Christmas is regarded as one of the most important of all Christian festivals. It is celebrated on 25th December every year to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is both a religious as well as a secular family festival observed throughout the world.

Image Attribution: Wohin Auswandern


The word ‘Christmas’ originates from the words ‘Cristes Maesse’ or ‘Christ’s Mass’. In earlier times, there was a controversy regarding the date of celebrating Christmas as the exact date of Christ’s birth was not known. According to historians, Christmas was first celebrated in Rome circa 336 AD and the date for the celebration was fixed as December 25. Gradually, this date was accepted by the Western countries and later by the Eastern churches. There are various theories that give an insight into the origin of the festival.


December 25 is celebrated as Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Joseph and Mary.

  • The various customs and traditions associated with the festival of Christmas were believed to be celebrated before the birth of Jesus Christ. Based on this, the history of Christmas is said to date back over 4000 years.
  • Tradition has it that in 137 AD, the Bishop of Rome ordered for the celebration of the birthday of the Christ Child. In 350 AD, another Bishop of Rome by name Julius I, chose December 25th as the date for Christmas.
  • The history of Christmas can be traced from some of the popular celebrations by the early civilizations. These celebrations that gave way to Christmas were – the Mesopotamian celebration of New Years, the Sacaea celebrated by the Persians and the Babylonians, the Winter Solstice rituals held by Europeans, the Yuletide festival in Scandinavia and the Saturnalia festival of the Romans.

Christmas Celebrations:

  • Christmas celebrations begin on the eve of Christmas on 24th December and continue till New Year’s Eve. The Christmas season is observed with high spirits and zeal. The festive air prevails for the whole month. Christmas festivals begin many days before the festival day.
  • The jingling of bells and adorable decorations at every corner of the city indicates the arrival of Christmas Eve.
  • One of the most popular practices is the decoration of the Christmas Tree which is done with great excitement. Christmas Tree adds to the colour and brightness of the celebrations.
  • Houses are cleaned and decorated to mark the winter holidays and celebrations. Decorating houses with mistletoe plants that are considered auspicious, colourful lights and Christmas Nativity scene (exhibiting art objects representing the birth of Lord Jesus) are some of the prominent traditions followed at homes.
  • The Nativity Scene is a popular tradition. A barn is recreated, and there are figures representing Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. They are usually surrounded by angels, the biblical Magi, shepherds, and animals like a donkey, ox and camels.
  • Churches, homes, streets and market areas are decorated with Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, and artificial snow and illuminated with colourful bright lights.
  • Adding to the festive fervor is the tradition of run-up to Christmas, where people often go door-to-door in small groups singing carols.
  • Public places such as restaurants, beaches, pubs and party halls are thronged by people at this season of the year.
  • Christmas is a favourite festival among children. They eagerly wait for this season of the year when they get to have lovely gifts from their favourite Santa Claus. They are at their best of their behaviours to make Santa happy.
  • Immense joy and mirth can be witnessed all around. Some people visit their native place and enjoy the festival with their loved ones. Some stay at home and have a gala time with their dear ones.
  • Another important part of the festival is the midnight Christmas Mass and carnival.
  • Christmas evenings are enjoyed by relishing traditional Christmas food. Preparing Christmas delicacies and exchanging gifts form a part of the celebrations.
  • Christmas carols and songs are sung with utmost faith and fervor.

Traditions and Customs:

The tradition of Christmas festival has evolved over the years and the nature of celebration has also changed to a large extent. The festival which was a religious affair in the early years has now turned out to become a merry hearted event.

Some of the traditional elements of the festival include:

Yule Log– The ancient tradition of cutting logs from red oak trees and burning it was an important ceremony. The Yule Log was carefully chosen and brought into the house. The largest log would be placed into the fire hearth and would burn through the Twelve Days of Christmas. This tradition has slowly withered considering the difficulty in burning a tree at home.
A real chocolate Yule Log is now a popular Christmas dessert.

Santa Claus– Saint Nicholas was well known for his generosity and loving nature towards children. Santa Claus is believed to live at the North Pole where he makes Christmas gifts with the help of his elves. The common belief around the world is that Santa Claus is omnipresent and can visit millions of homes in one night.

Snow– The snow that is witnessed during the winter season represents peace and purity. Fun snow activities such as skiing, sled riding, hiking, snowboarding and snowmobile riding have always been a part of Christmas.

Christmas Tree– The traditional practice has been of using fir trees to celebrate winter festivals. Right from choosing the tree to the decorations of the tree Christmas tree plays an integral part to the celebrations. Gifts are placed under the tree, as family and friends gather around to celebrate the Birth of Christ.

Lights and Decorations– Colourful lights and beautiful decorations during Christmas bring a touch of life and warmth in the midst of winter’s cold and darkness. Beautifully adorned Christmas trees lighted with multicoloured lights are the most popular of the traditions followed.

Wreath– From ancient years, wreaths have been used to decorate homes. The wreaths are made of evergreens such as pine and holly. It is also decorated with a variety of items such as fruits, pine cones, berry etc. a wreath represents the thorns worn by Christ on the cross, and the tiny red berries represent his blood. A wreath hung on the door or window is an invitation for Christ to come into their home.

Mistletoe– Mistletoes are plants that grow on a range of trees including apple willow and oak trees. The tradition of hanging mistletoe is supposed to possess mystical powers that bring good luck to the house and wards off evil spirits. Mistletoes are also used as a sign of love and friendship.

Cake and Cookies– Cakes of all shapes and sizes and smaller sweet delicacies such as cookies are the perfect way to celebrate the holiday rituals. Christmas cookies are perfect giveaways that are filled with Christmas spirit. Christmas cake is often a fruit cake that is a tangible and yummy link to the Christmas traditions.

Christmas Carols– A Christmas carol is a song or hymn sung on the theme of Christmas or during the Christmas holiday season. It is a part of the secular family celebration. People want to feel the nostalgic ideal of Christmas by singing and listening to carols.

Christmas Shopping:

Christmas is one of the most exciting parts of the year for people around the world. With the beginning of December, it is a time of dual celebration, of Christmas and New Year. There are many traditions and customs associated with the celebration of Christmas such as a well organized Christmas party, special Christmas dinner, cakes, and an inseparable part of Christmas celebrations- Christmas gifts.
During Christmas time, malls, stores, streets are decorated to celebrate this joyous time filled with shopping, gift giving, and happiness.


The spirit of Christmas season is all about faith, joy, bonding, and spending quality time with near and dear ones. Christmas is celebrated with pomp, gaiety and devotion. The festival also gives the world the lesson of love and is a beautiful day to show compassion and understand the importance of giving.