What is Christmas?

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nativity scene bauble hanging on a Christmas tree
What is Christmas?


The festival Christmas is celebrated all over the world by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is both a religious and cultural festival. It is full of tradition and various practices across the world. 

Here’s just a quick way to define what is Christmas, and a little bit about the meaning of Christmas. Plus, we’ve including a few examples of traditions of Christmastime.

When is Christmas day?

Christmas Day, the 25th December, represents the birth of Jesus Christ according to the Nativity story from the Bible. It is held on 7th January for Orthodox Christians.

It is thought to have started in 4th century. The same day was a pagan festival in Roman times and was a winter solstice celebration to honour the sun.

As Christmas falls close to the winter solstice in Northern hemisphere the festive period is sometimes seen as a celebration of the winter season.

What is the story of Christmas?

Jesus Christ was born to Mary who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, the northern part of Israel.

Mary was visited by the angel called Gabriel who told her that she would give birth to a baby boy called Jesus.

Roman rulers had ordered for a census to be taken, so a pregnant Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem.

The town of Bethlehem was crowded for the census so Mary and Joseph struggled to find somewhere to stay. They were repeatedly turned away from the local inns.

Eventually, the heavily pregnant Mary and Joseph found an innkeeper who let them stay in the stable that used for animals.

It was in this stable that Mary gave birth to Jesus.

After his birth, Jesus was visited by three wise men from the East who had been guided by a star to Bethlehem. These wise men gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

At the same time, an angel guided some shepherds to witness the birth of Jesus.

Other winter holidays and significant celebrations

The festive period also covers the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, and in the US the festival of Kwanzaa is celebrated.

Las Posadas is a Latin American celebration at this time.

Many Europeans countries celebrate Epiphany (sometimes known as the Three Kings Day), which is usually celebrated on 6th January. 

Traditions of Christmas 

There are a number of rituals and celebrations carried out on both Christmas Day and over the Christmas period. These vary from family to family, community to community, country to country, and even across different faith groups.

For non-Christians Christmas is often celebrating as a gift-giving and family time.

There are many customs and rituals over the Christmas including gift-giving, decorating the home, exchanging greetings cards, music, singing carols, attending plays and theatre, bringing nature into the home, feasts with family and friends, and time off from work.

what is christmas

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