Holiday originating in Christianity, usually December 25

  • December 25 (Western Christianity and part of the Eastern churches)
  • January 6 (Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Evangelical Church)
  • January 7 (O.S. December 25) (most Oriental Orthodox and part of the Eastern Orthodox churches)
  • January 19 (O.S. January 6) (Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Related toChristmastide, Christmas Eve, Advent, Annunciation, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, Nativity Fast, Nativity of Christ, Old Christmas, Yule, St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25[a] as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.[2][3][4] A feast central to the liturgical year in Christianity, it follows the season of Advent (which begins four Sundays before) or the Nativity Fast, and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night.[5] Christmas Day is a public holiday in many countries,[6][7][8] is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians,[9] as well as culturally by many non-Christians,[1][10] and forms an integral part of the holiday season surrounding it.

The traditional Christmas narrative recounted in the New Testament, known as the Nativity of Jesus, says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies.[11] When Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room, and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds, who then spread the word.[12]

There are different hypotheses regarding the date of Jesus's birth, and in the early fourth century, the church fixed the date as December 25.[b][13][14][15] This corresponds to the traditional date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar.[16] It is exactly nine months after Annunciation on March 25, also the date of the spring equinox.[17] Most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world. However, part of the Eastern Christian Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. For Christians, believing that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity rather than knowing Jesus's exact birth date is considered to be the primary purpose of celebrating Christmas.[18][19][20]

The customs associated with Christmas in various countries have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins.[21][22] Popular holiday traditions include gift giving; completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath; Christmas music and caroling; watching Christmas movies; viewing a Nativity play; an exchange of Christmas cards; attending church services; a special meal; and displaying various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. Additionally, several related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore.[23] 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.


The English word Christmas is a shortened form of 'Christ's Mass'.[24] The word is recorded as Crīstesmæsse in 1038 and Cristes-messe in 1131.[25] Crīst (genitive Crīstes) is from the Greek Χριστός (Khrīstos, 'Christ'), a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ, 'Messiah'), meaning 'anointed';[26][27] and mæsse is from the Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist.[28]

The form Christenmas was also used during some periods, but is now considered archaic and dialectal.[29] The term derives from Middle English Cristenmasse, meaning 'Christian mass'.[30] Xmas is an abbreviation of Christmas found particularly in print, based on the initial letter chi (Χ) in the Greek Χριστός, although some style guides discourage its use.[31] This abbreviation has precedent in Middle English Χρ̄es masse (where Χρ̄ is another abbreviation of the Greek word).[30]

Other names

The holiday has had various other English names throughout its history. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the feast as "midwinter",[32][33] or, more rarely, as Nātiuiteð (from the Latin nātīvitās below).[32][34] Nativity, meaning 'birth', is from the Latin nātīvitās.[35] In Old English, Gēola ('Yule') referred to the period corresponding to December and January, which was eventually equated with Christian Christmas.[36] 'Noel' (also 'Nowel' or 'Nowell', as in "The First Nowell") 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)'.[37]

Koleda is the traditional Slavic name for Christmas and the period from Christmas to Epiphany or, more generally, to Slavic Christmas-related rituals, some dating to pre-Christian times.[38]


Adoration of the Shepherds (1622) by Gerard van Honthorst depicts the nativity of Jesus

The gospels of Luke and Matthew describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary. In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to be counted for a census, and Jesus is born there and placed in a manger.[39] Angels proclaim him a savior for all people, and three shepherds come to adore him. In the Gospel of Matthew, by contrast, three magi follow a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, born the king of the Jews. King Herod orders the massacre of all the boys less than two years old in Bethlehem, but the family flees to Egypt and later returns to Nazareth.[40]


Early and medieval era

Nativity of Christ, medieval illustration from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)

In the 2nd century, the "earliest church records" indicate that "Christians were remembering and celebrating the birth of the Lord", an "observance [that] sprang up organically from the authentic devotion of ordinary believers"; although "they did not agree upon a set date".[41] The earliest evidence of Christ's birth being marked on December 25 is a sentence in the Chronograph of 354.[42][43][44][45] Liturgical historians generally agree that this part of the text was written in Rome in AD 336.[43] Though Christmas did not appear on the lists of festivals given by the early Christian writers Irenaeus and Tertullian,[25] the early Church Fathers John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome attested to December 25 as the date of Christmas toward the end of the fourth century.[41] December 25 was the traditional date of the winter solstice in the Roman Empire,[46] where most Christians lived, and the Roman festival Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of Sol Invictus, the 'Invincible Sun') had been held on this date since 274 AD.[47]

In the East, the birth of Jesus was celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6.[48][49] This holiday was not primarily about Christ's birth, but rather his baptism.[50] Christmas was promoted in the East as part of the revival of Orthodox Christianity that followed the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced in Constantinople in 379, in Antioch by John Chrysostom towards the end of the fourth century,[49] probably in 388, and in Alexandria in the following century.[51] The Georgian Iadgari demonstrates that Christmas was celebrated in Jerusalem by the sixth century.[52]

The Nativity, from a 14th-century missal, a liturgical book containing texts and music necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year

In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in western Christianity focused on the visit of the magi. However, 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.[53] In Italy, former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent.[53] 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.[53]

In 567, the Council of Tours put in place the season of Christmastide, proclaiming "the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast."[5][54] This was done in order to solve the "administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east."[55][56][57]

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800.[58] King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.[59]

The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas of 800 helped promote the popularity of the holiday

By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which 28 oxen and 300 sheep were eaten.[53] The Yule boar was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. 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.[53] "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.[53]

Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy, holly, and other evergreens.[60] Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was usually between people with legal relationships, such as tenant and landlord.[60] 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, King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games.[61] It was during the Reformation in 16th–17th-century Europe that many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.[62]

17th and 18th centuries

Following the Protestant Reformation, many of the new denominations, including the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church, continued to celebrate Christmas.[63] 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.[64][65] 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."[66] Among the congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church, Christmas was celebrated as one of the principal evangelical feasts.[67]

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 popery" or the "rags of the Beast".[68] In contrast, the established 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."[69] 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.[61] Following the Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647.[68][70]

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 and shouted royalist slogans.[68] Football, among the sports the Puritans banned on a Sunday, was also used as a rebellious force: when Puritans outlawed Christmas in England in December 1647 the crowd brought out footballs as a symbol of festive misrule.[71] 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.[72] During the ban, semi-clandestine religious services marking Christ's birth continued to be held, and people sang carols in secret.[73]

The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas, (1686), published after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England.

