Christmas

Christian feast and festival observed on December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Its observance is first documented in Rome in 336, as a Christian replacement for the pagan festival held on the winter solstice to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun.

Quick Facts

Go Historic ID
16001
Names
Christmas
Mass of Christ
Christ's Mass
Kerstmis Dutch
Kerst-misse Dutch
Noël French
Weihnachtsfest German
Natale Italian
Dies Natalis Latin
Navidad Spanish
Natividad Spanish
Cristes Maesse
Cristes-messe
geol
Etymology
Old English *Christes maesse*, "Christ's mass"
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More Definitions

Refers to the Christian feast and festival observed on December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Its observance is first documented in Rome in 336. The practice of celebrating on December 25 began in the 4th century in the Western church as a Christian replacement for the pagan festival held on the winter solstice to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun. The East originally gave the date of January 6 for the nativity but the date of December 25 was generally accepted by the 5th century; the Armenian Church, however, still celebrates on January 6. Christmas took on the festivity (i.e. decorations and gift-giving) of the Roman Saturnalia and other pagan festivals of that time of year. Christmas has continued to accumulate traditions over the centuries; many of the customs associated with the holiday are of non-Christian origin. Evergreens, for example, are symbols of survival and have been associated with Christmas ever since the European Middle Ages. Christmas is traditionally regarded as a festival of the family and of children. In many countries presents are exchanged in the name of or in the spirit of the holiday's patron, Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus.

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Bibliography

  1. 1.  The Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, 300069053. The J. Paul Getty Trust.