Christmas Day 2020

Christmas Traditions, Folklore, Recipes, and More

November 23, 2020
Christmas Ornament

Christmas occurs on a Friday this year! Discover why we celebrate Christmas Day on December 25, the symbols of Christmas, and a brief history of Christmas. Plus, let’s bring Christmas alive with recipes, crafts, poetry, and customs from around the world!

When Is Christmas Day?

For Western Christian churches, Christmas Day always occurs on December 25, though some cultures observe the main celebration on the night prior, Christmas Eve. 

Christmas Day Dates

Year Christmas Day
2020 Friday, December 25
2021 Saturday, December 25
2022 Sunday, December 25
2023 Monday, December 25

Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Christmas Day is an annual Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Specifically, the meaning of Christmas comes in the remembrance and celebration of God’s presence in our world through Jesus, God-made flesh. Christmas is also extensively celebrated by non-Christians as a seasonal holiday, on which popular traditions such as gift-giving, feasting, and caroling take place.

Although the actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown, Christmas has been symbolically celebrated on the 25th of December since the 4th century.

Scholars can’t agree on exactly when Christ was born, and the exact circumstances of the beginning of Christmas as we know it remain obscure. Some chronographers of the third century reckoned December 25, around the winter solstice, was the most likely day of Christ’s birth, although other dates had been suggested, including several in spring and fall. The oldest existing record of a feast to celebrate the birth of Christ in the western Church is in the Roman almanac called the Chronographer (or Chronography) of 354, also know as the Philocalian Calendar. This almanac noted that a festival commemorating Christ’s birth was observed by the church in Rome in the year 336.

About 350 A.D., Pope Julius I set December 25 as the date when the Church would commemorate when Jesus was born. Many historians believe that the Church stirred up interest in a festival at this time of year to counter the pagan festivals surrounding the solstice, but no historical document unequivocally explains Rome’s reasons for setting the date as December 25.

The word “Christmas” comes from the Old English Cristes maesse, meaning “Christ’s Mass.”

If interested in digging deeper, see this article on How December 25 Became Christmas from the Biblical Archaeology Society.


How Do We Celebrate Christmas?

Today’s rich mosaic of Christmas customs dates back through the ages from around the worl. For example, the candles and lights associated with Christmas, meant to symbolize guiding beacons for the Christ child, may have evolved from the Yule log, which was lit to entice the Sun to return as part of the jol(Yule) festivalin pagan Scandinavia.

Here are two more popular Christmas traditions and how they originated:

  • How did the idea of a Christmas tree start?
    Its origin is probably within winter celebrations long before the beginning of Christianity. The practice of decorating a tree, or using plants and trees that were green year-round, was important for people in winter climates. Some cultures believed evergreens would keep witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and even illness at bay. During the Middle Ages, December 24 was celebrated as the Feast of Adam and Eve, complete with a Paradise Tree, which was a fir tree hung with red apples. Today, the practice of using decorated evergreen trees as part of the Christian celebration of Christmas is a custom begun in Germany over 400 years ago that spread rapidly throughout northern Europe and, hence, became a tradition transplanted to the New World by European immigrants.

    See the story behind the Christmas wreath.

  • How did the custom of giving Christmas presents originate?
    The ancient Romans gave each other gifts on the calends (first day) of January, and the practice spread throughout the Roman Empire. Eventually, Christians moved the custom to December 25, although many Christians still give gifts on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature to the Magi.

    Learn the origins of many more Christmas traditions.


Christmas Trivia


Christmas Recipes

Check out our favorite Christmas recipe collections to get inspired for your holiday meals:

Never-fail Christmas fudge. Photo by GreenArt/Shutterstock.
Never-Fail Christmas Fudge
. Photo by GreenArt/Shutterstock.

Christmas Crafts

Make your own Christmas decorations this year with these fun and easy holiday crafts:

Gift jars with jam

Christmas Weather Folklore

Here at the The Old Farmer’s Almanac, we love our folklore, and so do our readers! A selection of Christmas weather folklore for your perusal:

  • Christmas in snow, Easter in mud. 
  • A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard. 
  • If December be changeable and mild,
    The whole winter will remain a child.
  • Thunder in December presages fine weather.
  • December cold with snow, good for rye.
  • Lengthened winter and tardy spring are both good for hay and grain, but bad for corn and garden.
  • If at Christmas ice hangs on the willow, clover may be cut at Easter.
  • As many mince pies as you taste at Christmas, so many happy months will you have.

Enjoy more Christmas weather folklore.


Christmas Poetry, Verse, and Quotes

Find Christmas poems and verses to share and express your thoughts about this special time of year.

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!

Beggar’s Rhyme

All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good-will henceforth from heaven to earth
begin and never cease
Nahum Tate

Granny’s come to our house, And ho! my lawzy-daisy!
All the children round the place ist a-runnin’ crazy!

James Whitcomb Riley

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him.
The nobler part
Of all the house here is the heart.

Robert Herrick

Hark, how all the Welkin rings,
‘Glory to the King of Kings’;
Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and sinners reconcil’d.

Charles Wesley

We wish all of our readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas!


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all.
Here's to saying good bye to 2020,
and a wish for a better & brighter 2021.

Merry Christmas Dear Almanac!

Thank you for the most lovely email today, from you:

Merry Christmas From all of us at The Old Farmer's Almanac
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.
–Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833–70)
Gather ’round the tree, it’s Christmas Day!
Good tidings of comfort and joy to you, our Almanac companions.
This past week, as we paged through old Almanacs, we came across three bits of wisdom to share . . .
In the spirit of Christmas, may we give of ourselves to bring happiness to others.
May we remember that we must be good neighbors to make good neighbors.
As it grows colder outside, may our hearts grow warmer within!
And as 2019 dawns, we wish all of our Almanac readers a very Happy New Year!
To quote the words of our founder,
“Start the year square with every man!”


