Christmas or Christmas Day is a holiday observed generally on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. The date is not known to be the actualbirthday of Jesus, and may have initially been chosen to correspond with either the day exactly nine months after some early Christians believed Jesus had been conceived, the date of the winter solsticeon the ancient Roman calendar, or one of various ancient winter festivals. Christmas is central to the Christmas and holiday season, and in Christianity marks the beginning of the larger season ofChristmastide, which lasts twelve days.
Although nominally a Christian holiday, Christmas is also widely celebrated by many non-Christians, and many of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christianor secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of variousdecorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In addition, several similar mythological figures, known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and Santa Clausamong other names, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season.
Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activityamong both Christians and non-Christians, 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 grownsteadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.
The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Christemasseand Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038. "Cristes" is from Greek Christos and "mæsse" is from Latin missa (the holy mass). In Greek, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter...