Christmas Day, the day on which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, is the first of the four major festivals of the Christian Year, the others being Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost. There is also a Christmas Season, which lasts from December 25 to January 5 — twelve days in all. It is the shortest of the six seasons of the Christian Year.
No one knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth. For the first 2 or 3 centuries of church history, it was not celebrated at all, since his resurrection was considered a much more significant event. In the 300s, however, after Christianity became the official religion of theRoman Empire, the leaders of the church decided to create a festival celebrating Jesus’ birth. They did so by “Christianizing” an existing pagan festival in late December, which celebrated the “rebirth” of the sun following the winter solstice — and so “Christmas” came into existence.
At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the coming of a special king of Israel, the “Messiah” (which is Hebrew for “Anointed One”; the same word in Greek is Christos, from which comes our English word “Christ”). We also celebrate the fact that in Jesus, God entered the world in human form, in order to bridge the gap between human beings and himself.
Many Eastern Orthodox churches follow the old Julian calendar, which is now 13 days “behind” the more accurate Gregorian calendar that we use today; therefore, their Christmas Day falls on January 7.
The symbolic color for Christmas is white, signifying joy and celebration