Good Evening,

Very useful information and sharing knowledge.
Thanks and regards

Christmas articles

Thank you for keeping Christ in Christmas, in spite of all those who want to do away with all religions.

Inaccurate, Pro-Christian Propaganda

Christmas is actually a Pagen holiday, but due to Christians conquering lands, Christians decided to merge their beliefs into the Pagen holiday to gain more followers. Originally, Pagens would have feast, commit homicide, and enduldge in drinking alcohol. Christmas is not a Christian holiday. Historians agree that the birth of Jesus was most likely in the summer.


The Editors's picture

All comments that are not family-friendly will be deleted. We accept all opinions, however, we do not tolerate taunting behavior or disrespect of ANY religion. This is fully at the discretion of the The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Merry Christmas to all! That

Merry Christmas to all! That goes for last year,too.

Merry Christmas to you!

The Editors's picture

Thanks, potsonna2, we always appreciate your positive posts! Best wishes for a healthy, happy year again, to.

Merry Christmas and happy new

Merry Christmas and happy new year everyone!

I'm from Iran that the people

I'm from Iran that the people don't care to christmas.
but very few of them think about this.
I think becaus we are muslim.
But Christianity is God's Religion.
We have to respect.
But many people do not understand.
Merry Christmas to all

Merry Christmas to you, as

Merry Christmas to you, as well.

love and respect for one and

love and respect for one and another disregarding religion is
caring is good ,religious beliefs are a choice for all .
All religions teach and stand for love peace and for the good of all.

You are completely wrong

But Islam states that people must kill non believers あなたダムたわごと.

Mostsfa, if the muslim people

Mostsfa, if the muslim people around the world had your belief there could be peace on earth.

hey !dont say that ! we

hey !dont say that ! we respect it , and i like christmas , happy christmass :).

The resurection of Jesus

The resurection of Jesus Christ, is the hope of the gospel to be taught through out the world. From life to life everlasting.

Thank you for your beautiful

Thank you for your beautiful post. Yes, Jesus is the joy and hope of all our lives. Merry Christmas!

If we dont know the christ's

If we dont know the christ's birth date, why we we celebrate on December 25th?? Just because it will be a snow day??? Lol, everything is fake ... I dont know if ther is anything real.... I think, only christ can prove it or the real one and only God!!!

I agree with you. I've read

I agree with you. I've read the Bible over and over and it never says Jesus said he wants us to remember his birth, but to remember his crusification on a stake. The reason why he died for us. He. requestwd for us to celebrate his death because he died for our sins. Being Adam was a perfect man who sinned and was deemed to die as all of his offspring. Until another perfect man equal to Adams came in our behalf to redeem our sins. The unselfish Only Begotten son of Our Creator, Jesus Christ.

According to the Catholic

The Editors's picture

According to the Catholic Church, Jesus may not have actually born on December 25 nor is this proclaimed. We celebrate it on this day.  It's a celebration of the Incarnation, not a memorial of a specific day. One reason December 25 may have been thought fitting is its proximity to the winter solstice. After that date the days start to become longer, and thus it is at the beginning of a season of light entering the world (cf. John 1:5).

Well said

Thank you OFA for this commentary. Merry Christmas to all!

Even though it didn't become

Even though it didn't become an official holiday until the 4th century, some Christians were celebrating the nativity on December 25th in the 200s - which is before the Roman holiday of Sol Invictus existed.

They came to the conclusion that he was crucified on March 25 (This is from Tertullian of Carthage, about AD 200). And they believed in a sort of serendipity where great men were thought to be conceived and die on the same day. March 25 is the Annunciation - the day of Jesus' conception. And it is older than Christmas, and nine months before.

Some other church fathers liked to equate John the Baptist's statement, "He [Jesus] must increase and I must decrease," with the light beginning to increase at Jesus' birth and beginning to decrease with John's (which is 6 months before, June 24th).

As for now, few people believe that Jesus was born on December 25. But the natural symbolism of the world's light beginning to increase while "The light shineth in the darkness" and "the true tight was coming into the world"(John chapter 1) is as powerful as ever.

I think the reason that Christmas is such a huge holiday (bigger than Easter) is because of the natural, powerful emotional response people have to this time of year.

The symbolism of the

The Editors's picture

The symbolism of the Christmas candle varies. For example: It is taken as a symbol of Jesus, the Light of the World. It is also thought to symbolize the star over Bethlehem. In certain countries, such as Ireland and Spain, it was traditional to place candles in the window to guide the Holy Family to shelter.

In medieval Europe, a large candle, called the Christmas candle, was lit and was burned until Twelfth Night; this candle tradition is still used today in certain countries, such as France, Ireland, and Denmark.

Advent wreaths contain four candles, for the four weeks of Advent before Christmas day.

I've always heard of candles

I've always heard of candles symbolizing the comming of Jesus as the Light of the World. However, this mythology parallels many others that talk about the rebirth of the sun. I don't know where they got their info, but I guess that it could be said thata child has to be guided into tje world at birth.

I have never heard of

I have never heard of Christmas candles ever serving as a beacon to guide the Christ-child but rather as a symbol for Christ's coming into the world even as a child. This is a significant theological distinction. Where did you get your information?

I thought the tradition, in

I thought the tradition, in Ireland at least, of a candle in the window to guide the Holy Family was well known. During times of Catholic persecution, the candle also served as a sign to any passing priest that the home was a safe place to say mass. It's not really theology, just a tradition.