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Read More on This Topic. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: A Christmas Carol , suddenly conceived and written in a few weeks in late , was the first of these Christmas books a new literary genre thus created incidentally.

Tossed off while he was amply engaged in writing Chuzzlewit , it was an extraordinary achievement—the…. Christmas is celebrated on December 24 with the traditional Julskinka ham.

Glogg, a mulled, spiced wine, is also enjoyed during this season. Now the Christmas tree is a fixture of Finnish Christmas celebrations, which also involve special foods, including rice porridge made with milk and cinnamon , a baked glazed ham,….

The government removed Christmas from its list of national holidays in The constitution of guaranteed limited religious freedoms, although it proclaimed scientific materialism as the basis of the state and of the educational system.

The invention of the Christmas books decorations Christmas tree In Christmas tree flowers and wreaths In floral decoration: Materials In floral decoration: Forms of floral decoration mistletoe In mistletoe View More.

The Celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.

Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback. Introduction Origin and development Contemporary customs in the West Contemporary customs in Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy Contemporary customs in other areas.

You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered. Any text you add should be original, not copied from other sources.

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View All Media 7 Images and 5 Videos. The transformation was accomplished with the aid of notable contributors including Washington Irving and the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast — New York had originally been established as the Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam and the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition was reinvented as Saint Nicholas.

However, as new artists took over, Santa Claus developed more secular attire. By the s, Nast's Santa had evolved into the modern vision of the figure, perhaps based on the English figure of Father Christmas.

The image was standardized by advertisers in the s [] and continues through the present day. Father Christmas, a jolly, stout, bearded man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, predates the Santa Claus character.

He is first recorded in early 17th century England, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness rather than the bringing of gifts.

It is said that La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way. Now, she brings gifts to all children. In other versions, elves make the toys.

His wife is referred to as Mrs. There has been some opposition to the narrative of the American evolution of Saint Nicholas into the modern Santa.

It has been claimed that the Saint Nicholas Society was not founded until , almost half a century after the end of the American War of Independence.

Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York was alive and well from the early settlement of the Hudson Valley on.

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.

Greek children get their presents from Saint Basil on New Year's Eve, the eve of that saint's liturgical feast. 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.

Multiple gift-giver figures exist in Poland, varying between regions and individual families. As of , 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.

However, other Orthodox Christians, such as those belonging to the jurisdictions of Bulgaria , Greece , Romania , Constantinople , Antioch , Alexandria , Albania , Cyprus , Finland , and the Orthodox Church in America , among others, began using the Revised Julian calendar in the early 20th century, which at present corresponds exactly to the Gregorian calendar.

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 the Armenian Church in Armenia uses the Gregorian calendar.

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.

In summary, there are four different dates used by different Christian groups to mark the birth of Christ, given in the table below. Christmas is typically a peak selling season for retailers in many nations around the world.

Sales increase dramatically as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies to celebrate. In the UK and Ireland, the Christmas shopping season starts from mid-November, around the time when high street Christmas lights are turned on.

In other sectors, the pre-Christmas increase in spending was even greater, there being a November—December buying surge of percent in bookstores and percent in jewelry stores.

In the same year employment in American retail stores rose from 1. 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.

Scotland is currently planning similar legislation. 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.

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.

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.

Christmas has at times been the subject of controversy and attacks from various sources. Historically it was prohibited by Puritans when they briefly held power in England during the English Interregnum — , and in Colonial America where the Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas in Modern scholars such as E.

Sanders , Geza Vermes and Marcus Borg consider both Gospel narratives of the birth of Jesus to be non-historical, arguing that there are contradictions between them.

One controversy is the occurrence of Christmas trees being renamed Holiday trees. 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.

American Muslim scholar Abdul Malik Mujahid has said that Muslims must treat Christmas with respect, even if they disagree with it.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Christmas disambiguation. For other uses, see Christmas Day disambiguation.

For Christmas traditions worldwide, see Christmas traditions. A depiction of the Nativity of Jesus with a Christmas tree backdrop.

The Herald Angels Sing. Santa Claus , Father Christmas , and Christkind. Christmas controversy and Christmas in Puritan New England.

Persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union. Christmas portal Holidays portal Christianity portal. The Roman calendar used inclusive counting, so the eight days are 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 1.

Retrieved September 30, Retrieved December 16, World Religions in Practice. Coptic Orthodox Church Network. Retrieved January 17, The New York Times.

Identity Politics and Popular Practice. Robert Appleton Company, Armenian Churches observed the nativity on January 6 even before the Gregorian calendar originated.

Retrieved May 23, University of California Press. In 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 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.

Introduction to Christian Liturgy. We noted above that late medieval calendars introduced a reduced three-day octave for Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost that were retained in Roman Catholic and passed into Lutheran and Anglican calendars.

