Christmas is celebrated annually on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus. While traditionally a Christian holiday, there are many secular traditions associated with Christmas, such as caroling, sending cards, Christmas trees and lights, mistletoe, Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
What does Christmas (the word) mean?
First recorded in 1038, the Middle English translation means “Christ’s Mass”. Interestingly, the Greek letter X (chi) is the first letter of Christ. You may have seen the abbreviation “X-Mas”. We thought it took the “Christ” out of Christmas, but “X” has been used as an abbreviation for Christ since the mid-16th century (see the Oxford English Dictionary).
Christmas celebrates the miracle of Jesus’ birth, as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. According to the Gospels, Jesus was born to Mary, a virgin, in the city of Bethlehem. There was no room for Mary and her husband Joseph in the inn, so tradition tells of the birth in a stable, with animals. The Gospel of Luke tells how Jesus was wrapped in clothes and placed in a manger. An angel told shepherds of Jesus’ birth, and they were the first to see the child.
Christmas is celebrated by many people throughout the world, and traditions of celebration vary. Depending on the country, it is celebrated on December 25 or January 7, the latter in countries that use the traditional Julian calendar.