The History of Christmas

'Twas the night before this day and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. Christmas traditions have changed significantly since they first began: centuries ago, the December solstice period was a time for pagan celebrations. Eventually, the birth of Jesus Christ was also marked during this time, and before long those holidays were combined. Another feast was added to that amalgamate holiday in honor of a fourth century saint named Saint Nicholas. These traditions are what make up Christmas as we know it today, and are part of the reason we use that time to see family and reflect on the year. In this video, takes a look at the history and origins of Christmas.

You must login to access this feature


The History of Christmas

‘Twas the night before this day and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. Welcome to, and today we’ll be learning more about the history of Christmas.

December 25th

Christmas falls on December 25th each year and is celebrated in numerous countries across the globe. Historically, it has held importance as both a religious and a secular holiday.

Pagan Celebrations

Before it became an important time on the Christian calendar, the mid-winter period and solstice was a time for pagan celebration. Whether it was a commemoration of the lengthening days or a celebration of the god of agriculture Saturn, there were many wild and raucous festivities throughout Europe during December.

The Birth of Christ

Eventually these pagan traditions merged with the Christian story of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is widely thought that Jesus was not even born in December, but that the date was chosen to coincide with these festivals to make conversion more palatable. As of the fourth century, the Feast of the Nativity began to spread across Europe, and eventually Christmas was the primary celebration during the Solstice period.

The Feast of Saint Nicholas

By the 1100s, another December festival began gaining popularity: the Feast of Saint Nicholas honored a fourth century saint famous for his charity towards the poor. Sooner or later, this merged with Christmas as well, and today Saint Nicholas is known to many as Sinterklaas, Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

Christmas Controversy

But, despite its popularity, Christmas has had its share of detractors throughout history: in fact, celebrations were even banned by Puritan Christians during the 1600s due to the holiday’s origins as a pagan festival. Even today, critics believe the holiday has become overly-commercialized.

“A Christmas Carol”

It was during the nineteenth century that the holiday as celebrated today by millions of North Americans took shape. Festivities changed from drunken parties to a more family-centric day of peace. Charles Dickens’ famous 1843 story “A Christmas Carol” heavily influenced the way the holiday was celebrated in the United States.

Today’s Traditions

Today’s traditions are a blend of Christian traditions and pagan customs: giving gifts, sending cards, singing carols and decorating Christmas trees are all common practice, and it is customary to attend church, help those less fortunate and eat a huge feast consisting of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Drinks like eggnog are popular, as well.

Modern Santa

The modern Santa Claus is a jolly, portly figure who wears red, lives at the North Pole and delivers presents to the world’s children on Christmas Eve with help from his reindeer. Tradition dictates that, on Christmas Eve, children hang their stockings from the mantel and leave milk and cookies for Santa to energize him on his trip around the world. However, from country to country, Christmas celebrations vary greatly.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

But one thing remains the same: billions use Christmastime to visit with family, friends and loved ones to reflect and to celebrate together.

Happy Holidays!

For more great history videos or some Christmas recipe or gift ideas, be sure to subscribe to

You must register to a corporate account to download. Please login

Related Videos

+ see more