The history and origins of Christmas


Amy Pham, Co-Editor-In-Chief

The Origin of Saint Nicholas

People believe Saint Nicholas was born around 280 A.D., near Turkey. As a result of his growing reputation for being kind, word of him spread. It is said that he saved three sisters from being sold into prostitution by buying them a dowry, allowing them to be married. Nicholas was known for using his wealth to help others.

The Origin of Santa Clause

In 1733, an American newspaper reported his death, bringing his name to the U.S. Furthermore, in 1822, a minister named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem to his daughters narrating a fictional trip from Santa Claus on Christmas. After this poem popularized, Saint Nicholas became a Christmas icon. Originally, Saint Nicholas’ depiction of being Santa Claus varied among artists, but eventually a vision of a plump, bearded man in a red suit became common.

The Origin of Christmas

Despite its name and the widespread belief that Christmas is a Christian holiday, it is actually secular. Countries, religions and races worldwide celebrate Christmas. It is commonly mistaken that Christmas is celebrated because it is the birthday of Jesus Christ, but sources from the Bible reveal that Christ was born in the fall.
Christmas was first celebrated in 336 A.D. under Constantine, a Roman emperor. Back then, it was called Saturnalia, a festival period where people stopped working. In 350 A.D., Dec. 25 was declared the birthday of Jesus Christ by Pope Julius I.

The Origin of Christmas Gifts

After Saturnalia gained Christian ties and was renamed Christmas, giving gifts became a tradition to honor the presents the Wise Men gave to Jesus Christ. These gifts included gold and perfume in the form of frankincense and myrrh.

Christmas Fun Facts

  • Though Santa’s reindeer typically have male-sounding names, they are likely female, because male reindeers shed their antlers in the winter.
  • Red and green are the two main colors associated with Christmas, because red is meant to symbolize the blood of Christ, while green represents life.
  • Evergreens are used as Christmas trees, because Pagans believed it represented eternal life and rebirth.
    It is typical for Christmas trees to grow for 15 years before they are sold.
  • The X in X-mas represents the Greek letter Chi, which means Christ.
    In Italy, children believe that an elderly lady named Befana is responsible for their gifts, as opposed to Santa.