Retrieved November 27, Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved November 18, The Christmas Encyclopedia 3 ed. 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: A Biographical History of the Christian Church.

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.

Degenhard, Therese Brown, Robert C. Prendergast, Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays Commemorations of the Martyrs" , The Tertullian Project.

Retrieved November 24, Retrieved April 2, 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 Heb.

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. 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 has 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.

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.

For Christians, the precise date of the birth of Jesus is actually something of a non-issue. What really matters is that he was born as a human being, and entered into human history.

While the Washington and King birthdays are exclusively secular holidays, Christmas has both secular and religious aspects.

In a changing nation, Santa endures" , Associated Press, December 22, Robert Appleton Company, accessed December 21, Sinai and the Monastery of St.

Retrieved December 12, Commemorations of the Martyrs. See the first entry. Retrieved December 28, 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.

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: 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.

Retrieved December 25, Towards the Origin of Christmas. A sun connection is possible because Christians considered Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4: You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Retrieved February 24, Therefore let us celebrate the festival…" Tally, pp. The Origins of Christmas. Toward the Origins of Christmas.

Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen , part 1. Note that the first edition, , doesn't have the discussion of Natalis Solis Invicti ; also Sol Invictus The Origins of the Liturgical Year.

Retrieved December 27, The Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome. Archived from the original on May 10, Theology, ritual, and kinship in music for John the Baptist and St.

The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought. Brunner, "Arnobius eine Zeuge gegen das Weihnachtsfest?

Inscriptiones Latinae Antiquissimae , Berlin , pp. Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany of Saint Augustine. Toward the Origin of Christmas.

The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Retrieved February 3, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Archived from the original on April 30, Retrieved April 30, Retrieved October 19, The Man Who Invented Christmas: A Study in National Culture.

Retrieved November 19, Retrieved September 10, University Press of Kentucky. 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 and , which demanded an allegiance to the state church and its Thirty-nine Articles.

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.

Reformed According to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press. 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: They were chosen because they were understood to mark the essential stages in the history of salvation.

Journal of the History of Ideas. University of Pennsylvania Press. 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 Domestic Annals of Scotland , p.

Archived from the original on May 19, Retrieved February 29, The Victorian Christmas Book. The Diary of a Country Parson — Celebrating America's Greatest Holiday.

Moravian Christmas in the South. Christmas in Colonial and Early America. World Book Encyclopedia, Inc. 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 the royalty. It survived, however, for a while with a new name—the cake of equality.

Archived from the original on November 1, How did people celebrate the Christmas during the French Revolution? In white-knuckled terror behind closed doors.

Churches across France were renamed "Temples of Reason" and the Notre Dame was "de-baptized" for the occasion. The Commune spared no expense: Archived from the original PDF on June 3, Retrieved January 12, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.

What Dickens did advocate in his story was "the spirit of Christmas". In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday.

Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish.

Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside. In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated.

Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down.

For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock.

In the early years of Christianity , Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.

In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration.

Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?

It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.

Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day.

This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.

By the Middle Ages , Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink.

If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe.

When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in , they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas.

By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday. The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in , were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell.

As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America.

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One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on the part of the Christian church to appropriate a pagan festival when the early church was so intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices.

Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the 9th century but did not attain the liturgical importance of either Good Friday or Easter , the other two major Christian holidays.

Roman Catholic churches celebrate the first Christmas mass at midnight, and Protestant churches have increasingly held Christmas candlelight services late on the evening of December The service, inaugurated by E.

Benson and adopted at the University of Cambridge , has become widely popular. None of the contemporary Christmas customs have their origin in theological or liturgical affirmations, and most are of fairly recent date.

The Renaissance humanist Sebastian Brant recorded, in Das Narrenschiff ; The Ship of Fools , the custom of placing branches of fir trees in houses.

Even though there is some uncertainty about the precise date and origin of the tradition of the Christmas tree , it appears that fir trees decorated with apples were first known in Strasbourg in The first use of candles on such trees is recorded by a Silesian duchess in The Advent wreath—made of fir branches, with four candles denoting the four Sundays of the Advent season—is of even more recent origin, especially in North America.

The custom, which began in the 19th century but had roots in the 16th, originally involved a fir wreath with 24 candles the 24 days before Christmas, starting December 1 , but the awkwardness of having so many candles on the wreath reduced the number to four.

An analogous custom is the Advent calendar , which provides 24 openings, one to be opened each day beginning December 1.

According to tradition, the calendar was created in the 19th century by a Munich housewife who tired of having to answer endlessly when Christmas would come.