It was restored as a legal holiday in England with the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 when Puritan legislation was declared null and void, with Christmas again freely celebrated in England.[73] Many Calvinist clergymen 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, attendance at church was scant.[74] 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".[75] Whereas in England, Wales and Ireland Christmas Day is a common law holiday, having been a customary holiday since time immemorial, it was not until 1871 that it was designated a bank holiday in Scotland.[76] 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."[77] 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.[78]

As in England, Puritans in Colonial America staunchly opposed the observation of Christmas.[79] The Pilgrims of New England pointedly spent their first December 25 in the New World working normally.[79] Puritans such as Cotton Mather condemned Christmas both because scripture did not mention its observance and because Christmas celebrations of the day often involved boisterous behavior.[80][81] Many non-Puritans in New England deplored the loss of the holidays enjoyed by the laboring classes in England.[82] Christmas observance was outlawed in Boston in 1659.[79] The ban on Christmas observance was revoked in 1681 by English governor Edmund Andros, but it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region.[83]

At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York observed the holiday freely. Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, predominantly Moravian settlers of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Lititz in Pennsylvania and the 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.[84] Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.[85] George Washington attacked 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 religious services were banned and the three kings cake was renamed the "equality cake" under anticlerical government policies.[86][87]

19th century

Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present. From Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, 1843

In the early 19th century, Christmas festivities and services became widespread with the rise of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England that emphasized the centrality of Christmas in Christianity and charity to the poor,[88] along with Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, and other authors emphasizing family, children, kind-heartedness, gift-giving, and Santa Claus (for Irving),[88] or Father Christmas (for Dickens).[89]

In the early-19th century, writers imagined Tudor-period Christmas as a time of heartfelt celebration. In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote the novel A Christmas Carol, which helped revive the "spirit" of Christmas and seasonal merriment.[90][91] Its instant popularity played a major role in portraying Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion.[88]

Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, linking "worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation."[92] Superimposing his humanitarian vision of the holiday, in what has been termed "Carol Philosophy",[93] 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.[94] A prominent phrase from the tale, "Merry Christmas", was popularized following the appearance of the story.[95] This coincided with the appearance of the Oxford Movement and the growth of Anglo-Catholicism, which led a revival in traditional rituals and religious observances.[96]

19th century lithograph showing the Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas market) in Nuremberg, Germany

The term Scrooge became a synonym for miser, with the phrase "Bah! Humbug!" becoming emblematic of a dismissive attitude of the festive spirit.[97] In 1843, the first commercial Christmas card was produced by Sir Henry Cole.[98] The revival of the Christmas Carol began with 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's A Christmas Carol.

The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, published in the Illustrated London News, 1848

In Britain, the 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 lights, ornaments, and presents placed round it.[99] After her marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became more widespread throughout Britain.[100] 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.[101][102] By the 1870s, putting up a Christmas tree had become common in America.[101]

In America, interest in Christmas had been revived in the 1820s by several short stories by 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,[103] 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.[61]

A Norwegian Christmas, 1846 painting by Adolph Tidemand

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (popularly known by its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas).[104] The poem helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance.[105] 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.[106]

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."[107] 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."[107]

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.[107] By 1860, fourteen states including several from New England had adopted Christmas as a legal holiday.[108] In 1875, Louis Prang introduced the Christmas card to Americans. He has been called the "father of the American Christmas card".[109] On June 28, 1870, Christmas was formally declared a United States federal holiday.[110]

20th and 21st centuries

The Christmas Visit. Postcard, c. 1910

During the First World War and particularly (but not exclusively) in 1914,[111] a series of 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.[112] These incidents became a well known and semi-mythologised part of popular memory.[113] 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.[114]

Up to the 1950s in the UK, many Christmas customs were restricted to the upper and middle classes. Most of the population had not yet adopted many Christmas rituals that later became popular, including Christmas trees. Christmas dinner would normally include beef or goose, not turkey as would later be common. Children would get fruit and sweets in their stocking rather than elaborate gifts. Full celebration of a family Christmas with all the trimmings only became widespread with increased prosperity from the 1950s.[115] 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.[116][117]

Under the state atheism of the Soviet Union, after its foundation in 1917, Christmas celebrations—along with other Christian holidays—were prohibited in public.[118] During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, 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.[119] 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.[120] Instead, the importance of the holiday and all its trappings, such as the Christmas tree and gift-giving, was transferred to the New Year.[121] It was not until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the persecution ended and Orthodox Christmas became a state holiday again for the first time in Russia after seven decades.[122]

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."[123]

As Christmas celebrations began to spread globally even outside traditional Christian cultures, several Muslim-majority countries began to ban the observance of Christmas, claiming it undermined Islam.[124] In 2023, public Christmas celebrations were cancelled in Bethlehem, the city synonymous with the birth of Jesus. Palestinian leaders of various Christian denominations cited the ongoing Israel–Hamas war in their unanimous decision to cancel celebrations.[125]

Observance and traditions

Christmas at the Annunciation Church in Nazareth, 1965. Photo by Dan Hadani.
Christmas at the Annunciation Church in Nazareth, 1965
Dark brown – countries that do not recognize Christmas on December 25 or January 7 as a public holiday. Light brown – countries that do not recognize Christmas as a public holiday, but the holiday is given observance.
Many Christians attend church services to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.[126]

Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday 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 cultural aspects of Christmas, such as gift-giving, decorations, and Christmas trees. A similar example is in Turkey, being Muslim-majority and with a small number of Christians, where Christmas trees and decorations tend to line public streets during the festival.[127]

Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus's birth, with some claiming that certain elements are Christianized and have origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity; other scholars reject these claims and affirm that Christmas customs largely developed in a Christian context.[128][22] 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,[53] to a tamer family-oriented and children-centered theme introduced in a 19th-century transformation.[90][91] 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.[129][68][79]

Prior to and through the early Christian centuries, 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.[130] Celtic winter herbs such as mistletoe and ivy, and the custom of kissing under a mistletoe, are common in modern Christmas celebrations in the English-speaking countries.[131]

The pre-Christian Germanic peoples—including the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse—celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January period, yielding modern English yule, today used as a synonym for Christmas.[132] 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.[133][132] 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".[134] 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.[135]

Among countries with a strong Christian tradition, a variety of Christmas celebrations have developed that incorporate regional and local cultures. For example, in eastern Europe Christmas celebrations incorporated pre-Christian traditions such as the Koleda,[136] which shares parallels with the Christmas carol.

