On December 25th people from around the world gather to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. The date is said to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, and the word Christmas itself comes from “Christ’s mass” in Old English (Marsh 2015).
Christmas was officially established as a holiday in the 4th century, though the Bible did not include a specific date for Jesus’ birthday (Marsh 2015). The holiday was set to coincide with winter solstice festivities in order to increase the chances it would be celebrated, and to combine Christmas celebrations with pagan traditions. One such tradition is the ancient Roman solar feast of Natalis Invicti which celebrated “renewal and return of light” on the 25th of December (“History of Christmas”, 2009). Other antecedents of Christmas also appear in First Nations traditions, where festivities were held in mid-winter (Marsh 2015).
The idea of Santa Claus originated from Saint Nicholas, who was known as the patron saint of gift-giving and travellers (“History of Christmas”, 2009). The image of Santa Claus as a jolly round old man with a beard and a red coat was established during the US Civil War by political cartoonist Thomas Nast (“History of Christmas”, 2009), and the legend of Santa eventually grew into the figure children love today.
Nowadays Christmas has evolved into both a commercial and religious holiday, and different cultures celebrates Christmas in various ways. In Canada, people trade gifts, set up Christmas trees and lights, and listen to carols being played on radio stations. In Indonesia, TV stations broadcast Christmas concerts and Hollywood movies such as Home Alone ("Christmas around the World"). In Finland, people eat rice porridge on the morning of Christmas Day and visit the graves of family members ("Christmas around the World"). For us McGill students, the idea of Christmas comes hand-in-hand with the end of exams and the opportunity to finally relax after a long semester. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there is something special about the holiday spirit that makes December a time to look forward to.
“Christmas around the World.” Christmas Around the World -- Whychristmas?Com,
“History of Christmas.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 27 Oct. 2009,
Marsh, James H. “Christmas in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 29 Apr. 2015,