The first commercial calendars were printed in Germany in The intense preparation for Christmas that is part of the commercialization of the holiday has blurred the traditional liturgical distinction between Advent and the Christmas season, as can be seen by the placement of Christmas trees in sanctuaries well before December Toward the end of the 18th century the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established.

The practice of giving gifts, which goes back to the 15th century, contributed to the view that Christmas was a secular holiday focused on family and friends.

This was one reason why Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebration of Christmas and in both England and America succeeded in banning its observance.

Moreover, in countries such as Austria and Germany , the connection between the Christian festival and the family holiday is made by identifying the Christ Child as the giver of gifts to the family.

In some European countries, St. Nicholas appears on his feast day December 6 bringing modest gifts of candy and other gifts to children. While both name and attire—a version of the traditional dress of bishop—of Santa Claus reveal his Christian roots, and his role of querying children about their past behaviour replicates that of St.

Nicholas, he is seen as a secular figure. In Australia , where people attend open-air concerts of Christmas carols and have their Christmas dinner on the beach, Santa Claus wears red swimming trunks as well as a white beard.

In most European countries, gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, December 24, in keeping with the notion that the baby Jesus was born on the night of the 24th.

The morning of December 25, however, has become the time for the exchange of gifts in North America.

In 17th- and 18th-century Europe the modest exchange of gifts took place in the early hours of the 25th when the family returned home from the Christmas mass.

When the evening of the 24th became the time for the exchange of gifts, the Christmas mass was set into the late afternoon of that day.

In North America the centrality of the morning of the 25th of December as the time for the family to open presents has led, with the exception of Catholic and some Lutheran and Episcopal churches, to the virtual end of holding church services on that day, a striking illustration of the way societal customs influence liturgical practices.

Reformed According to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press. 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: They were chosen because they were understood to mark the essential stages in the history of salvation.

Journal of the History of Ideas. University of Pennsylvania Press. 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 Domestic Annals of Scotland , p.

Archived from the original on May 19, Retrieved February 29, The Victorian Christmas Book. The Diary of a Country Parson — Celebrating America's Greatest Holiday.

Moravian Christmas in the South. Christmas in Colonial and Early America. World Book Encyclopedia, Inc. 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 the royalty.

It survived, however, for a while with a new name—the cake of equality. Archived from the original on November 1, How did people celebrate the Christmas during the French Revolution?

In white-knuckled terror behind closed doors. Churches across France were renamed "Temples of Reason" and the Notre Dame was "de-baptized" for the occasion.

The Commune spared no expense: Archived from the original PDF on June 3, Retrieved January 12, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.

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. University of Toronto Press, , p.

The Ritual Year in England. Oxford University Press, p. Christmas in My Heart , Volume 10, p. Review and Herald Pub Assoc, Inverloch Historical Society Inc.

Retrieved July 25, Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe , p. 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.

Broadview Literary Texts, New York: The history of Christmas: Christmas history in America , Archived from the original on December 19, A History of Graphic Design.

Straus November 16, Retrieved January 2, Facts Behind the Myths and Magic of Christmas. Retrieved October 23, Christmas at the Movies: A chapter on representations of Christmas in Soviet cinema could, in fact be the shortest in this collection: Religious Policy in the Soviet Union.

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 to anti-religious training in the schools.

More such material followed in , 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. As observed by Nicholas Brianchaninov, writing in —, 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 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.

Orthodox Church celebration is the first under Communists. But, as with most of Yeltsin's pronouncements, the holiday stirs a controversy".

Retrieved November 22, 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.

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.

Polosin, head of the Russian legislature's committee on religion. A history of propaganda". Retrieved March 11, Retrieved December 24, Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas.

Retrieved December 2, Archived from the original on December 27, Carnegie Museum of Natural History". An Anthology , iUniverse, When Santa was a shaman.

Llewellyn Publications , His biographer, Eddius Stephanus, relates that while Boniface was serving as a missionary near Geismar, Germany, he had enough of the locals' reverence for the old gods.

Taking an axe to an oak tree dedicated to Norse god Thor, Boniface chopped the tree down and dared Thor to zap him for it. When nothing happened, Boniface pointed out a young fir tree amid the roots of the oak and explained how this tree was a more fitting object of reverence as it pointed towards the Christian heaven and its triangular shape was reminiscent of the Christian trinity.

Archived from the original on December 21, Retrieved December 18, Retrieved February 17, Symbolic Lights and Fires of Christmas Activity ".

Retrieved December 10, Archived June 29, , at the Wayback Machine. A Flame of Love. A Christmas Carol , Broadview Press, , p. A History , Greenwood Publishing Group, , pp.

Archived from the original on January 22, Retrieved October 28, Retrieved April 10, The legend of St. Nicholas, who became the bishop of Myra in the beginning of the fourth century, is the next link in the Christmas-gift chain.

