What is Christmas?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who is considered the Son of God, and the savior of all people. With the birth of Christ, Christianity essentially begins; thus, Christmas also celebrates the beginning of Christianity.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, son of the Virgin Mary.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, son of the Virgin Mary.

Though Christmas is normally celebrated on the 25th of December, strong evidence suggests that Jesus may have in fact been born in the spring. Though many Christians date Christ’s birth as the end of the "Before Christ" or BC era, most believe Christ’s birth can actually be dated to 4 BC. This is a bit ironic, since the Christian era is thought to begin with the birth of Christ, but actually begins later.

A Christmas tree with wrapped presents underneath.
A Christmas tree with wrapped presents underneath.

Some of the images inexorably tied with this celebration are things like shepherds in the snow, and the fierce cold of a winter night when Jesus was born. This is an unlikely scenario, though it is quite possible that the Jews participating in the census and taxation were extremely crowded in Bethlehem.

A house decorated for Christmas.
A house decorated for Christmas.

Sextus Julius Africanus, a 3rd century Christian missionary, is believed to have first espoused the theory of Christ’s birth as December 25th. This worked well when the Romans later largely converted to Christianity because Christmas could be tied to pagan winter rituals, making it more palatable. Historical records suggest some forms of celebration dating back to the early 4th century CE.

Many people enjoy drinking mulled wine at Christmas.
Many people enjoy drinking mulled wine at Christmas.

Some, however, argued that Christmas should not be celebrated as a feast date, because of the divine nature of Christ. This position is still held by some minority Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Evidence suggests Jesus might have been born in spring, not winter.
Evidence suggests Jesus might have been born in spring, not winter.

Though most see Jolly Old England as the source for many modern Christmas traditions, England actually banned celebration from 1647 - 1660 in an effort to free the holiday of what was viewed as its pagan trappings and the excess and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. This, however, was not a popular decision. England reinstated Christmas as a celebratory holiday, though tensions still ran high between the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Church.

The tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City is decorated for Christmas every year.
The tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City is decorated for Christmas every year.

Charles Dickens must be mentioned as inspiring many of the traditions we now regularly practice as part of Christmas celebrations. His phenomenal classic The Christmas Carol published in 1843 changed it to a moderate, family oriented holiday. This differed from past celebrations which often verged on the anti-Christian, and which involved pursuing hedonism with graceless abandon.

Charles Dickens made Christmas the holiday it is today.
Charles Dickens made Christmas the holiday it is today.

Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” firmly established the Christmas/Santa Claus connection. Actually, many traditions are based in Germanic pagan rituals predating Christianity. Many consider Thor to be a frontrunner as an early Santa Claus figure, and the Christmas tree was once a sacrificial tree to the gods, hung brightly with dead animals.

Christmas ornaments are an important part of the holiday celebration.
Christmas ornaments are an important part of the holiday celebration.

Today, some argue, the holiday has been inexorably corrupted by the commercialism with which it has come to be associated. For the poor, it may well be a time when, to quote Dickens, “want is keenly felt.” Dickens uses this as an argument for practicing charity and “keeping Christmas in our hearts” on every day of the year.

The Santa Claus-Christmas connection became established thanks to an 1822 poem.
The Santa Claus-Christmas connection became established thanks to an 1822 poem.

However, it can be stated that for the many joyous family celebrations where poverty is not a factor, there are still many where poverty is felt at Christmas, and where families despair that there is not even money to give their children basic necessities as gifts. Such a thought is sobering when one ponders the Christian message as one of personal sacrifice, kindness to others, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Some children enjoy writing letters to Santa at Christmas.
Some children enjoy writing letters to Santa at Christmas.

Still, many Christians feel that even a Christmas with the overt trappings of commercialization has a special feeling that can only be attributed to faith. It can be a time to renew one’s faith, or merely come closer to the birth of a religion which sustains many. In touching on Christ’s message, even small children may begin to understand the sacred nature of the celebration to Christians.

