the trimmings only became widespread with increased prosperity from the 1950s. National papers were published on Christmas Day until 1912. Post was still delivered on Christmas Day until 1961. League football matches continued in Scotland until the 1970s while in England they ceased at the end of the 1950s. Under the state atheism of the Soviet Union, after its foundation in 1917, Christmas celebrations—along with other Christian holidays—were prohibited in public. During the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, the League of Militant Atheists encouraged school pupils to campaign against Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, as well as other Christian holidays, including Easter; the League established an antireligious holiday to be the 31st of each month as a replacement. At the height of this persecution, in 1929, on Christmas Day, children in Moscow were encouraged to spit on crucifixes as a protest against the holiday. It was not until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union, persecution ended and Orthodox Christmas became a state holiday again for the first time in Russia after seven decades. European History Professor Joseph Perry wrote that likewise, in Nazi Germany, "because Nazi ideologues saw organized religion as an enemy of the totalitarian state, propagandists sought to deemphasize—or eliminate altogether—the Christian aspects of the holiday" and that "Propagandists tirelessly promoted numerous Nazified Christmas songs, which replaced Christian themes with the regime's racial ideologies." As Christmas celebrations began to be held around the world even outside traditional Christian cultures in the 20th century, some Muslim-majority countries subsequently banned the practice of Christmas, claiming it undermines Islam.


Observance and traditions

Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and
public holiday A public holiday, national holiday or legal holiday is a holiday A holiday is a day set aside by Norm (social), custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holid ...
in countries around the world, including many whose populations are mostly non-Christian. In some non-Christian areas, periods of former colonial rule introduced the celebration (e.g. Hong Kong); in others, Christian minorities or foreign cultural influences have led populations to observe the holiday. Countries such as Japan, where Christmas is popular despite there being only a small number of Christians, have adopted many of the secular aspects of Christmas, such as gift-giving, decorations, and Christmas trees. Among Christian state, countries with a strong Christian tradition, a variety of Christmas celebrations have developed that incorporate regional and local cultures.


Church attendance

Christmas Day (inclusive of its Vigil#Eves of religious celebrations, vigil, Christmas Eve), is a Liturgical calendar (Lutheran)#Festivals, Festival in the Lutheran Churches, a holy day of obligation in the Roman Catholic Church, and a Principal Feast of the Anglican Communion. Other Christian denominations do not rank their feast days but nevertheless place importance on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, as with other Christian feasts like Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost. As such, for Christians, attending a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
church service A church service (or simply a service) is a formalized period of Christian communal worship Worship is an act of usually directed towards a . For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a God. An act of wor ...
plays an important part in the recognition of the Christmastide, Christmas season. Christmas, along with Easter, is the period of highest annual church attendance. A 2010 survey by LifeWay Christian Resources found that six in ten Americans attend church services during this time. In the United Kingdom, the Church of England reported an estimated attendance of people at Christmas services in 2015.