Church attendance

Christmas Day (inclusive of its vigil, Christmas Eve), is a Festival in the Lutheran Churches, a solemnity 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.[137] As such, for Christians, attending a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day church service plays an important part in the recognition of the 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.[138] In the United Kingdom, the Church of England reported an estimated attendance of 2.5 million people at Christmas services in 2015.[139]


Typical Neapolitan nativity scene, or presepe or presepio, in Naples. Local crèches are renowned for their ornate decorations and symbolic figurines, often mirroring daily life.

Nativity scenes are known from 10th-century Rome. They were popularised by Saint Francis of Assisi from 1223, quickly spreading across Europe.[140] 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,[141] which imitate Kraków's historical buildings as settings, the elaborate Italian presepi (Neapolitan [it], Genoese [it] and Bolognese [it]),[142][143][144][145] or the Provençal crèches in southern France, using hand-painted terracotta figurines called santons.[146] In certain parts of the world, notably Sicily, living nativity scenes following the tradition of Saint Francis are a popular alternative to static crèches.[147][148][149] The first commercially produced decorations appeared in Germany in the 1860s, inspired by paper chains made by children.[150] 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.[151]

The traditional colors of Christmas decorations are red, green, and gold.[152][153] 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.[154]

The official White House Christmas tree for 1962, displayed in the Entrance Hall and presented by John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie.

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 Reformer, Martin Bucer.[155][156] In the United States, these "German Lutherans brought the decorated Christmas tree with them; the Moravians put lighted candles on those trees."[157][158] When 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.[159][160] 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.[161] Additionally, in the context of a Christian celebration of Christmas, the Christmas tree, being evergreen in colour, is symbolic of Christ, who offers eternal life; the candles or lights on the tree represent the Light of the World—Jesus—born in Bethlehem.[162][163] Christian services for family use and public worship have been published for the blessing of a Christmas tree, after it has been erected.[164][165] 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;[166] 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 and it had a triangular shape, which he said was symbolic of the Trinity.[167] The English language phrase "Christmas tree" is first recorded in 1835[168] and represents an importation from the German language.[166][169][170]

On Christmas, the Christ Candle in the center of the Advent wreath is traditionally lit in many church services.

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.[171][172] Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus.[173]

Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, stockings, wreaths, and angels. Both the displaying of wreaths and candles in each window are a more traditional Christmas display.[174] 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.[175]

Christmas lights in Verona.

Christmas lights and banners may be hung along streets, music played from speakers, and Christmas trees placed in prominent places.[176] 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.[177]

Nativity play

Children in Oklahoma reenact a Nativity play

For the Christian celebration of Christmas, the viewing of the Nativity play is one of the oldest Christmastime traditions, with the first reenactment of the Nativity of Jesus taking place in 1223 AD in the Italian town of Greccio.[178] 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.[178] Each year, this grew larger and people travelled from afar to see Francis's depiction of the Nativity of Jesus that came to feature drama and music.[178] 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.[178] In France, Germany, Mexico and Spain, Nativity plays are often reenacted outdoors in the streets.[178]

Music and carols

Christmas carolers in Jersey

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 (died 413) is still sung in some churches today.[179] 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 Awdlay who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailers', who went from house to house.[180]

Child singers in Bucharest, 1841

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) appeared in its current form in the mid-18th century.

The singing of carols increased in popularity after the Protestant Reformation in the Lutheran areas of Europe, as the Reformer Martin Luther wrote carols and encouraged their use in worship, in addition to spearheading the practice of caroling outside the Mass.[181] The 18th-century English reformer Charles Wesley, a founder of Methodism, understood the importance of music to Christian 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".[182]

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Performed by the U.S. Army Band Chorus

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Christmas seasonal songs of a secular nature 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 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".[183] 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.[184] 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.[185] Hollywood movies have featured new Christmas music, such as "White Christmas" in Holiday Inn and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.[185] 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.[185]

Traditional cuisine

Christmas dinner setting

A special Christmas family meal is traditionally an important part of the holiday's celebration, and the food that is served varies greatly from country to country. Some regions have special meals for Christmas Eve, such as Sicily, where twelve 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, and latterly Panettone and Yule log.[186][187] A traditional Christmas meal in Central Europe features fried carp or other fish.[188]


A 1907 Christmas card with Santa and some of his reindeer

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, produced by Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843.[189] 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.[190][191]

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 Christmas narrative, with 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, 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.[192]

Some prefer cards with a poem, prayer, or Biblical verse; while others distance themselves from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".[193]

Commemorative stamps

A number of nations have issued commemorative stamps at Christmastide.[194] Postal customers will often use these stamps to mail Christmas cards, and they are popular with philatelists.[195] 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.

Christmas seals

The world's first Christmas seal, issued in Denmark 1904.

Christmas seals were first issued to raise funding to fight and bring awareness to tuberculosis. The first Christmas seal was issued in Denmark in 1904, and since then other countries have issued their own Christmas seals.[196]

Gift giving

Christmas gifts under a Christmas tree

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,[197] and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which were given to the baby Jesus by the Magi.[198][199] The practice of gift giving in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia may have influenced Christian customs, but on the other hand the Christian "core dogma of the 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."[200] However, Thomas J. Talley holds that the Roman Emperor Aurelian placed the alternate festival 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.[201]

Gift-bearing figures

A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas), Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; tomte/nisse; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Ded Moroz. The Scandinavian tomte (also called nisse) is sometimes depicted as a gnome instead of Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas, known as Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, is considered by many to be the original Santa Claus[202]

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 ('Saint Nicholas'). Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop of Myra, a city in the Roman province of Lycia, whose ruins are 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from modern Demre in southwest Turkey.[203][204] 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.[62]

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 Reformation in 16th- and 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.[62]

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 and the 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.[205]

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 religious beliefs and the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States.

In Italy's South Tyrol, Austria, the Czech Republic, Southern Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, and Switzerland, the 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.[206] 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.[207]

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.[208][209] It is worth noting that across all of Poland, St Nicholas is the gift giver on Saint Nicholas Day on December 6.


Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival with annual indulgences included the sporting.[62] When Puritans outlawed Christmas in England in December 1647 the crowd brought out footballs as a symbol of festive misrule.[71] The Orkney Christmas Day Ba' tradition continues.[210] In the former top tier of English football, home and away Christmas Day and Boxing Day double headers were often played guaranteeing football clubs large crowds by allowing many working people their only chance to watch a game.[211] Champions Preston North End faced Aston Villa on Christmas Day 1889[212] and the last December 25 fixture was in 1965 in England, Blackpool beating Blackburn Rovers 4–2.[211] One of the most memorable images of the Christmas truce during World War I was the games of football played between the opposing sides on Christmas Day 1914.[213]

More recently, in the United States, both NFL and NBA have held fixtures on Christmas Day.[214]

Choice of date

Mosaic in Mausoleum M in the pre-fourth-century necropolis under St Peter's Basilica in Rome, interpreted by some as Jesus represented as Christus Sol ('Christ the Sun').[215]

There are two main theories behind December 25 becoming the traditional date for Christmas, although Theology professor Susan Roll says that "No liturgical historian [...] goes so far as to deny that it has any sort of relation with the sun, the winter solstice and the popularity of solar worship in the later Roman Empire".[216] December 25 was the date of the winter solstice in the Roman calendar.[46] Some early Christian writers noted the solar symbolism in placing Jesus's birthday at the winter solstice and John's birthday at the summer solstice.[217][47]

The 'history of religions' theory suggests the Church chose December 25 as Christ's birthday (dies Natalis Christi)[218] to appropriate the Roman winter solstice festival dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of Sol Invictus, the 'Invincible Sun'), held on this date since 274 AD.[46][47] The early Church linked Jesus Christ to the Sun and referred to him as the 'Sun of Righteousness' (Sol Justitiae) prophesied by Malachi.[219][220] Gary Forsythe, Professor of Ancient History, says that the Natalis Solis Invicti followed "the seven-day period of the Saturnalia (December 17–23), Rome's most joyous holiday season since Republican times, characterized by parties, banquets, and exchanges of gifts".[46]

Another theory, the 'computation hypothesis' or 'calculation theory',[47] notes that December 25 is nine months after March 25, a date chosen as Jesus's conception (the Annunciation) and the date of the spring equinox on the Roman calendar.[47][17]

Date according to Julian calendar

Some jurisdictions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, including those of Russia, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Jerusalem, mark feasts using the older Julian calendar. As of 2024, there is a difference of 13 days between the Julian calendar and the modern Gregorian calendar, 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.[221]

However, following the Council of Constantinople in 1923,[222] other Orthodox Christians, such as those belonging to the jurisdictions of Constantinople, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Antioch, Alexandria, Albania, Cyprus, Finland, and the Orthodox Church in America, among others, began using the Revised Julian calendar, which at present corresponds exactly to the Gregorian calendar.[223] 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 Christian practice of celebrating the birth of Christ not as a separate holiday, but on the same day as the celebration of his baptism (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 since 1923 the Armenian Church in Armenia has used the Gregorian calendar.[224]

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.[225]

Following the 2022 invasion of its territory by Russia, Ukraine officially moved its Christmas date from January 7 to December 25, to distance itself from the Russian Orthodox Church that had supported Russia's invasion.[226][227] This followed the Orthodox Church of Ukraine formally adopting the Revised Julian calendar for fixed feasts and solemnities.[228]

Table of dates

There are four different dates used by different Christian groups to mark the birth of Christ, given in the table below.

Church or section Calendar Date Gregorian date Note
Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem Julian calendar January 6 January 19 Correspondence between Julian January 6 and Gregorian January 19 holds until 2100; in the following century the difference will be one day more.
Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenian Evangelical Church Gregorian calendar January 6 January 6
Eastern Orthodox Church jurisdictions, including those of Constantinople, Bulgaria, Ukraine[229] (state holiday, Orthodox and Greek Catholic), Greece, Romania, Antioch, Alexandria, Albania, Cyprus, Finland, the Orthodox Church in America.

Also, the Ancient Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Church.

Revised Julian calendar December 25 December 25 Revised Julian calendar was agreed at the 1923 Council of Constantinople.[222]

Although it follows the Julian calendar, the Ancient Church of the East decided on 2010 to celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar date.

Other Eastern Orthodox: Russia, Georgia, Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Macedonia, Belarus, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Jerusalem.

Also, some Byzantine Rite Catholics and Byzantine Rite Lutherans.

Julian calendar December 25 January 7 Correspondence between Julian December 25 and Gregorian January 7 of the following year holds until 2100; from 2101 to 2199 the difference will be one day more.[citation needed]
Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic calendar Koiak 29 or 28 (December 25) January 7 After the Coptic insertion of a leap day in what for the Julian calendar is August (September in Gregorian), Christmas is celebrated on Koiak 28 in order to maintain the exact interval of nine 30-day months and 5 days of the child's gestation.[citation needed]
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (sole date), Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (sole date), and P'ent'ay (Ethiopian-Eritrean Evangelical) Churches (primary date) Ethiopian calendar Tahsas 29 or 28 (December 25) January 7 After the Ethiopian and Eritrean insertion of a leap day in what for the Julian calendar is August (September in Gregorian), Christmas (also called Liddet or Gena, also Ledet or Genna)[230] is celebrated on Tahsas 28 in order to maintain the exact interval of nine 30-day months and 5 days of the child's gestation.[231]

Most Protestants (P'ent'ay/Evangelicals) in the diaspora have the option of choosing the Ethiopian calendar (Tahsas 29/January 7) or the Gregorian calendar (December 25) for religious holidays, with this option being used when the corresponding eastern celebration is not a public holiday in the western world (with most diaspora Protestants celebrating both days).[citation needed]

Most Western Christian churches, most Eastern Catholic churches and civil calendars; also the Assyrian Church of the East. Gregorian calendar December 25 December 25 The Assyrian Church of the East adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1964.


Christmas decorations at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris, France. The Christmas season is the busiest trading period for retailers.
Christmas market in Jena, Germany

Christmas is typically a peak selling season for retailers in many nations around the world since sales increase dramatically during this time as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies to celebrate. In the United States, the "Christmas shopping season" starts as early as October.[232][233] 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 are turned on.[234][235] A concept devised by retail entrepreneur David Lewis, the first Christmas grotto opened in Lewis's department store in Liverpool, England in 1879.[236] In the United States, it has been calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season.[237] Figures from the US 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.[238] Industries completely dependent on Christmas include Christmas cards, 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 US in 2002.[239] For 2019, the average US adult was projected to spend $920 on gifts alone.[240] 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.[235]

Each year (most notably 2000) money supply in US banks is increased for Christmas shopping

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 in 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.[241]

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 US alone.[242][243] 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.[244]


A 1931 edition of the Soviet magazine Bezbozhnik, published by the League of Militant Atheists, depicting an Orthodox Christian priest being forbidden to take home a tree for the celebration of Christmastide, which was banned under the Marxist–Leninist doctrine of state atheism.[245]

