History of Christmas - Origins, Traditions & Facts


By: Prerana Aggarwal

1. The exact date of Jesus' birth is unknown, but December 25th was chosen as the date to celebrate it early in Christian history.

1. Early Christians did not widely celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Bible does not mention a date for his birth.


1. Pagan winter solstice festivals that personified the sun and light seem to have influenced the timing of Christmas on December 25th.

1. The Roman Catholic Church settled on December 25th for Christ’s mass, or Christmas, to coincide with pagan festivals.

1. Evergreen decorations were adapted from the pagan tradition of decorating with boughs during winter solstice festivals as symbols of everlasting life.


Gift giving and seasonal charity have long been associated with midwinter festivals. Church leaders endorsed Christmas gifting as commemorating God’s gift to humanity

1. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine.

Spread & Standardization

1. Christmas spread across Europe as Christianity expanded. As it spread and its traditions took hold more firmly, gift giving and feasting became more lavish.

1. As Christmas became more widespread and important commercially, some aspects became more secularized and influenced by pre-Christian winter celebrations.


1. Puritans condemned the celebration for perceived paganism and commercialism. It was banned in England and some parts of America for a time.

1. Immigrants to the Americas brought Christmas customs from Europe, and various cultural influences shaped customs into what became known as the modern American Christmas tradition by the 19th century.

Modern Age

1. December 25th coincides with the winter solstice in the Roman calendar at the time, which signified the return of more daylight and the birth of the sun god Sol Invictus. This provided symbolism of Jesus being the "light of the world."

1. As Christianity spread throughout Europe so did the tradition of Christmas on December 25th, celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants and becoming entrenched over time.