Christmas Traditions, Folklore, Recipes, and More
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.
|2021||Saturday, December 25|
|2022||Sunday, December 25|
|2023||Monday, December 25|
|2024||Wednesday, 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stirred up interest in a festival at this time of year to counter the pagan festivals surrounding the solstice, but no historical document unequivocally explains Rome’s reasons for setting the date as December 25.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.
- Read about some of America’s Christmas firsts!
- Get some tips for taking care of your Christmas tree—including what to do with it after the holidays.
- Learn about the Star of Bethlehem. Was it a real celestial object or a miraculous vision?
Check out our favorite Christmas recipe collections to get inspired for your holiday meals:
- Christmas Breakfast and Brunch Recipes
- Christmas Appetizer Recipes
- Christmas Dinner Recipes
- Christmas Dessert Recipes
- Christmas Cookie Recipes for Kids
- Holiday Drink Recipes
- Holiday Party Recipes
Never-Fail Christmas Fudge. Photo by GreenArt/Shutterstock.
Make your own Christmas decorations this year with these fun and easy holiday crafts:
- Make Your Own Christmas Wreath
- Homemade Holiday Note Cards
- Christmas Table Decoration Ideas
- Decorative Fire Starters
- Cinnamon Dough Ornaments
- Festive Chili Pepper Strand
- Decorative Luminarias
- Cranberry Wreath
- Holiday Candle Decoration
- Build and Decorate a Gingerbread House
- Orange-Clove Pomander Balls
- Holiday Gift Jars
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.
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!
All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good-will henceforth from heaven to earth
begin and never cease!
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.
Hark, how all the Welkin rings,
‘Glory to the King of Kings’;
Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and sinners reconcil’d.
We wish all of our readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas!