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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS



Origins of the Holiday

Christmas or Christmas Day is a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. Aspects of celebration may include gift-giving, Christmas trees, display of Nativity sets, church attendance, the Father Christmas/Santa Claus myth, and family gatherings. Churches using the Gregorian calendar observe the holiday on December 25. Some Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate on December 25 by the Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. These dates are merely traditional; the great majority of scholars agree that the actual birthdate of Jesus is unknown.

The word Christmas is derived from Middle English Christemasse and from Old English Cristes m泳e.[1] It is a contraction meaning "Christ's mass". The name of the holiday is often shortened to Xmas because Roman letter "X" resembles the Greek letter Χ (chi), an abbreviation for Christ (Χριστός).

In Western countries, Christmas is the most economically significant holiday of the year, and is even celebrated by non-Christians. The popularity of Christmas can be traced in part to its status as a winter festival. Many cultures have their most important holiday in winter because there is less agricultural work to do at this time. Examples of winter festivals that are believed by some to have influenced Christmas include the pre-Christian festivals of Yule and Saturnalia, and many of the traditions associated with the holiday have origins in these pagan winter celebrations.

In Western culture, the holiday is characterized by the exchange of gifts among friends and family members, some of the gifts being attributed to Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Basil and Father Frost). However, various local and regional Christmas traditions are still practiced, despite the widespread influence of American, British and Australian Christmas motifs disseminated by film, popular literature, television, and other media.

Next: Medieval, Reformation and Modern Times



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