Decorations

Nativity scenes are known from 10th-century Rome. They were popularised by Saint Francis of Assisi from 1223, quickly spreading across Europe.Collins, Ace, ''Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas'', Zondervan, (2003), p.47. Different types of decorations developed across the Christian world, dependent on local tradition and available resources, and can vary from simple representations of the crib to far more elaborate sets – renowned manger scene traditions include the colourful ''Kraków szopka'' in Poland, which imitate Kraków's historical buildings as settings, the elaborate Italian ''presepi'' (:it:Presepe napoletano, Neapolitan, :it:Presepe genovese, Genoese and :it:Presepe bolognese, Bolognese), or the Provence, Provençal crèches in Le Midi, southern France, using hand-painted terracotta figurines called ''santon (figurine), santons''. In certain parts of the world, notably Sicily, living nativity scenes following the tradition of Saint Francis are a popular alternative to static crèches. The first commercially produced decorations appeared in Germany in the 1860s, inspired by paper chains made by children.Collins p. 83. In countries where a representation of the Nativity scene is very popular, people are encouraged to compete and create the most original or realistic ones. Within some families, the pieces used to make the representation are considered a valuable family heirloom. The traditional colors of Christmas decorations are red, green, and gold (color), gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion; 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. The Christmas tree was first used by German Lutherans in the 16th century, with records indicating that a Christmas tree was placed in the Cathedral of Strassburg in 1539, under the leadership of the Protestant Reformers, Protestant Reformer, Martin Bucer. In the United States, these "German Lutherans brought the decorated Christmas tree with them; the Moravian Church, Moravians put lighted candles on those trees." When Christmas decorations, decorating the Christmas tree, many individuals place a star at the top of the tree symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem, a fact recorded by ''The School Journal'' in 1897. Professor David Albert Jones of Oxford University writes that in the 19th century, it became popular for people to also use an angel to top the Christmas tree in order to symbolize the angels mentioned in the accounts of the Nativity of Jesus. 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; according to eighth-century biographer Æddi Stephanus, Saint Boniface (634–709), who was a missionary in Germany, took an ax to an oak tree dedicated to Thor and pointed out a fir tree, which he stated was a more fitting object of reverence because it pointed to Heaven (Christianity), heaven and it had a triangular shape, which he said was symbolic of the Trinity. The English language phrase "Christmas tree" is first recorded in 1835Harper, Douglas
Christ
, ''Online Etymology Dictionary'', 2001.
and represents an importation from the German language.van Renterghem, Tony. ''When Santa was a shaman.'' St. Paul: Llewellyn Worldwide, Llewellyn Publications, 1995. . Since the 16th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas carrying the Christian symbolism of the Star of Bethlehem; in that country it is known in Spanish as the ''Flower of the Holy Night''. Other popular holiday plants include holly,
mistletoe Mistletoe is the common name for obligate{{wiktionary, obligate As an adjective, obligate means "by necessity" (antonym '' facultative'') and is used mainly in biology in phrases such as: * Obligate aerobe 300px, Aerobic and anaerobic bacte ...

mistletoe
, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Other traditional decorations include Bell (instrument), bells, candles, candy canes, Christmas stocking, stockings,
wreath A wreath () is an assortment of s, , s, s, or various materials that is constructed to form a circle . In English-speaking countries, wreaths are used typically as household ornaments, most commonly as an . They are also used in ceremonial ev ...

wreath
s, and
angels An angel is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such ...

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. It is common in many parts of the world for town squares and consumer shopping areas to sponsor and display decorations. Rolls of brightly colored paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts. In some countries, Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on
Twelfth Night ''Twelfth Night'', or ''What You Will'' is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–1602 as a Twelfth Night (holiday), Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season. The play ce ...
.


Nativity play

For the Christian celebration of Christmas, the viewing of the
Nativity play A Nativity play or Christmas pageant is a Play (theatre), play which recounts the story of the Nativity of Jesus. It is usually performed at Christmas, the Calendar of saints, feast of the Nativity. Liturgical The term "Nativity Drama" is used ...
is one of the oldest Christmastime traditions, with the first reenactment of the Nativity of Jesus taking place in A.D. 1223. In that year, Francis of Assisi assembled a Nativity scene outside of his church in Italy and children sung Christmas carols celebrating the birth of Jesus. Each year, this grew larger and people travelled from afar to see Francis' depiction of the Nativity of Jesus that came to feature drama and music. Nativity plays eventually spread throughout all of Europe, where they remain popular. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church services often came to feature Nativity plays, as did schools and theatres. In France, Germany, Mexico and Spain, Nativity plays are often reenacted outdoors in the streets.


