or Christmas Day
, meaning "Christ
") is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ
observed most commonly on December 25
as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.
central to the Christian liturgical year
, it is prepared for by the season ofAdvent
or the Nativity Fast
and initiates the season of Christmastide
, which historically in the West lasts twelve days
and culminates on Twelfth Night
in some traditions, Christmastide includes an Octave
. Christmas Day
is a public holiday
inmany of the world's nations
is celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian people,
and is an integral part of the holiday season
The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian
, Christian, and secular
themes and origins.
Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving
, completing an Advent calendar
or Advent wreath
, Christmas music
, lighting a Christingle
, an exchange of Christmas cards
, church services
, a special meal
, and the display of various Christmas decorations
, including Christmas trees
, Christmas lights
, nativity scenes
, and holly
. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus
, Saint Nicholas
, and Christkind
, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions
Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.
While the month and date of Jesus' birth
are unknown, by the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church
had placed Christmas on December 25,
a date later adopted in the East,
although some churches celebrate on the December 25 of the older Julian calendar
, which, in the Gregorian calendar, currently corresponds to January 7, the day after the Western Christian Church
celebrates the Epiphany
. The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after the day on which early Christians believed that Jesus was conceived
or with one or more ancient polytheistic
festivals that occurred near southern solstice
(i.e., the Roman winter solstice
connection has been suggested because of a biblical verse[a]
identifying Jesus as the "Sun of righteousness".
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