Christmas has at times been the subject of controversy and attacks from various sources, both Christian and non-Christian. Historically, it was prohibited by Puritans during their ascendency in the Commonwealth of England (1647–1660), and in Colonial New England where the Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas in 1659 on the grounds that Christmas was not mentioned in Scripture and therefore violated the Reformed regulative principle of worship.[246][247] 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 a public holiday in Scotland until 1871.[76][248][249] Today, some conservative Reformed denominations such as the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America likewise reject the celebration of Christmas based on the regulative principle and what they see as its non-Scriptural origin.[250][251] Christmas celebrations have also been prohibited by atheist states such as the Soviet Union[252] and more recently majority Muslim states such as Somalia, Tajikistan and Brunei.[253]

Some Christians and organizations such as Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice cite alleged attacks on Christmas (dubbing them a "war on Christmas").[254] Such groups claim that any specific mention of the term "Christmas" or its religious aspects is being increasingly 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.[255] 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.[256] 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 politically correct.[257][258][259] 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.[260] American Muslim scholar Abdul Malik Mujahid has said that Muslims must treat Christmas with respect, even if they disagree with it.[261]

The government of the People's Republic of China officially espouses state atheism,[262] and has conducted antireligious campaigns to this end.[263] In December 2018, officials raided Christian churches prior to Christmastide and coerced them to close; Christmas trees and Santa Clauses were also forcibly removed.[264][265]

See also

  • iconChristianity portal
  • iconHolidays portal


  1. ^ Several branches of Eastern Christianity that use the Julian calendar also celebrate on December 25 according to that calendar, which is now January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. Armenian Churches observed the nativity on January 6 even before the Gregorian calendar originated. Most Armenian Christians use the Gregorian calendar, still celebrating Christmas Day on January 6. Some Armenian churches use the Julian calendar, thus celebrating Christmas Day on January 19 on the Gregorian calendar, with January 18 being Christmas Eve. Some regions also celebrate primarily on December 24, rather than December 25.
  2. ^ English, Adam C. (October 14, 2016). Christmas: Theological Anticipations. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-4982-3933-2. According to Luke 1:26, Gabriel's annunciation to Mary took place in the "sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy. That is, Mary conceives sixth months after Elizabeth. Luke repeats the uniqueness of the timing in verse 26. Counting six months from September 24 we arrive at March 25, the most likely date for the annunciation and conception of Mary. Nine months hence takes us to December 25, which turns out to be a surprisingly reasonable date for the birthday [of Jesus]. Someone might object that the birth could not have occurred in midwinter because it would have been too cold for shepherds in the fields keeping watch by night (Luke 2:8). Not so. In Palestine, the months of November through February mark the rainy season, the only time of the year sheep might find fresh green grass to graze. During the other ten months of the year, animals must content themselves on dry straw. So, the suggestion that shepherds might have stayed out in the fields with their flocks in late December, at the peak of the rainy season, is not only reasonable, it is most certain. [...] And so, besides considering the timing of the conception, we must take note of the earliest church records. We have evidence from the second century, less than fifty years after the close of the New Testament, that Christians were remembering and celebrating the birth of the Lord. It is not true to say that the observance of the nativity was imposed on Christians hundreds of years later by imperial decree or by a magisterial church ruling. The observance sprang up organically from the authentic devotion of ordinary believers. This in itself is important. But, besides the fact that early Christians did celebrate the incarnation of the Lord, we should make note that they did not agree upon a set date for the observance. There was no one day on which all Christians celebrated Christmas in the early church. Churches in different regions celebrated the nativity on different days. The late second-century Egyptian instructor of Christian disciples, Clement of Alexandria, reported that some believers in his area observed the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day of the Egyptian month of Parmuthi (the month that corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan—approximately May 20). The Basilidian Christians held to the eleventh or fifteen of Tubi (January 6 and 10). Clement made his own computations by counting backward from the death of Emperor Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius. By this method he deduced a birthdate of November 18. Other Alexandrian and Egyptian Christians adopted January 4 or 5. In so doing, they replaced the Alexandrian celebration of the birth of Aion, Time, with the birth of Christ. The regions of Nicomedia, Syria, and Caesarea celebrated Christ's birthday on Epiphany, January 6. [...] According to researcher Susan Roll, the Chronograph or Philocalian Calendar is the earliest authentic document to place the birth of Jesus on December 25. [...] And we should remember that although the Chronograph provides the first record of December 25, the custom of venerating the Lord's birth on that day was most likely established well before its publication. That is to say, December 25 didn't originate with the Chronograph. It must have counted as common knowledge, at least in Rome, to warrant its inclusion in the Chronograph. Soon after this time, we find other church fathers such John Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, and Leo confirming the twenty-fifth as the traditional date of celebration.


  1. ^ a b "Christmas as a Multi-Faith Festival" (PDF). BBC Learning English. December 29, 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 1, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "In the U.S., Christmas Not Just for Christians". Gallup, Inc. December 24, 2008. Archived from the original on November 16, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  3. ^ "The Global Religious Landscape | Christians". Pew Research Center. December 18, 2012. Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  4. ^ "Christmas Strongly Religious For Half in U.S. Who Celebrate It". Gallup, Inc. December 24, 2010. Archived from the original on December 7, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Forbes, Bruce David (October 1, 2008). Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-520-25802-0. In 567 the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide.

    On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself.

    After Christmas and Epiphany were in place, on December 25 and January 6, with the twelve days of Christmas in between, Christians slowly adopted a period called Advent, as a time of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas.
  6. ^ Canadian Heritage – Public holidaysArchived November 24, 2009, at the Wayback MachineGovernment of Canada. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  7. ^ 2009 Federal Holidays Archived January 16, 2013, at the Wayback MachineU.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  8. ^ Bank holidays and British Summer time Archived May 15, 2011, at the Wayback MachineHM Government. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  9. ^ Ehorn, Lee Ellen; Hewlett, Shirely J.; Hewlett, Dale M. (September 1, 1995). December Holiday Customs. Lorenz Educational Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-4291-0896-6.
  10. ^ Nick Hytrek, "Non-Christians focus on secular side of Christmas" Archived November 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Sioux City Journal, November 10, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  11. ^ Crump, William D. (September 15, 2001). The Christmas Encyclopedia (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-7864-6827-0. Christians believe that a number of passages in the Bible are prophecies about future events in the life of the promised Messiah or Jesus Christ. Most, but not all, of those prophecies are found in the Old Testament [...] Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2): "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Juda, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
  12. ^ Tucker, Ruth A. (2011). Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church. Zondervan. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-310-20638-5. According to gospel accounts, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, thus sometime before 4 BCE. The birth narrative in Luke's gospel is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. Leaving their hometown of Nazareth, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to pay taxes. Arriving late, they find no vacancy at the inn. They are, however, offered a stable, most likely a second room attached to a family dwelling where animals were sheltered—a room that would offer some privacy from the main family room for cooking, eating, and sleeping. This "city of David" is the little town of Bethlehem of Christmas-carol fame, a starlit silhouette indelibly etched on Christmas cards. No sooner was the baby born than angels announced the news to shepherds who spread the word.
  13. ^ Corinna Laughlin, Michael R. Prendergast, Robert C. Rabe, Corinna Laughlin, Jill Maria Murdy, Therese Brown, Mary Patricia Storms, Ann E. Degenhard, Jill Maria Murdy, Ann E. Degenhard, Therese Brown, Robert C. Rabe, Mary Patricia Storms, Michael R. Prendergast, Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays 2011: The Almanac for Pastoral Liturgy Archived April 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, LiturgyTrainingPublications, 2010, p. 29.
  14. ^ "The Chronography of 354 AD. Part 12: Commemorations of the Martyrs" Archived November 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, The Tertullian Project. 2006. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  15. ^ Roll, Susan K. (1995). Toward the Origins of Christmas. Peeters Publishers. p. 133. ISBN 978-90-390-0531-6.
  16. ^ Hale Bradt (2004). Astronomy Methods (PDF). p. 69. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2018..
  17. ^ a b Melton, J. Gordon (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7. The March 25 date, which tied together the beginning of Mary's pregnancy and the incarnation of God in Jesus as occurring nine months before Christmas (December 25), supplied the rationale for setting the beginning of the ecclesiastical and legal year. [...] Both the Anglicans and the Lutherans have continued to observe the March 25 date for celebrating the Annunciation.
  18. ^ The Liturgical Year. Thomas Nelson. November 3, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4185-8073-5. Retrieved April 2, 2009. Christmas is not really about the celebration of a birth date at all. It is about the celebration of a birth. The fact of the date and the fact of the birth are two different things. The calendrical verification of the feast itself is not really that important [...] What is important to the understanding of a life-changing moment is that it happened, not necessarily where or when it happened. The message is clear: Christmas is not about marking the actual birth date of Jesus. It is about the Incarnation of the One who became like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15) and who humbled Himself "to the point of death-even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). Christmas is a pinnacle feast, yes, but it is not the beginning of the liturgical year. It is a memorial, a remembrance, of the birth of Jesus, not really a celebration of the day itself. We remember that because the Jesus of history was born, the Resurrection of the Christ of faith could happen.
  19. ^ "The Christmas Season". CRI / Voice, Institute. Archived from the original on April 7, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2009. The origins of the celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany, as well as the dates on which they are observed, are rooted deeply in the history of the early church. There has been much scholarly debate concerning the exact time of the year when Jesus was born, and even in what year he was born. Actually, we do not know either. The best estimate is that Jesus was probably born in the springtime, somewhere between the years of 6 and 4 BC, as December is in the middle of the cold rainy season in Bethlehem, when the sheep are kept inside and not on pasture as told in the Bible. The lack of a consistent system of timekeeping in the first century, mistakes in later calendars and calculations, and lack of historical details to cross-reference events have led to this imprecision in fixing Jesus' birth. This suggests that the Christmas celebration is not an observance of a historical date, but a commemoration of the event in terms of worship.
  20. ^ The School Journal, Volume 49. Harvard University. 1894. Retrieved April 2, 2009. Throughout the Christian world the 25th of December is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ. There was a time when the churches were not united regarding the date of the joyous event. Many Christians kept their Christmas in April, others in May, and still others at the close of September, till finally December 25 was agreed upon as the most appropriate date. The choice of that day was, of course, wholly arbitrary, for neither the exact date not the period of the year at which the birth of Christ occurred is known. For purposes of commemoration, however, it is unimportant whether the celebration shall fall or not at the precise anniversary of the joyous event.
  21. ^ West's Federal Supplement. West Publishing Company. 1990. While the Washington and King birthdays are exclusively secular holidays, Christmas has both secular and religious aspects.
  22. ^ a b Huckabee, Tyler (December 9, 2021). "No, Christmas Trees Don't Have 'Pagan' Roots". Relevant Magazine. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
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  45. ^ Hyden, Marc (December 20, 2021). "Merry Christmas, Saturnalia or festival of Sol Invictus?". Newnan Times-Herald. Archived from the original on December 26, 2022. Retrieved February 17, 2023. Around AD 274ᵃ, Emperor Aurelian set December 25—the winter solstice at the time—for the celebration of Sol Invictus who was the 'Unconquered Sun' god. 'A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday,' reads an excerpt from Biblical Archaeology. / Could early Christians have chosen December 25 to coincide with this holiday? 'The first celebration of Christmas observed by the Roman church in the West is presumed to date to [336 AD],' per the Encyclopedia Romanaᵃ, long after Aurelian established Sol Invictus' festival.
    (a) "Sol Invictus and Christmas". Encyclopaedia Romana.
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  54. ^ Hynes, Mary Ellen (1993). Companion to the Calendar. Liturgy Training Publications. p. 8. ISBN 9781568540115. In the year 567 the church council of Tours called the 13 days between December 25 and January 6 a festival season.
  55. ^ Hill, Christopher (2003). Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year. Quest Books. p. 91. ISBN 9780835608107. This arrangement became an administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east. While the Romans could roughly match the months in the two systems, the four cardinal points of the solar year—the two equinoxes and solstices—still fell on different dates. By the time of the first century, the calendar date of the winter solstice in Egypt and Palestine was eleven to twelve days later than the date in Rome. As a result the Incarnation came to be celebrated on different days in different parts of the Empire. The Western Church, in its desire to be universal, eventually took them both—one became Christmas, one Epiphany—with a resulting twelve days in between. Over time this hiatus became invested with specific Christian meaning. The Church gradually filled these days with saints, some connected to the birth narratives in Gospels (Holy Innocents' Day, December 28, in honor of the infants slaughtered by Herod; St. John the Evangelist, "the Beloved," December 27; St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, December 26; the Holy Family, December 31; the Virgin Mary, January 1). In 567, the Council of Tours declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to become one unified festal cycle.
  56. ^ Federer, William J. (January 6, 2014). "On the 12th Day of Christmas". American Minute. Retrieved December 25, 2014. In 567 AD, the Council of Tours ended a dispute. Western Europe celebrated Christmas, December 25, as the holiest day of the season... but Eastern Europe celebrated Epiphany, January 6, recalling the Wise Men's visit and Jesus' baptism. It could not be decided which day was holier, so the Council made all 12 days from December 25 to January 6 "holy days" or "holidays," These became known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
  57. ^ Kirk Cameron, William Federer (November 6, 2014). Praise the Lord. Trinity Broadcasting Network. Event occurs at 01:15:14. Archived from the original on December 25, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2014. Western Europe celebrated Christmas December 25 as the holiest day. Eastern Europe celebrated January 6 the Epiphany, the visit of the Wise Men, as the holiest day... and so they had this council and they decided to make all twelve days from December 25 to January 6 the Twelve Days of Christmas.
  58. ^ "Who was Charlemagne? The unlikely king who became an emperor". National Geographic. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
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  62. ^ a b c d Forbes, Bruce David, Christmas: a candid history, University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0-520-25104-0, pp. 68–79.
  63. ^ Lowe, Scott C. (January 11, 2011). Christmas. John Wiley & Sons. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-4443-4145-4.
  64. ^ Shawcross, John T. (January 1, 1993). John Milton. University Press of Kentucky. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-8131-7014-5. Milton was raised an Anglican, trained to become an Anglican minister, and remained an Anglican through the signing of the subscription books of Cambridge University in both 1629 and 1632, which demanded an allegiance to the state church and its Thirty-nine Articles.
  65. ^ Browne, Sammy R (April 29, 2012). A Brief Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1. p. 412. ISBN 978-1-105-70569-4. His father had wanted him to practice law but Milton considered writing poetry his life's work. At 21 years old, he wrote a poem, "On the morning of Christ's Nativity," a work that is still widely read during Christmas.
  66. ^ Heinz, Donald (2010). Christmas: Festival of Incarnation. Fortress Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-4514-0695-5.
