Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning “Christ’s Mass”) is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ,observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is prepared for by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night;in some traditions, Christmastide includes an Octave. The traditional Christmas narrative, the Nativity of Jesus, delineated in the New Testament says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies; 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 disseminated the message furthermore. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated religiously by the vast majority of Christians, as well as culturally by a number of non-Christian people, and is an integral part of the holiday season, while some Christian groups reject the celebration. In several countries, celebrating Christmas Eve on December 24 has the main focus rather than December 25, with gift-giving and sharing a traditional meal with the family.
Although the month and date of Jesus’ birth are unknown, by the early-to-mid 4th century the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date which was later adopted in the East. 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, some Eastern Christian Churches celebrate Christmas on the December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, the day after the Western Christian Church celebrates the Epiphany. This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a preference of which calendar should be used to determine the day that is December 25. In the Council of Tours of 567, the Church, with its desire to be universal, “declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to be one unified festal cycle”, thus giving significance to both the Western and Eastern dates of Christmas.Moreover, for Christians, the belief that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than the exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas.
Although it is not known why December 25 became a date of celebration, there are several factors that may have influenced the choice. December 25 was the date the Romans marked as the winter solstice, and Jesus was identified with the Sun based on an Old Testament verse. The date is exactly nine months following Annunciation, when the conception of Jesus is celebrated.Finally, the Romans had a series of pagan festivals near the end of the year, so Christmas may have been scheduled at this time to appropriate, or compete with, one or more of these festivals.
The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and caroling, lighting a Christingle, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely 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. 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. The economic impact of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.
“Christmas” is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass”. It is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, which is from Old English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038 followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131. Crīst (genitive Crīstes) is from Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), a translation of Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ), “Messiah”, meaning “anointed”; and mæsse is from Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist. The form Christenmas was also historically used, but is now considered archaic and dialectal; it derives from Middle English Cristenmasse, literally “Christian mass”. Xmas is an abbreviation of Christmas found particularly in print, based on the initial letter chi (Χ) in Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), “Christ”, though numerous style guides discourage its use; it has precedent in Middle English Χρ̄es masse (where “Χρ̄” is an abbreviation for Χριστός)
In addition to “Christmas”, the holiday has been known by various other names throughout its history. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the feast as “midwinter”, or, more rarely, as Nātiuiteð (from Latin nātīvitās below).”Nativity”, meaning “birth”, is from Latin nātīvitās. In Old English, Gēola (Yule) referred to the period corresponding to December and January, which was eventually equated with Christian Christmas.”Noel” (or “Nowel”) entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French noël or naël, itself ultimately from the Latin nātālis (diēs), “birth (day)”.
The canonical gospels of Luke and Matthew both describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem in Judea, to a virgin mother. In the Gospel of Luke account, Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, and Jesus is born there and laid in a manger. It says that angels proclaimed him a savior for all people, and shepherds came to adore him. In the Matthew account, 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 settles in Nazareth.
The earliest known Christian festivals celebrated Jewish holidays, especially Passover, according to the local calendar. These are referred to as “Quartodecmials” because Passover is dated as 14 Nisan on the Jewish calendar. All the major events of the life of Jesus were celebrated in this festival, including his conception, birth, and passion. In the Greek-speaking areas of the Roman Empire, the Macedonian calendar was used. In these areas, the Quartodecimal was celebrated on April 6. In Latin-speaking areas, the Quartodecimal was March 25. The significance of the Quartodecimal declined after 165, when Pope Soter moved celebration of the Resurrection to a Sunday, thereby creating Easter. This put celebration of the passion on Good Friday, and thus moved it away from the Quartodecimal. The Christian ecclesiastical calendar contains many remnants of pre-Christian festivals. Although the dating as December 25 predates pagan influence, the later development of Christmas as a festival includes elements of the Roman feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra as described in the Roman cult of Mithraism.
December 25 was the date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar. Jesus chose to be born on the shortest day of the year for symbolic reasons, according to an early sermon by Augustine: “Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase. Linking Jesus to the Sun was supported by various Biblical passages. Jesus was considered to be the “Sun of righteousness” prophesied by Malachi. John describes him as “the light of the world.”
Such solar symbolism could support more than one date of birth. An anonymous work known as De Pascha Computus (243) linked the idea that creation began at the spring equinox, on March 25, with the conception or birth (the word nascor can mean either) of Jesus on March 28, the day of the creation of the sun in the Genesis account. One translation reads: “O the splendid and divine providence of the Lord, that on that day, the very day, on which the sun was made, the 28 March, a Wednesday, Christ should be born. For this reason Malachi the prophet, speaking about him to the people, fittingly said, ‘Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.'”. In the 17th century, Isaac Newton argued that the date of Christmas was selected to correspond with the solstice.