Legend has it that during his life the priest rode across Asia Minor bestowing gifts upon poor children. The Journey of the Magi: Meanings in History of a Christian Story.

This exchange network of ceremonial welcome was mirrored in a second reciprocity allowing early Christians to imagine their own magi: Most people today trace the practice of giving gifts on Christmas Day to the three gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus.

For the Enlightenment educationalist, gift-giving turned out to be a relic of a pagan custom, namely, the Roman Saturnalia.

After the introduction of the Julian calendar in Rome, the 25th of December became the day of Sol invictus when people greeted the winter solstice.

It was the day of the Sun's rebirth, and it was the day of the Christmas festivities — although it was only in the year AD that it appears to have become established as the day of Jesus's birth see Pannenberg The Eastern Church adopted this date even later, towards the end of the 4th century, having previously regarded the 6th of January as the day of gift-giving, as it still is in the Italian community of Befana.

The winter solstice was a time of festivity in every traditional culture, and the Christian Christmas probably took its place within this mythical context of the solar cult.

Its core dogma of the Incarnation, however, solidly established the giving and receiving of gifts as the structural principle of that recurrent yet unique event.

But in reality it was they, together with all their fellow men, who received the gift of God through man's renewed participation in the divine life' ibid.: The regions of Italy: Saint Nicholas Bishop of Myra replaced Sabino as the patron saint of the city A Greek from what is now Turkey, he lived in the early fourth century.

Stories Behind Men of Faith. Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara around AD. The son of a businessman named Theophanes and his wife, Nonna, the child's earliest years were spent in Myra As a port on the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of the sea lanes that linked Egypt, Greece and Rome, Myra was a destination for traders, fishermen, and merchant sailors.

Spawned by the spirit of both the city's Greek heritage and the ruling Roman government, cultural endeavours such as art, drama, and music were mainstays of everyday life.

A Candid History , pp. Father Christmas — but this Santa also goes by the name Jonathan Meath City Santa takes suit seriously".

Meath, who is in his first year of being a full-time Santa, makes appearances around Massachusetts at places such as Swing City in Newton Retrieved December 5, Biography of a Legend Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Biography of a Legend ".

Archived from the original on December 7, Archived from the original on January 12, Archived May 17, , at the Wayback Machine.

Archived from the original on March 3, The Holiday Season" December 19, Retrieved August 11, Retrieved August 10, Penguin Books Ltd, p.

The Historical Figure of Jesus. Sanders discusses both birth narratives in detail, contrasts them, and judges them not historical on pp.

Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions Harper One, , p. Hill, Jesus, the Christ: Archived from the original on December 25, School district can ban Christmas carols".

Archived from the original on November 28, Retrieved November 28, Retrieved September 9, A Biography November A Gift from the Ages November The History of St.

A Closer Look at Christmas July The Birth of Christ. Glory to Glory Publications UK. Find more about Christmas at Wikipedia's sister projects.

Stephen's Day Sol Invictus Yule. Nicholas " Television specials Yule Log. Christ Child Jesus Mary Joseph. Shepherds Herod the Great. Matthew 1 Matthew 1: Luke 2 Annunciation to the shepherds.

Links to related articles. Public holidays in Australia. Hobiyee National Aboriginal Day. Public holidays in Hong Kong. Public holidays in the Republic of Ireland.

Liturgical year of the Catholic Church. Based on the General Roman Calendar Computus Liturgical colours Solemnity Older calendars: Public holidays in Mexico.

Public holidays in New Zealand. Public holidays in the Philippines. Holidays, observances, and celebrations in Algeria. New Year's Day 1 Yennayer Valentine's Day 14 Tafsut Children's Day 1 Father's Day International Day of Peace International Day of Non-Violence 2 Halloween Bold indicates major holidays commonly celebrated in Algeria, which often represent the major celebrations of the month.

Public holidays in South Africa. Public holidays in the United Kingdom. Public holidays in Ukraine. Federal holidays in the United States.

Anthony Day Native American Day Holidays, observances, and celebrations in the United States. Patrick's Day religious Spring break week. Columbus Day federal Halloween.

Veterans Day federal Thanksgiving federal. Eid al-Adha religious Eid al-Fitr religious Ramadan religious, month. Winter solstice and midwinter festivals.

India Hindu Sanghamitta Day: Retrieved from " https: Webarchive template wayback links CS1 maint: Views Read View source View history.

In other projects Wikimedia Commons Wikinews Wikiquote. This page was last edited on 28 October , at By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Christians , many non-Christians [1] [2]. The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter.

Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire.

The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter.

For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish.

Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside. In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated.

Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down.

For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome.

In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock.

In the early years of Christianity , Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.

In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration.

Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?

It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.

Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day.

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