  67. ^ Old, Hughes Oliphant (2002). Worship: Reformed According to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-664-22579-7. Within a few years the Reformed church calendar was fairly well established. The heart of it was the weekly observance of the resurrection on the Lord's Day. Instead of liturgical seasons being observed, "the five evangelical feast days" were observed: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. They were chosen because they were understood to mark the essential stages in the history of salvation.
  68. ^ a b c d Durston, Chris (December 1985). "Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642–60". History Today. Vol. 35, no. 12. pp. 7–14. Archived from the original on March 10, 2007.
  69. ^ Old, Hughes Oliphant (2002). Worship: Reformed According to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-664-22579-7.
  70. ^ Carl Philipp Emanuel Nothaft (October 2011). "From Sukkot to Saturnalia: The Attack on Christmas in Sixteenth-Century Chronological Scholarship". Journal of the History of Ideas. 72 (4): 504–505. JSTOR 41337151. However, when Thomas Mocket, rector of Gilston in Hertfordshire, decried such vices in a pamphlet to justify the parliamentary 'ban' of Christmas, effective since June 1647...
  71. ^ a b "Historian Reveals that Cromwellian Christmas Football Rebels Ran Riot" (Press release). University of Warwick. December 17, 2003. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
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  77. ^ Miall, Anthony & Peter (1978). The Victorian Christmas Book. Dent. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-460-12039-5.
  78. ^ Woodforde, James (1978). The Diary of a Country Parson 1758–1802. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-281241-4.
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  80. ^ Mather, Cotton (December 25, 1712). Grace defended. A censure on the ungodliness, by which the glorious grace of God, is too commonly abused. A sermon preached on the twenty fifth day of December, 1712. Containing some seasonable admonitions of piety. And concluded, with a brief dissertation on that case, whether the penitent thief on the cross, be an example of one repenting at the last hour, and on such a repentance received unto mercy? (Speech). Boston, Massachusetts: B. Green, for Samuel Gerrish. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  81. ^ Stephen W. Nissenbaum, "Christmas in Early New England, 1620–1820: Puritanism, Popular Culture, and the Printed Word", Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 106:1: p79-164 (January 1, 1996). Retrieved December 25, 2023.
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  83. ^ Marling, Karal Ann (2000). Merry Christmas!: Celebrating America's Greatest Holiday. Harvard University Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-674-00318-7.
  84. ^ Smith Thomas, Nancy (2007). Moravian Christmas in the South. Old Salem Museums & Gardens. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8078-3181-6.
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  86. ^ Christmas in France. World Book Encyclopedia. 1996. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-7166-0876-9. Carols were altered by substituting names of prominent political leaders for royal characters in the lyrics, such as the Three Kings. Church bells were melted down for their bronze to increase the national treasury, and religious services were banned on Christmas Day. The cake of kings, too, came under attack as a symbol of royalty. It survived, however, for a while with a new name—the cake of equality.
  87. ^ Mason, Julia (December 21, 2015). "Why Was Christmas Renamed 'Dog Day' During the French Revolution?". HistoryBuff. Archived from the original on November 1, 2016. Retrieved November 18, 2016. How did people celebrate the Christmas during the French Revolution? In white-knuckled terror behind closed doors. Anti-clericalism reached its apex on 10 November 1793, when a Fête de la Raison was held in honor of the Cult of Reason. Churches across France were renamed "Temples of Reason" and the Notre Dame was "de-baptized" for the occasion. The Commune spared no expense: "The first festival of reason, which took place in Notre Dame, featured a fabricated mountain, with a temple of philosophy at its summit and a script borrowed from an opera libretto. At the sound of Marie-Joseph Chénier's Hymne à la Liberté, two rows of young women, dressed in white, descended the mountain, crossing each other before the 'altar of reason' before ascending once more to greet the goddess of Liberty." As you can probably gather from the above description, 1793 was not a great time to celebrate Christmas in the capital.
  88. ^ a b c Rowell, Geoffrey (December 1993). "Dickens and the Construction of Christmas". History Today. 43 (12). Archived from the original on December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2016. There is no doubt that A Christmas Carol is first and foremost a story concerned with the Christian gospel of liberation by the grace of God, and with incarnational religion which refuses to drive a wedge between the world of spirit and the world of matter. Both the Christmas dinners and the Christmas dinner-carriers are blessed; the cornucopia of Christmas food and feasting reflects both the goodness of creation and the joy of heaven. It is a significant sign of a shift in theological emphasis in the nineteenth century from a stress on the Atonement to a stress on the Incarnation, a stress which found outward and visible form in the sacramentalism of the Oxford Movement, 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. [...] In the course of the century, under the influence of the Oxford Movement's concern for the better observance of Christian festivals, Christmas became more and more prominent. By the later part of the century cathedrals provided special services and musical events, and might have revived ancient special charities for the poor – though we must not forget the problems for large: parish-church cathedrals like Manchester, which on one Christmas Day had no less than eighty couples coming to be married (the signing of the registers lasted until four in the afternoon). The popularity of Dickens' A Christmas Carol played a significant part in the changing consciousness of Christmas and the way in which it was celebrated. The popularity of his public readings of the story is an indication of how much it resonated with the contemporary mood, and contributed to the increasing place of the Christmas celebration in both secular and religious ways that was firmly established by the end of the nineteenth century.
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  90. ^ a b Standiford, Les (2008). The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. Crown. ISBN 978-0-307-40578-4.
  91. ^ a b Minzesheimer, Bob (December 22, 2008). "Dickens' classic 'Christmas Carol' still sings to us". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 6, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  92. ^ Hutton, Ronald (February 15, 2001). The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-157842-7.
  93. ^ Forbes, Bruce David (October 1, 2008). Christmas: A Candid History. --University of California Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-520-25802-0. What Dickens did advocate in his story was "the spirit of Christmas". Sociologist James Barnett has described it as Dickens's "Carol Philosophy", which "combined religious and secular attitudes toward to celebration into a humanitarian pattern. It excoriated individual selfishness and extolled the virtues of brotherhood, kindness, and generosity at Christmas. [...] Dickens preached that at Christmas men should forget self and think of others, especially the poor and the unfortunate." The message was one that both religious and secular people could endorse.
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  96. ^ Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: The Ritual Year in England. 1996. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 113. ISBN 0-19-285448-8.
  97. ^ Joe L. Wheeler. Christmas in My Heart, Volume 10, p. 97. Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 2001. ISBN 0-8280-1622-4.
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  102. ^ Godey's Lady's Book, 1850. Godey's copied it exactly, except he removed the Queen's tiara, and Prince Albert's moustache, to remake the engraving into an American scene.
  103. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (ed.) (2003), A Christmas Carol, p. 20. Broadview Literary Texts, New York: Broadview Press, ISBN 1-55111-476-3.
  104. ^ Moore's poem transferred the genuine old Dutch traditions celebrated at New Year in New York, including the exchange of gifts, family feasting, and tales of "sinterklass" (a derivation in Dutch from "Saint Nicholas", from whence comes the modern "Santa Claus") to Christmas.The history of Christmas: Christmas history in America Archived April 19, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, 2006.
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  118. ^ Connelly, Mark (2000). Christmas at the Movies: Images of Christmas in American, British and European Cinema. I.B.Tauris. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-86064-397-2. A chapter on representations of Christmas in Soviet cinema could, in fact be the shortest in this collection: suffice it to say that there were, at least officially, no Christmas celebrations in the atheist socialist state after its foundation in 1917.
  119. ^ Ramet, Sabrina Petra (November 10, 2005). Religious Policy in the Soviet Union. Cambridge University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-521-02230-9. The League sallied forth to save the day from this putative religious revival. Antireligioznik obliged with so many articles that it devoted an entire section of its annual index for 1928 to anti-religious training in the schools. More such material followed in 1929, and a flood of it the next year. It recommended what Lenin and others earlier had explicitly condemned—carnivals, farces, and games to intimidate and purge the youth of religious belief. It suggested that pupils campaign against customs associated with Christmas (including Christmas trees) and Easter. Some schools, the League approvingly reported, staged an anti-religious day on the 31st of each month. Not teachers but the League's local set the programme for this special occasion.
  120. ^ Zugger, Christopher Lawrence (2001). Catholics of the Soviet Empire from Lenin Through Stalin. Syracuse University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-8156-0679-6. As observed by Nicholas Brianchaninov, writing in 1929–1930, after the NEP and just as the worst of collectivization was beginning, the Soviets deemed it necessary to drive into the heads of the people the axiom that religion was the synthesis of everything most harmful to humanity. It must be presented as the enemy of man and society, of life and learning, of progress. [...] In caricatures, articles, Bezbozhnik, Antireligioznik, League of Militant Atheists propaganda and films. School courses [were give] on conducting the struggle against religion (how to profane a church, break windows, objects of piety). The young, always eager to be with the latest trend, often responded to such propaganda. In Moscow in 1929 children were brought to spit on the crucifixes at Christmas. Priests in Tiraspol diocese were sometimes betrayed by their own young parishioners, leading to their imprisonment and even death, and tearing their families apart.
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  122. ^ Goldberg, Carey (January 7, 1991). "A Russian Christmas—Better Late Than Never: Soviet Union: Orthodox Church celebration is the first under Communists. But, as with most of Yeltsin's pronouncements, the holiday stirs a controversy". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2014. For the first time in more than seven decades, Christmas—celebrated today by Russian Orthodox Christians—is a full state holiday across Russia's vast and snowy expanse. As part of Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin's ambitious plan to revive the traditions of Old Russia, the republic's legislature declared last month that Christmas, long ignored under atheist Communist ideology, should be written back into the public calendar. "The Bolsheviks replaced crosses with hammers and sickles," said Vyacheslav S. Polosin, head of the Russian legislature's committee on religion. "Now they are being changed back."
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Further reading

