Christmas Day, which falls on the 25th of December each year, is a time when Christians worldwide celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward all. In 2021, Christmas Day is Saturday, December 25th.
When Is Christmas Day?
Here are upcoming dates for Christmas Day:
|2021||Saturday, December 25|
|2022||Sunday, December 25|
|2023||Monday, December 25|
Christmas Day History, Celebrations, and Traditions
Why Do We Give Gifts At Christmas?
Opening gifts might be one of your favorite parts about Christmas, but have you ever wondered why we receive presents on Christmas, or why we have Christmas trees?
The tradition of giving gifts to our loved ones at Christmas is meant to be a reminder of the presents that the Wise Men gave Jesus (Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold). In the United States, buying Christmas gifts became popular in the early 1800s. During that time the lower class celebrated in the streets and demanded that the wealthy give them food and drink. In response to this, the wealthier residents of the city strove to reinvent Christmas as a holiday centered around home and family.
The Toy Connection
In the 1820s, the American toy industry started to grow, and after the Civil War, these novelty consumer products increased in popularity. While parents initially tried to focus on the spiritual side of Christmas, it became increasingly difficult to limit what toys and books children could access. To maintain control, parents started buying products to teach and entertain their children. In response to this trend, retailers started actively marketing Christmas gifts at the beginning of the twentieth century. Over time, gift-giving traditions grew into what we are familiar with today.
Why Christmas Trees?
Germany is heralded as the birthplace of this tradition, which started in the early 16th century when devout Christians would build pyramids of wood decorated with evergreen boughs to celebrate the holiday.
Why Do We Decorate Trees?
Some historians contend that decorating the Christmas tree extends back to the 7th century to a monk who went to Germany. He brought a tree for the people to decorate with simple, white candles. It wasn’t until 1610 that tinsel (made with pure silver) was added to the tree.
Eventually, the Christmas tree made its way to England where decorations became more ornate, with glass beads and hand-sewn snowflakes. In the 1800s, the tradition of decorating the tree crossed the Atlantic and settled into American homes ever since.
What is Twelfth Night?
In the song, “The Twelves Days of Christmas, it refers to Twelfth Night, a festival that usually spans from December 25 to January 5 (inclusive)*. Each day celebrates a different saint or milestone event in Christianity.
- Day 1 the birth of Jesus is celebrated.
- Day 2 celebrates St. Stephen, the first martyr.
- Day 4 the Feast of the Holy Innocents was held on Day 4 in remembrance of the baby boys killed in King Herod’s search for Jesus.
- Day 5 celebrates St. Thomas Becket, an Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed for questioning the king’s authority over the church.
- Day 6 celebrates St Egwin of Worcester.
- Day 7 is New Year’s Eve. It celebrates Pope Sylvester I and was historically a day for sports and archery competitions.
- Day 8 is January 1st; celebrates the mother of Jesus, Mary.
- Day 9 celebrates St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two 4th century Christians.
- Day 10 is the day of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. It celebrates the official naming of Jesus in the Jewish Temple.
- Day 11 celebrates St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Day 12 Twelfth Night and marks the coming of the Epiphany.
On Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), people often held parties in which the roles of the rich and poor were reversed. In this tradition dating from medieval times, the wealthy would wait on the servants. People played egg toss games and enjoyed music. In some countries, children receive gifts inside their shoes to celebrate the Magi’s gifts to Jesus. People also ate the Twelfth Night cake, made with fruits, spices, and nuts. There was also a single bean or pea cooked into the cake, and the person who found it got to dress like a royal and lead the celebrations.
Another tradition on Twelfth Night was the eating of Twelfth Night Cake. This was a rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. This is why many people give Italian Panettone, which very much resembles Twelfth Night Cake.
While many of the original Twelfth Night traditions are not embraced in the United States, some of the above traditions have been adapted and changed for modern times. Many people follow the custom of taking down their Christmas decorations on January 6th (Epiphany).
What Is A Yule Log?
The tradition of burning the Yule Log dates back to medieval times. Yule, or “Juul” and part of the old Scandinavian and Northern Europe festivals that celebrated the Winter Solstice. It used to be an entire tree that was brought into the house, and the largest end of the tree would be placed in the hearth. People would have carefully stored the previous year’s log to use it to light this year’s log. The log was burnt each night until the Twelfth Night.
The popular Yule Log dessert from France and Belgium is inspired by this tradition. The dessert is covered with chocolate to resemble a log, and it often included decorations made of marzipan or meringue. The dessert likely originated from the 1600s, but it became popularized by 19th century bakers in Paris.
Other Christmas Traditions
Why Do We Kiss Under The Mistletoe?
The Real Story Behind Rudolph
Candy Cane History and Lore
Holiday Wreaths—More Than Just A Decoration
Why Are Red and Green the Colors of Christmas?
Why Do We Send Christmas Cards?
Christmas isn’t complete without the sweets! Try these delicious recipes.
Christmas Gift Ideas
Christmas Weather Lore
Do you know these weather lore sayings associated with Christmas?
- When Christmas Eve is clear, our Lord will give us an abundance of wine and corn.
- White Christmas, green Easter. Green Christmas, white Easter.
- If there’s thunder during Christmas week, the winter will be anything but meek.
- The nearer the New Moon to Christmas Day, the harder the winter.
- If Christmas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.
- A green Christmas brings a heavy harvest.
- A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.
- So many hours of Sun on Christmas Day, so many frosts in the month of May.
- If the Sun shines through an apple tree on Christmas, there will be an abundant crop of apples in the coming year.
- If it rains on Christmas, there will be four weeks with no sun.
- The wind at the end of Midnight Mass will be the dominant wind in the coming year.
- A windy Christmas is a sign of a good year to come.
- If there is much wind on Christmas Day, trees will bear much fruit.
- If the wind grows stormy before sunset on Christmas, expect sickness in the coming spring and autumn.
- If it snows on Christmas night, there will be a good crop of hops next year.
- If at Christmas, ice hangs on the willow, then clover may be cut at Easter.
- Light Christmas, light wheatsheaf; Dark Christmas, heavy wheatsheaf.
- A bright Christmas foretells that hens will lay well.
- A dark Christmas foretells that cows will give much milk.
- If St. Lucy’s Day (December 13) be bright, Christmas day will be dark with snow; but if the snow falls on St. Lucy, Christmas will be clear and sunny.
- If ice will bear a man at Christmas, it will not bear a mouse afterward.