Music and carols

The earliest extant specifically Christmas hymns appear in fourth-century Rome. Latin hymns such as "Veni redemptor gentium", written by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, were austere statements of the theological doctrine of the Incarnation in opposition to Arianism. "Corde natus ex Parentis" ("Of the Father's love begotten") by the Spanish poet Prudentius (d. 413) is still sung in some churches today. In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Christmas "Sequence" or "Prose" was introduced in North European monasteries, developing under Bernard of Clairvaux into a sequence of rhymed stanzas. In the 12th century the Parisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol. Christmas carols in English appear in a 1426 work of John Audelay, John Awdlay who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailing, wassailers', who went from house to house. The songs now known specifically as carols were originally communal folk songs sung during celebrations such as "harvest tide" as well as Christmas. It was only later that carols began to be sung in church. Traditionally, carols have often been based on medieval chord patterns, and it is this that gives them their uniquely characteristic musical sound. Some carols like "Personent hodie", "Good King Wenceslas", and "In dulci jubilo" can be traced directly back to the Middle Ages. They are among the oldest musical compositions still regularly sung. "Adeste Fideles" (O Come all ye faithful) appears in its current form in the mid-18th century. The singing of carols initially suffered a decline in popularity after the Protestant Reformation in northern Europe, although some Reformers, like Martin Luther, wrote carols and encouraged their use in worship. Carols largely survived in rural communities until the revival of interest in popular songs in the 19th century. The 18th-century English reformer Charles Wesley understood the importance of music to worship. In addition to setting many psalms to melodies, he wrote texts for at least three Christmas carols. The best known was originally entitled "Hark! How All the Welkin Rings", later renamed "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing". Completely secular Christmas seasonal songs emerged in the late 18th century. The Welsh melody for "Deck the Halls" dates from 1794, with the lyrics added by Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant (lyricist), Thomas Oliphant in 1862, and the American "Jingle Bells" was copyrighted in 1857. Other popular carols include "The First Noel", "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen", "The Holly and the Ivy", "I Saw Three Ships", "In the Bleak Midwinter", "Joy to the World", "Once in Royal David's City" and "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks". In the 19th and 20th centuries, African American spirituals and songs about Christmas, based in their tradition of spirituals, became more widely known. An increasing number of seasonal holiday songs were commercially produced in the 20th century, including jazz and blues variations. In addition, there was a revival of interest in early music, from groups singing folk music, such as The Revels, to performers of early medieval and classical music. One of the most ubiquitous festive songs is "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", which originates from the West Country of England in the 1930s. Radio has covered Christmas music from variety shows from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as modern-day stations that exclusively play Christmas music from late November through December 25. Hollywood movies have featured new Christmas music, such as "White Christmas (song), White Christmas" in ''Holiday Inn (film), Holiday Inn'' and ''Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV special), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer''. Traditional carols have also been included in Hollywood films, such as "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" in ''It's a Wonderful Life'' (1946), and "Silent Night" in ''A Christmas Story''.


Traditional cuisine

A special Christmas dinner, 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. Some regions have special meals for Christmas Eve, such as Sicily, where 12 kinds of fish are served. In the United Kingdom and countries influenced by its traditions, a standard Christmas meal includes turkey, goose or other large bird, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, sometimes bread and cider. Special desserts are also prepared, such as Christmas pudding, mince pies, Christmas cake, Panettone and Yule log (cake), Yule log cake. Traditional Christmas meal in Central Europe is fried carp or other fish.


Cards

Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting exchanged between friends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", much like that of the first commercial Christmas card#History, Christmas card, produced by Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843. The custom of sending them has become popular among a wide cross-section of people with the emergence of the modern trend towards exchanging E-cards. Christmas cards are purchased in considerable quantities and feature artwork, commercially designed and relevant to the season. The content of the design might relate directly to the Nativity of Jesus, Christmas narrative, with Nativity of Jesus in art, depictions of the Nativity of Jesus, or Christian symbols such as the Star of Bethlehem, or a white dove, which can represent both the Holy Spirit and Peace on Earth. Other Christmas cards are more secular and can depict Christmas traditions, mythical figures such as
Santa Claus Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch ...

Santa Claus
, objects directly associated with Christmas such as candles, holly, and baubles, or a variety of images associated with the season, such as Christmastide activities, snow scenes, and the wildlife of the northern winter. Some prefer cards with a poem, prayer, or Bible verse, Biblical verse; while others distance themselves from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".


Commemorative stamps

A number of nations have issued commemorative stamps at Christmastide. Postal customers will often use these stamps to mail
Christmas card A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas Christmas (or the Feast of the Nativity) is an annual festival commemorating Nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on ...