There are many different Christmas craft and decoration ideas.
There are many different Christmas craft and decoration ideas.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


We cannot change anyone but ourselves. The greatest gift as Jesus who was giving to us. He lived as a human but was God himself, he showed us who he is through his life on earth, to our sadness who we are for the human race killed him because he was too perfect, but through his grace who we can be for he dies for us if we believe. The greatest gift is to give unselfishly no matter what our circumstances. What does not mean physical gifts but gifts of friendship, comfort, loving support. Giving leaves a feeling inside that will last forever. Getting gifts are only temporary. Give of yourself like Christ did will last through eternity.


It is way too commercialized because it's all about getting and not giving.


A good way to learn about the true meaning of Christmas.


I live in the north of Europe, Sweden. The date of Jesus birth was set to Dec. 24-25 to prevent the pagan tradition of hanging priests from the closest tree on "midwinterblot".

It was considered a way to end this tradition in this manner since more and more of the population was Christian.

Another nordic tradition had to be allowed to gain our faith and that was the habit of eating pig. This is forbidden in the bible and it would have been impossible to turn the Nordic people Christian if this was not changed. Ergo, thanks to us, we can enjoy Italian ham.


I'm a Jehovah's Witness and I used to celebrate Christmas (I kind of do still but we just open presents) and I agree with kerapixi so much.


I will be happy if you can show me any verse about Christmas in the Bible saying that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.


Christ must be celebrated every day in our heart individually as Christians, and generally, the first week of October, not December 25.

I know God does not like inventions viewed as pagan trapping nor modifications of dates. That date was convenient for the Romans who later became Christians, to celebrate Christ at the same date they performed their pagan winter rituals. More so, the only thing Christ Himself taught us to do in remembrance of Him was the feast of passover.

Personally, I celebrate Jesus every day in my life. He is the greatest gift I ever received. All hail king Jesus!


I started believing in god not long ago. My dad doesn't like it but I do and I am strong. Christmas is my favorite day because we celebrate Jesus. Merry Christmas. God bless you all. By the way, I am 12.


To the person who said there is no Gospel of Jesus, that it's been lost, I do not agree with that. I live and study the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day. You can too. I found it in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


The birth of Jesus is celebrated because on that day the prophecy was fulfilled which told of the One who is coming to save all mankind from their sins. This Holy One would be the son of God and would bring light into the darkness of the world and the hearts of men. Christmas is this day and is a marvelous celebration of the greatest gift man ever received; Jesus Christ, the one who came to save the world from it's sins. This is cause to celebrate.

It doesn't matter what time of year he was born. It's the fact that he was born and he is worth celebrating. Yes, Christmas has become distorted and commercialized. But it only becomes that to you if you let it - in your heart. Celebrate Jesus and the true meaning of this season, and let your heart be illuminated once again. Read Luke 2 - you will be enlightened.


sadly until now it is an issue for everyone of us doesn't believe Christmas,it makes my heart explode every time i hear and read having a conversation about the existence of Christmas.

I am a Filipino, not that snow is the thing that would remind us that it's Christmas, because the Christmas in the Philippines is about receiving and giving gifts, although many of us don't have that enough money to buy food for the whole year but at least at the time of Christmas eve we have a food in the table to share and eat together with our family.

Celebrating together is so important for me even as I am studying far from my family. I am going home, no matter what, just to be with them. Maybe it is not written in the Holy bible the date, or when or where. For us, Jesus is born in our hearts every second in our lives.

Many religions are flying out there and still i don't know why being a Christian makes me stay. All i know is I am happy being with him even in the softest whisper of my heart, he can still hear me.

Now if you're curious about the existence of God, I'm telling you, he is. keep on believing. God bless and Merry Christmas.


Christmas is later innovation by the church. Jesus himself never celebrated Christmas, nor did his disciples. In addition, the exact date of Jesus birth is far from being known precisely.

What is the use of celebrating the birthday of Jesus while destroying his message at the same time? The real celebration and honoring is to abide by his teachings and to keep his message pure.

Where is the Gospel of Jesus?

Now there is nothing called the Gospel of Jesus. We have the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John, and the Gospel of Luke. Unfortunately, the Gospel of Jesus was lost and it exists nowhere.


absolutely lame "holiday." Christian folk are so fake! Why can't your remember your God, and be thankful, and grateful every day of the year? Why just on Dec.25th?

Jesus Christ was not even born in the winter! Side note: Highest suicide rate occurs a week after "Christmas". Coincidence? I don't think so.


im nasselle of philippines. i just want to know more about christmas, and i just want to know more about God and jesus christ.


