Christmas Day

Christmas Day, on December 25, is one of the most festive Christian holidays in many countries around the world. It celebrates Jesus' birth.

In some countries, Christmas presents are placed in Christmas stockings.
In some countries, Christmas presents are placed in Christmas stockings.
©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

Celebrate Christmas Day

Christmas Day is a holiday in many, but not all, countries. Many homes have Christmas trees and other decorations in the weeks leading to Christmas Day. Some workplaces hold Christmas parties prior to December 25. Festive activities include exchanging presents, singing Christmas songs, going to parties.

It's a special time when children get presents from family, friends and Santa Claus, or Father Christmas. Christmas cards are also given or sent out prior to Christmas Day.

For some, Christmas is an exclusive family affair, while others invite friends to a Christmas buffet or pot luck meal. Churches have special services and may include a crèche or miniature Nativity scene.

What's Open or Closed?

Christmas Day is a public holiday in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Government offices, educational institutions, many businesses and post offices are closed on this day. If you plan to travel with public transport, check with the local transport authority on schedule changes.

About Christmas Day

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the son of God. His birth date is unknown because there is little information about his early life. There is disagreement among scholars on when Jesus was born. Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7.

The word “Christmas” comes from the old English “Cristes maesse”, or the mass of Christ. It is likely that the Christmas date of December 25 was chosen to offset the Pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti. It it also possible that the celebration of the birth of the “true light of the world” was set at the time of the December solstice because this is when the days in the northern hemisphere begin to grow longer. Christmas holiday customs derive from various cultures, including Teutonic, Celtic, Roman, West Asian and Christian.

Symbols

The mistletoe is a commonly used Christmas decoration. By tradition, people who meet under a hanging mistletoe are obliged to kiss. Mistletoe has pagan associations. For example, the druids of Gaul regarded mistletoe growing on oak trees as sent from heaven.

Other common decorations associated with Christmas are holly and ivy – both are associated with Pagan festivals as it was customary to decorate with greenery for these festivals.

Images of Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, snowmen, reindeer, and candy canes are seen in cards, posters, signs and other printed or marketing material associated with the Christmas celebrations. Images of baby Jesus, the Christmas star, and other symbols associated with the religious meaning of Christmas are also seen during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

You might also like

Look Up for Shooting Stars!

Look Up for Shooting Stars!

The Leonid meteor shower is active now and peaks on Nov 17/18. Use our Interactive Meteor Shower Sky Map to see when and where to best see these shooting stars. more

Commuters and tourists in Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom.

Daylight Saving Time (DST)

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward 1 hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight. more

Calendar with 12 months

12 Months of the Year

The 12 months of the year are linked to the Moon's orbit around Earth. Why are there 12 months? What do the month names mean? more