Christmas or Christmas Day (, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ,〔(Christmas ), ''Merriam-Webster''. Retrieved 2008-10-06.
(Archived ) 2009-10-31.〕〔Martindale, Cyril Charles.("Christmas" ). ''The Catholic Encyclopedia''. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908.〕 observed most commonly on December 25〔Several branches of Eastern Christianity that use the Julian calendar also celebrate on December 25 according to that calendar, which is now January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. Armenian Churches observed the nativity on January 6 even before the Gregorian calendar originated. Most Armenian Christians use the Gregorian calendar, still celebrating Christmas Day on January 6. Some Armenian churches use the Julian calendar, thus celebrating Christmas Day on January 19 on the Gregorian calendar, with January 18 being Christmas Eve.〕〔 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.〔 A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is prepared for by the season of Advent or Nativity Fast and is prolonged by the Octave of Christmas and further by the season of Christmastide. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations,〔(Canadian Heritage – Public holidays ) – ''Government of Canada''. Retrieved 2009-11-27.〕〔(2009 Federal Holidays ) – ''U.S. Office of Personnel Management''. Retrieved 2009-11-27.〕〔(Bank holidays and British Summer time ) – ''HM Government''. Retrieved 2009-11-27.〕 is celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian people,〔〔(Why I celebrate Christmas, by the world's most famous atheist ) – ''DailyMail''. December 23, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-20.〕〔(Non-Christians focus on secular side of Christmas ) – ''Sioux City Journal''. Retrieved 2009-11-18.〕 and is an integral part of the Christmas and 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 and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore.〔("Poll: In a changing nation, Santa endures" ), Associated Press, December 22, 2006. Retrieved 2009-11-18.〕 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,〔() Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays 2011: The Almanac for Pastoral Liturgy by Corinna Laughlin, Michael R. Prendergast, Robert C. Rabe, Corinna Laughlin, Jill Maria Murdy, Therese Brown, Mary Patricia Storms, Ann E. Degenhard, Jill Maria Murdy, Ann E. Degenhard, Therese Brown, Robert C. Rabe, Mary Patricia Storms, Michael R. Prendergast – LiturgyTrainingPublications, March 26, 2010 – page 29〕 a date later adopted in the East,〔(The Chronography of 354 AD. Part 12: Commemorations of the Martyrs ) – ''The Tertullian Project''. 2006. Retrieved 2011-11-24.〕〔Roll, Susan K., ''(Toward the Origins of Christmas )'', (Peeters Publishers, 1995), p.133.〕 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); a further solar connection has been suggested because of a biblical verse identifying Jesus as the "Sun of righteousness".〔〔Newton, Isaac, ''(Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John )'' (1733). Ch. XI. A sun connection is possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4:2.〕〔"(Christmas )", ''Encarta''
Tighe, William J., "(Calculating Christmas )". (Archived ) 2009-10-31.〕
"Christmas" is a compound word originating in the term "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English ''Cristemasse'', which is from Old English ''Crīstesmæsse'', a phrase first recorded in 1038〔 followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131.〔Cyril Charles Martindale, ("Christmas" ), in ''The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3'', New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908 (accessed 2012-12-21)〕 ''Crīst'' (genitive ''Crīstes'') is from Greek ''Khrīstos'' (Χριστός), a translation of Hebrew ''Māšîaḥ'' (מָשִׁיחַ), "Messiah", meaning "anointed"; and ''mæsse'' is from Latin ''missa'', the celebration of the Eucharist. The form "Christenmas" was also historically used, but is now considered archaic and dialectal;〔''Christenmas, n.'', ''Oxford English Dictionary''. Retrieved December 12.〕 it derives from Middle English ''Cristenmasse'', literally "Christian mass".〔"Christmas" in the (Middle English Dictionary )〕 "Xmas" is an abbreviation of ''Christmas'' found particularly in print, based on the initial letter chi (Χ) in Greek ''Khrīstos'' (Χριστός), "Christ", though numerous style guides discourage its use;〔Griffiths, Emma, ("Why get cross about Xmas?" ), BBC website, December 22, 2004. Retrieved 2011-12-12.〕 it has precedent in Middle English ''Χρ̄es masse'' (where "Χρ̄" is an abbreviation for Χριστός).〔
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