Christmas card
s, and they are popular with philately, philatelists. These stamps are regular postage stamps, unlike Christmas seals, and are valid for postage year-round. They usually go on sale sometime between early October and early December and are printed in considerable quantities.


Gift giving

The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making it the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the world. On Christmas, people exchange gifts based on the Christian tradition associated with
Saint Nicholas Saint Nicholas of Myra, ; la, Sanctus Nicolaus (traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christend ...

Saint Nicholas
, and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which were given to the baby Jesus by the Biblical Magi, Magi. The practice of gift giving in the Ancient Rome, Roman celebration of Saturnalia may have influenced Christian customs, but on the other hand the Christian "core dogma of the Incarnation (Christianity), Incarnation, however, solidly established the giving and receiving of gifts as the structural principle of that recurrent yet unique event", because it was the Biblical Magi, "together with all their fellow men, who received the gift of God through man's renewed participation in the divine life."


Gift-bearing figures

A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are
Father Christmas Father Christmas is the traditional English name for the personification Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of h ...
, also known as
Santa Claus Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch ...

Santa Claus
(derived from the Dutch language, Dutch for Saint Nicholas), Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann;
Saint Nicholas Saint Nicholas of Myra, ; la, Sanctus Nicolaus (traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christend ...

Saint Nicholas
or Sinterklaas; the
Christkind The Christkind (; ), sometimes also called ''Christkindl'', is the traditional Christmas gift-bringer in Austria, Switzerland, southern and western Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the eastern part of Belgium, Portu ...

Christkind
; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Nisse (folklore), tomte/nisse; Babbo Natale; Basil of Caesarea, Saint Basil; and Ded Moroz. The Scandinavian tomte (also called nisse) is sometimes depicted as a gnome instead of Santa Claus. The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch ''Sinterklaas'', which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a 4th-century Greeks in Turkey#History, Greek bishop of Myra, a city in the Roman province of Lycia, whose ruins are from modern Demre in southwest Turkey. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast day, December 6, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop's attire, accompanied by helpers, inquiring about the behaviour of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century, Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the Protestant Reformation, Reformation in 16th–17th-century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or ''Christkindl'', corrupted in English to Kris Kringle, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve. The modern popular image of Santa Claus, however, was created in the United States, and in particular in New York. The transformation was accomplished with the aid of notable contributors including
Washington Irving Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American short-story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories " Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and " The Lege ...

Washington Irving
and the German Americans, German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902). Following the American Revolutionary War, some of the inhabitants of New York City sought out symbols of the city's non-English past. New York had originally been established as the Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam and the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition was reinvented as Saint Nicholas. Current tradition in several Latin American countries (such as Venezuela and Colombia) holds that while Santa makes the toys, he then gives them to the Baby Jesus, who is the one who actually delivers them to the children's homes, a reconciliation between traditional Religion, religious beliefs and the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States. In South Tyrol (Italy), Austria, Czech Republic, Southern Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, and Switzerland, the
Christkind The Christkind (; ), sometimes also called ''Christkindl'', is the traditional Christmas gift-bringer in Austria, Switzerland, southern and western Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the eastern part of Belgium, Portu ...

Christkind
(Ježíšek in Czech, Jézuska in Hungarian and Ježiško in Slovak) brings the presents. Greek children get their presents from Saint Basil on New Year's Eve, the eve of that saint's liturgical feast. The German St. Nikolaus is not identical with the Weihnachtsmann (who is the German version of Santa Claus / Father Christmas). St. Nikolaus wears a bishop's dress and still brings small gifts (usually candies, nuts, and fruits) on December 6 and is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht. Although many parents around the world routinely teach their children about Santa Claus and other gift bringers, some have come to reject this practice, considering it deceptive. Multiple gift-giver figures exist in Poland, varying between regions and individual families. St Nicholas (''Święty Mikołaj'') dominates Central and North-East areas, the Starman (''Gwiazdor'') is most common in Greater Poland, Baby Jesus (''Dzieciątko'') is unique to Upper Silesia, with the Little Star (''Gwiazdka'') and the Little Angel (''Aniołek'') being common in the South and the South-East. Grandfather Frost (''Dziadek Mróz'') is less commonly accepted in some areas of Eastern Poland. It is worth noting that across all of Poland, St Nicholas is the gift giver on the Saint Nicholas Day on December 6.


Date according to Julian calendar

Some jurisdictions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, including those of Russian Orthodox Church, Russia, Georgian Orthodox Church, Georgia, History of Christianity in Ukraine#Eastern Orthodox, Ukraine, Macedonian Orthodox Church, Macedonia, Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Montenegro, Serbian Orthodox Church, Serbia, and Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, mark feasts using the older
Julian calendar The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century B ...
. As of , there is a difference of 13 days between the Julian calendar and the modern
Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, speci ...
, which is used internationally for most secular purposes. As a result, December 25 on the Julian calendar currently corresponds to January 7 on the calendar used by most governments and people in everyday life. Therefore, the aforementioned Orthodox Christians mark December 25 (and thus Christmas) on the day that is internationally considered to be January 7. However, other Orthodox Christians, such as those belonging to the jurisdictions of Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Constantinople, Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Bulgaria, Church of Greece, Greece, Romanian Orthodox Church, Romania, Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, Antioch, Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Alexandria, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, Albania, Church of Cyprus, Cyprus, Finnish Orthodox Church, Finland, and the Orthodox Church in America, among others, began using the Revised Julian calendar in the early 20th century, which at present corresponds exactly to the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, these Orthodox Christians mark December 25 (and thus Christmas) on the same day that is internationally considered to be December 25. A further complication is added by the fact that the Armenian Apostolic Church continues the original ancient Eastern Christianity, Eastern Christian practice of celebrating the birth of Christ not as a separate holiday, but on the same day as the celebration of his baptism (Epiphany (holiday)#Oriental Orthodox, Theophany), which is on January 6. This is a public holiday in Armenia, and it is held on the same day that is internationally considered to be January 6, because the Armenian Church in Armenia uses the Gregorian calendar. However, there is also a small Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which maintains the traditional Armenian custom of celebrating the birth of Christ on the same day as Theophany (January 6), but uses the ''Julian'' calendar for the determination of that date. As a result, this church celebrates "Christmas" (more properly called Theophany) on the day that is considered January 19 on the Gregorian calendar in use by the majority of the world. In summary, there are four different dates used by different Christian groups to mark the birth of Christ, given in the table below.


Listing


Economy

Christmas is typically a peak selling season for retailers in many nations around the world. Sales increase dramatically as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies to celebrate. In the United States, the "Christmas shopping season" starts as early as October. In Canada, merchants begin advertising campaigns just before Halloween (October 31), and step up their marketing following Remembrance Day on November 11. In the UK and Ireland, the Christmas shopping season starts from mid-November, around the time when high street
Christmas lights Christmas lights (also known as fairy lights, festive lights or string lights) are lights often used for decoration in celebration of Christmas, often on display throughout the Christmas and holiday season, Christmas season including Advent and C ...

Christmas lights
are turned on.Kollewe, Julia, (November 29, 2010)
"West End spree worth £250m marks start of Christmas shopping season"
, ''The Guardian''.
In the United States, it has been calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season. Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that expenditure in department stores nationwide rose from $20.8 billion in November 2004 to $31.9 billion in December 2004, an increase of 54 percent. In other sectors, the pre-Christmas increase in spending was even greater, there being a November–December buying surge of 100 percent in bookstores and 170 percent in jewelry stores. In the same year employment in American retail stores rose from 1.6 million to 1.8 million in the two months leading up to Christmas. Industries completely dependent on Christmas include
Christmas card A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas Christmas (or the Feast of the Nativity) is an annual festival commemorating Nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on ...

