Christmas, annual Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Most members of the Roman Catholic Church and followers of Protestantism celebrate Christmas on December 25, and many celebrate on the evening of December 24 as well. Members of most Orthodox Churches around the world also celebrate the holiday on December 25. Some Orthodox Christians in Russia, Ukraine, the Holy Land (the historic region of Palestine), and elsewhere celebrate Christmas on January 7 because they follow the Julian calendar. Members of the Armenian Church observe Christmas on January 6, following the unique custom of celebrating both the birth and baptism of Christ on the same day.
The official Christmas season, popularly known as either Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas, extends from the anniversary of Christ's birth on December 25 to the feast of Epiphany on January 6. On the Epiphany, some Catholics and Protestants celebrate the visit of the Magi while Orthodox Christians, who call the feast Theophany, celebrate the baptism of Christ.
The most important holiday on the Christian calendar is Easter, which commemorates the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, many people, particularly in the United States and Canada, consider Christmas to be the most significant annual Christian event. In addition to being a religious holiday, Christmas is a widely observed secular festival. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is characterized by gatherings among family and friends, feasting, and gift giving.
Christmas is based on the story of Jesus' birth as described in the Gospel according to Matthew (see Matthew 1:18-2:12) and the Gospel according to Luke (see Luke 1:26-56). Roman Catholics first celebrated Christmas, then known as the Feast of the Nativity, as early as 336 ad. The word Christmas entered the English language sometime around 1050 as...