Kerapixi, I have to tell you that seeing you perturbed about this holiday is very telling. It is almost like a true testament that the commercials are working.

Christmas has always been about giving and receiving for oneself. The day has never really been about Christ. The date of it down to this day is not one that is Biblically accurate, yet that is not openly discussed.

Why isn't it called Christians Day if it is really about Christ and celebrating the birth of Christianity?

Throughout all the Bible you never once see Jesus speak of his birthday celebration and he lived into his 30's.

Why are we celebrating it today? Also, this holiday, if anything, helps bring up resentment due to the fact that many simply cannot afford it.

This holiday is the one with the most suicides/homicides than any other time of the year. Bringing families together is questionable.


there is no evidence jesus was born in the spring. the evidence points to early october.


I am 19 years old, and unfortunately, I know that I am only speaking for myself when i ask, why is Christmas becoming a ghost of our nations past? I am more and more appalled each year, when Christmas is more about great product advertising and less about family.

When did we start thinking that Christmas was for spoiling our already rotten and ungrateful children? When did Christmas begin to induce bankruptcy? Why did the nations parents and adults stop telling their children that Christmas is about celebrating family and and having faith in your Christ.

Every year, I am closer and closer to crying, because nobody really cares about what Christmas used to mean, back before technology replaced family values, and and cellphones bought out face to face communication. Somebody out there give me some hope that Christmas hasn't died everywhere...


i want to know the actual origination of christmas.


The one questionable statement made here picks at the birth of Christ and the end of the B.C. period discrepancy. I am not a theologian but I have done some study in this area out of curiosity, myself. There are many different calendars down through the centuries and some overlap or disagree with each other. When we note that humans make mistakes and that God's time is perfect, why should the 4-year error on the calendar in use in that area of the world at the time surprise anyone? Lots of dates don't line up with many different calendars. Some are half a century off! Others even more, but yet we go along with them without as much as a shrug.

As far as people needing help...That is the human condition isn't it? But there are many, many local agencies that will help those in need. Churches, social agencies, even local businesses. This forum is not the place to ask for help in my view. Searching in the right places will bring results faster than posting on some ambiguous web site. I would be fearful of those who seek such help as much as those who would respond with offers of help for anyone asking from this or any web page.


this message is for the person who wrote the anonymous message and I pray to God that he or she does not get offended. I'm not waiting for someone to give me anything, i wrote the message that i wrote, because I would not like for my children to keep suffering after having lost everything due to the homelessness situation that we all experienced. I am not looking for any pity neither, but sometimes we humans go through situations that maybe others cannot understand because God deals with each and everyone of us differently, and i believe that when someone goes through a moment of tribulation or trial, is because God wanted it that way to test that person's faith, because there is a purpose behind it all, and I do thank God for that every day of my life, because i rather have Him and not have anything. And i do happen to appreciate what i have, by the way, and that is my relationship with God and my family. the last thing that I have to say to this is that no one saves, all the Glory be to God all Mighty, because it is through His Only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ that we could obtain salvation, and to Him and only Him I hold on to. Have a Blessed day.


It's about remembering the sacrifices, it's about unconditional love for God's children, & respect for what's been given to us. Keep pushing to succeed with what God gave you, not waiting for someone to save you.

Remember it's not about what you can give, but appreciating, what you've got.


I Need to know where I can receive help for Christmas. I just recently lost my job due to down sizing and my husband was just laid off. It seems it all happened right before Christmas I have tried to call our local places for help but I am too late for anything. I have put applications in every where and nobody is hiring at this time. We are trying to do as much as we can just to keep our self respect. If there is anyway anybody knows how I can receive some help. It would be greatly appreciated from us and our 3 children 17, 14 and 9.

Thank you and God bless this Christmas


where can i seek help with christmas. we were recently homeless, and it's hard for me to be able to get presents for my children, i used up the money that i had saved for the down payment of the house, and we're barely struggling to get back everything that we lost. i have 7 children, 3 of them with special needs, i receive disability and going to school to better myself as an individual to be able to provide for my children, but it is so hard along with the situation that i'm dealing with. does anyone has any suggestions, or can help in any way? anything would be greatly appreciated. God Bless.

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