Christmas card
s, of which 1.9 billion are sent in the United States each year, and live Christmas Trees, of which 20.8 million were cut in the U.S. in 2002. For 2019, the average US adult was projected to spend $920 on gifts alone. In the UK in 2010, up to £8 billion was expected to be spent online at Christmas, approximately a quarter of total retail festive sales. In most Western nations, Christmas Day is the least active day of the year for business and commerce; almost all retail, commercial and institutional businesses are closed, and almost all industries cease activity (more than any other day of the year), whether laws require such or not. In England and Wales, the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 prevents all large shops from trading on Christmas Day. Similar legislation was approved in Scotland with the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007. Film studios release many high-budget movies during the holiday season, including Christmas films, fantasy movies or high-tone dramas with high production values to hopes of maximizing the chance of nominations for the Academy Awards. One economist's analysis calculates that, despite increased overall spending, Christmas is a deadweight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory, because of the effect of gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in 2001, Christmas resulted in a $4 billion deadweight loss in the U.S. alone."The Deadweight Loss of Christmas", ''American Economic Review'', December 1993, 83 (5)."Is Santa a deadweight loss?"
''The Economist'' December 20, 2001.
Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current microeconomic theory. Other deadweight losses include the effects of Christmas on the environment and the fact that material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter.


Controversies

Christmas has at times been the subject of controversy and attacks from various sources. Historically it was prohibited by Puritans when they briefly held power in England (1647–1660), and in Colonial America where the Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas in 1659.Christmas in the Colonies
''Time''. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
The Parliament of Scotland, which was dominated by Presbyterians, passed a series of acts outlawing the observance of Christmas between 1637 and 1690; Christmas Day did not become Christmas in Scotland, a public holiday in Scotland until 1958. Christmas celebrations have also been prohibited by State atheism, atheist states such as the Soviet Union and more recently majority Muslim states such as Somalia, Tajikistan and Brunei. Some Christians and organizations such as Pat Robertson's American Center for Law & Justice, American Center for Law and Justice cite alleged attacks on Christmas (dubbing them a "war on Christmas"). Such groups claim that any specific mention of the term "Christmas" or its religious aspects is being increasingly censorship, censored, avoided, or discouraged by a number of advertisers, retailers, government (prominently schools), and other public and private organizations. One controversy is the occurrence of Christmas trees being renamed Holiday trees.Christmas controversy article
– Muslim Canadian Congress.
In the U.S. there has been a tendency to replace the greeting ''Merry Christmas'' with ''Happy Holidays'', which is considered inclusive at the time of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Humanlight. In the U.S. and Canada, where the use of the term "Holidays" is most prevalent, opponents have denounced its usage and avoidance of using the term "Christmas" as being political correctness, politically correct. In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in ''Lynch v. Donnelly'' that a Christmas display (which included a Nativity scene) owned and displayed by the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, did not violate the First Amendment. American Muslim scholar Abdul Malik Mujahid has said that Muslims must treat Christmas with respect, even if they disagree with it. The government of the People's Republic of China officially espouses state atheism, and has conducted Antireligious campaigns in China, antireligious campaigns to this end. In December 2018, officials raided Christian churches just prior to Christmastide and coerced them to close; Christmas trees and Santa Clauses were also forcibly removed.


See also

* * * * List of Christmas films * * * * * * *


Notes


References


Further reading

* Bowler, Gerry, ''The World Encyclopedia of Christmas'' (October 2004: McClelland & Stewart). * Bowler, Gerry, ''Santa Claus: A Biography'' (November 2007: McClelland & Stewart). * Comfort, David, ''Just Say Noel: A History of Christmas from the Nativity to the Nineties'' (November 1995: Fireside). * Count, Earl W., ''4000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages'' (November 1997: Ulysses Press). * Federer, William J.,
There Really Is a Santa Claus: The History of St. Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions
' (December 2002: Amerisearch). * Kelly, Joseph F.,
The Origins of Christmas
' (August 2004: Liturgical Press). * Miles, Clement A.,
Christmas Customs and Traditions
' (1976: Dover Publications). * Nissenbaum, Stephen, ''The Battle for Christmas'' (1996; New York: Vintage Books, 1997). * * Rosenthal, Jim, ''St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas'' (July 2006: Nelson Reference). * *


External links

*
Christmas: Its Origin and Associations
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