  • Bowler, Gerry, The World Encyclopedia of Christmas (October 2004: McClelland & Stewart). ISBN 978-0-7710-1535-9
  • Bowler, Gerry, Santa Claus: A Biography (November 2007: McClelland & Stewart). ISBN 978-0-7710-1668-4
  • Comfort, David, Just Say Noel: A History of Christmas from the Nativity to the Nineties (November 1995: Fireside). ISBN 978-0-684-80057-8
  • Count, Earl W., 4000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages (November 1997: Ulysses Press). ISBN 978-1-56975-087-2
  • Federer, William J., There Really Is a Santa Claus: The History of St. Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions Archived December 25, 2022, at the Wayback Machine (December 2002: Amerisearch). ISBN 978-0-9653557-4-2
  • Kelly, Joseph F., The Origins of Christmas Archived December 25, 2022, at the Wayback Machine (August 2004: Liturgical Press). ISBN 978-0-8146-2984-0
  • Miles, Clement A., Christmas Customs and Traditions Archived December 25, 2022, at the Wayback Machine (1976: Dover Publications). ISBN 978-0-486-23354-3
  • Nissenbaum, Stephen, The Battle for Christmas (1996; New York: Vintage Books, 1997). ISBN 0-679-74038-4
  • Restad, Penne L. (1995). Christmas in America: A History. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509300-1.
  • Rosenthal, Jim, St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas (July 2006: Nelson Reference). ISBN 1-4185-0407-6
  • Sammons, Peter (May 2006). The Birth of Christ. Glory to Glory Publications (UK). ISBN 978-0-9551790-1-3.
  • "Christmas" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). 1911. pp. 293–294.
  • Martindale, Cyril (1908). "Christmas" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

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