An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on of December, repeating indefinitely
25 December every year: Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
The story of Jesus’s birth or nativity is told by the apostles Matthew and Luke in the New Testament – the part of the Bible that describes the life of Jesus and the early Christians. Jesus’s mother, Mary, was a virgin when she gave birth, and betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter. When she was heavily pregnant they travelled to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem to take part in a census. The town was full; there was “no room at the inn”, and so Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Shepherds and wise men came to give gifts and adore him – traditionally, people celebrating Christmas give each other gifts as well.
The Bible provides no date for the nativity; 25th December was fixed as the date for Christmas over 300 years after Jesus’s birth, as a way to turn pagan midwinter celebrations into a Christian festival. Eastern Orthodox Christians (such as those living in Eastern Europe, Russia, Greece, Egypt and Ethiopia) celebrate Christmas on 7 January because their church stayed with the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which was gradually adopted between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Take a look at the following pages, which give a range of Christmas teaching ideas:
- The 12 Days of Christmas – how much does it all cost?
- Santa Claus – a global view of the jolly man in red
- Festivals of Light – exploring various celebrations aimed at lighting up the darkness
- Festive inspiration – global teaching ideas for the festive season
The Boston Globe Big Picture has collections of photos online illustrating Christmas celebrations around the world:
Find out more about the history and traditions of Christmas, and its pagan precursors, on the following websites:
- BBC – Religions – Christianity: Christmas
- BBC – Schools – Religion – Christianity: Christmas
- Christmas – Wikipedia
- Christmas Worldwide – Wikipedia
See also the following publications for schools, available from RE Today: