Why Christmas is Celebrated – A History of the Holiday

Why Christmas is Celebrated

Why Christmas is Celebrated: Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated on December 25th. It commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and honors him as the Son of God. The date was chosen because it is close to the winter solstice, an event that was held as sacred by some ancient cultures such as those in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In addition, it is believed that this time of year symbolizes new life after death — that’s why we decorate our trees with ornaments and lights!

What Is the Meaning of Christmas and How Did It Start?

Why Christmas is Celebrated

The history of Christmas starts with Christians in pre-Christian times, before Jesus was born. They would celebrate Saturnalia, a pagan holiday to honor the God Saturn.

During this time, people would share gifts and decorate their homes with greenery—which continued even after Christmas was established as a religious holiday. People would bring greenery into their homes, sing songs of praise to God, and decorate with evergreens quotes. They believed that the holly represented Jesus’ crown of thorns while red berries were used to symbolize his sacrificial blood.

The meaning of Christmas can be found in the story of Jesus Christ’s birth as told by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament as well.

King Herod, fearing that his days were numbered, plotted to kill all new babies born near Bethlehem; but an angel appeared to Josep and warned him to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt; finally, in Nazareth, Joseph and his family were visited by an angel who told them it was safe for them to return home.

Celebration Around the World

In Scandinavia, people celebrated Yule from December 21—the winter solstice—through January. In celebration of the return of the sun, men and boys would bring home huge timber and set it ablaze. The community would eat until the log burned out, which might take as long as a week or more. During this period, people had the belief that each flame from the fire represented a new pig or calf to be born in the coming year.

Around 300 AD, Pope Julius I decided that Christians should have an additional day of celebration during winter. He wanted it to coincide with the birth date of Jesus because he believed it was also when Christ was born.

Why Is It Called Christmas?-Why Christmas is Celebrated

The name “Christmas” comes from the Mass of Christ. The Mass of Christ is the name given to various celebrations that took place in early-medieval Europe on December 25.

These celebrations were done by Christians who honored Saint Nicholas, God’s gift-giver, and other Christianized pagan gods like Odin (god of seafarers), Thor (god of thunder), or Freya (goddess of love). These celebrations would have been very similar to Saturnalia, which was a pagan celebration that honored the god of agriculture.

The word “Christ” comes from the Greek Christos which means “anointed one”. In Hebrew, this concept would have been expressed as Moshiach or Messiah—the name of the expected king meant to deliver the Jewish nation, according to Britannica.

The word “mass” comes from Latin and means “to send”. In antiquity, a priest would be sent by the people to petition their patron god for good health or fortune. For example, in ancient Greece, it was customary for citizens to take turns as priests of Apollo during an annual festival at his shrine in Delphi. They would offer sacrifices and petition for good things in the coming year.

The word “mass” did not only mean a religious service, but also the Eucharist itself. In Latin, this would have been spelled as Misa or Missa—which is where we get our modern English words for celebration and dismissal.

In other languages, there are some words for Christmas that are also connected to the birth of Jesus. The word Navidad is thought to be related to nativity, as is the word Natale in Italian.

Who Was Santa Claus and When Did He Come Into the Story?-Why Christmas is Celebrated

Originally, Santa Claus was not part of the story of Jesus’ birth. The legend of Santa Claus began in early America when Christians were celebrating Christmas. North American children would leave their shoes by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, and they expected to find them filled with candy and presents on Christmas morning.

However, Santa Claus is not the original saint associated with Christmas. The story of St Nick comes from a Dutch legend about Saint Nicholas who lived in Turkey during the fourth century AD. He helped poor families financially and gave money to children anonymously by throwing coins into their homes at night through the window or down the chimney, where they would be left in the shoes of their fireplace.

St Nick is not associated with Christmas in England or North America, so he did not become Santa Claus there, but his legend was popularized by American author Washington Irving’s 1809 book “A History of New York”. He described St Nick as a Dutch elf who wore fur boots and had rosy cheeks, a white beard, and was known for being generous to children.

Though the name Santa Claus is not mentioned, this character spread throughout America as Christmas became more popular. In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore wrote “Twas The Night Before Christmas”, which included the first description of St Nick’s reindeer sleigh ride from his home at the North Pole.

An editorial cartoon, in 1863, by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly made Santa Claus the main symbol of Christmas and a fixed part of our culture today. In his drawing, he is bringing toys to children on New Year’s Day wearing fur clothes with bright red cheeks and a bushy white beard. He also wears blue stockings and a red suit with fur-trimmed robes.

By the 1880s, Santa Claus was bringing gifts for children everywhere on Christmas Eve thanks to industrialist John Wanamaker of Philadelphia who advertised him as having eight flying reindeer pulling his sleigh. The department store Macy’s has also contributed their ideas about what the jolly old elf looks like with their annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

A Brief History of Christmas Traditions-Why Christmas is Celebrated

Christmas traditions tend to be very different from one country to another, but all of these practices combined make up what we know as Christmas today.

The history of Christmas begins with Christians in pre-Christian times, as previously mentioned. People would share presents and adorn their homes with greenery during this era, which persisted even after Christmas became a religious holiday.

Christmas trees were first used by Christians to cover up crucifixes as a way of hiding the symbol from those who persecuted them. The practice then became popularized among non-Christians, and it eventually expanded into decorating with other types of greenery and ornaments.

In England during the 16th century, people began exchanging gifts because they thought it would bring them good luck. The tradition was adopted by the Americans in the early 1700s after a German immigrant brought it to Pennsylvania with him.

Christmas carols were first sung in England during the Middle Ages, but they became popularized among Americans after 1820. By this time, Christmas had become a commercial holiday rather than just a religious one. People would pay for performances of songs that celebrated the event to help make it more festive and enjoyable.

Around 1830, businesses began feeling that the holiday season was such a boon for them that they tried to prolong it. This led to innovations like sending cards and opening stores earlier in December, which eventually evolved into our modern Black Friday tradition.


Christmas has gone through many changes since its beginning in the fourth century. Today, Christmas is more focused on gift-giving and spending time with family than it was in the past. It’s a popular holiday for exchanging cards or sending other messages of goodwill toward friends and loved ones. It’s also a time to reflect on our own lives and how we can be better people in 2022.

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