All about Christmas

Father XmasThe word “Christmas” means “Mass of Christ,” later shortened to “Christ-Mass.” The even shorter form “Xmas” – first used in Europe in the 1500s – is derived from the Greek alphabet, in which X is the first letter of Christ’s name: Xristos, therefore “X-Mass.”

Today we know that Christ was not born on the 25th of December. The date was chosen to coincide with the pagan Roman celebrations honoring Saturnus (the harvest god) and Mithras (the ancient god of light), a form of sun worship. These celebrations came on or just after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, to announce that winter is not forever, that life continues, and an invitation to stay in good spirit.

But there’s much more to the fascinating history of Christmas! Where did the Christmas tree originate, why are Christmas candles important, etc.? The answers are all here.

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The history of Christmas

Christmas became popular only fairly recently.

Father Christmas

Who is the real Santa Claus?

Jesus Christ

When was He really born?

Magi, the gift givers

All kinds of gifts, all kinds of givers. But how many magi were there?

Christmas trees

They were hung upside down in the Middle Ages! And when to put up a Christmas tree.

Christmas carols

How many versions of Silent Night did you say there are?

Christmas cards

They’re quite nice: whose idea was it?

Christmas stamps

Look a lot like little Christmas cards.

Christmas crackers

You just have to have some.

Christmas pudding

It won’t be Christmas without the pudding.

The Reindeer

How do they fly and what speed do they reach?

The elves

They invented the magic toymaking machine.

Christmas gifts

It ain’t just for kids, is it?

The mistletoe

What really happens when you kiss under the mistletoe?

“Boxing Day?”

Why is it called that?

Merry Christmas” in different languages Other festivals over the Christmas season Solstice: origin of Christmas celebrations.

Christmas candy

The Christmas candy cane, shaped as a shepherds’ crook, represents the humble shepherds who were first to worship the new-born Christ.

Legend has it that the candy cane was invented in 1670 by a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral who handed out the bent sugar sticks among children to keep them quiet during the long Living Crèche ceremony.

AD is short for Anno Domini, or “Year of our Lord,” as proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church. Some non-Christians prefer the alternative designation “CE” for “Common Era.”