Discover Christmas traditions, folklore, recipes, and more
Why do we celebrate Christmas Day every year on 25th December? Find out with a brief history of this all-important Christian festival—and discover the meaning behind the symbols of Christmas. Plus, let’s bring Christmas to life with recipes, crafts, poetry, and customs from around the world! (Discover Christmas Traditions)
When is Christmas Day?
For Western Christian churches, Christmas Day is always on 25 December, although some cultures celebrate the main celebration on Christmas Eve.
Why do we celebrate Christmas on 25th December?
Christmas Day is an annual Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
Specifically, the meaning of Christmas comes in the commemoration and celebration of God’s presence in our world through Jesus, God-made flesh.
Christmas is also largely celebrated by non-Christians as a seasonal holiday, with popular traditions such as gift-giving, feasting, and caroling.
Although the exact date of Christ’s birth is unknown, Christmas has been symbolically celebrated on December 25 since the 4th century.
Scholars cannot agree on when Jesus Christ was born, and the exact circumstances of the beginning of Christmas as we know it remains unclear.
Some chronologists from the 3rd century considered 25 December, around the winter solstice, to be the most likely day of Christ’s birth, although other dates have been suggested, including several in spring and autumn.
The earliest extant record of a celebration of the Nativity of Christ in the Western Church is in a Roman calendar called the Chronograph (or Chronograph) of 354, also known as the Philokalia calendar.
This almanac noted that a celebration was held by the Church in Rome in the year 336 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Around 350 BC, Pope Julius I set December 25 as the date the Church would commemorate the birth of Jesus.
Many historians believe that the Church spurred interest in a festival at this time of year to counter pagan festivals around the solstice, but no historical documents clearly explain the reasons Rome set the date for December 25.
The word “Christmas” comes from the Old English Christes Mace, meaning “Christ’s Mass.”
How do we celebrate Christmas?
Today’s rich mosaic of Christmas customs has been passed down through the ages from around the world. For example, the candles and lights associated with Christmas, symbolizing the guiding beacon for the Christ child, may have evolved from the Yule log, which was used to return the sun to the sun as part of the Jol (Yule) celebration in pagan Scandinavia. (Discover Christmas Traditions)
Here are two more popular Christmas traditions and how they originated:
How did the idea of the Christmas tree start?
It probably originated during winter festivals long before the introduction of Christianity. The practice of decorating a tree, or using plants and trees that were green year-round, was important to people during the winter season.
Some cultures believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and even diseases. During the Middle Ages, December 24 was celebrated as the Feast of Adam and Eve, complete with a Paradise Tree, a pine tree hung with red apples.
Today, the practice of using decorated evergreen trees as part of the Christian celebration of Christmas began over 400 years ago in Germany and quickly spread throughout northern Europe and, therefore, became a tradition transplanted to the New World by European immigrants.
How did the custom of giving Christmas gifts begin?
Ancient Romans gave each other gifts on the calendars (first day) of January, and the practice spread throughout the Roman Empire.
Eventually, Christians moved the practice to 25 December, although many Christians still give gifts on 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature to the Magi. (Discover Christmas Traditions)
Christmas Season Folklore
Here at The Old Farmer’s Almanac, we love our folktales, and our readers too! A selection of Christmas season folktales for your perusal:
- Christmas in the snow, Easter in the mud.
- A green Christmas makes a rough churchyard.
- If December is changeable and gentle,
- Will be a kid all winter.
- Thunder in December portends fine weather.
- December is cool with snow, good for rye.
- The long winter and late spring are good for both hay and grain, but bad for corn and orchards.
- If snow hangs on the willow at Christmas, the clover can be harvested at Easter.
- The more mince pies you taste at Christmas, the more happy months you will have.
We hope you like our article on Discover Christmas Traditions, Folklore, Recipes, and more.
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