Christmas day is celebrated annually on December 25th, the festivities begin on the evening of December 24th, usually with family gatherings for dinner. In 2023 the date fall on monday.
Since Christmas Day is a national holiday in the United States of America, it is usually a day off that people take the opportunity to visit relatives or friends. It is also common to organize a special meal, often consisting of turkey, and exchange gifts at the ceremony. This in particular has led this Cristian ceremony to become a commercial date across the world.
Christmas Eve is the day before, and since it is not an official federal holiday, so most people usually have to work at this date. However, some states do declare Christmas Eve a partial day off.
The calendar below shows the week day the date falls (in 2023).
Origin and meaning of Christmas
In the 4th century, Catholic Church choose December 25th to celebrate Jesus birth. The word Christmas derives from the Latin natalis, witch means “birth”.
But was Jesus really born on December 25th? The gospel tells that Jesus was born in little town of Bethlehem, and that shepherds were among the first to visit the baby, soon after his birth. But December is winter in that place, and shepherds do not herd their sheep in winter. So it is unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th.
But why then is Christmas celebrated on December 25th? During the 4th century, pagan festivals were taking place in Rome around this date to celebrate the winter solstice. So by choosing the date of Jesus’ birth on December 25th, Pope Julius the 1st saw an opportunity to counteract pagan festivals and bring the infidels into Christianity.
By doing so, the Catholic Church transmuted December 25th from a pagan festival (to be forgotten) to a Christian festival (to be remembered). Today, Christmas Day is celebrated annually in practically all the West, and is a holiday in most countries of the world.
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Christmas symbols and traditions
Christmas celebrations are surrounded by traditions, and one of the most widespread tradition in the western world is the decoration of cities, during the weeks leading up to the date. Streets, trees, buildings, and bridges, just to name a few, are decorated with Christmas themes, such as colored baubles, stars and lights of all kinds.
The three main symbols of Christmas are:
- Christmas tree
- Nativity scene
- Santa Claus
Christmas tree: this is perhaps the oldest symbol of Christmas. According to some researchers, decorating the trees in December was already a tradition among the Romans for the pagan winter solstice festivities, a tradition that would remain until today. Other researchers attribute tree decorations to Luther in Germany.
But regardless of how this tradition got here, decorating trees are a widespread tradition among the countries where Christmas Day is celebrated.
Nativity scene: Another Christmas symbol is the nativity scene, whose word is derived from the Latin praesepio. According to Catholic tradition, the crib was first seen in 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi set up a crib made of straw to celebrate the date in the most realistic way possible. The tradition quickly spread throughout Europe.
Traditionally, both Christmas tree and the nativity scene are usually assembled in late November and early December, and dismantled on January 6th, the date commemorating the arrival of the Three Wise Men, also known as the Three Kings, in Bethlehem.
Santa Claus: The figure of Santa Claus is another very strong symbol present in all Christmas across the World. According to the legend, this character was a man with a white beard who lives in a very cold region in the far north of the planet. Starting on December 24th, the old man travels around the world handing out presents to well-behaved children.
Santa Claus character was inspired by the 4th century Turkish archbishop Saint Nicholas, who used to help the needy with gifts or a bag of coins. Altgough Cristian Church later declared him a saint, his transformation into a Christmas symbol happened only centuries later, in Germany. The name Santa Claus derives from the expression “Saint Nicholas“, when pronounced quickly becomes “Santa Claus“.
Find bellow the days of the week that Christmas will fall in the next few years: