The New Student's Reference Work/Christmas
Christmas (krĭs′ mas), the day on which the birth of Jesus Christ is observed. The first certain traces of the festival are found about the time of the Emperor Commodus (180–192 A. D.). In the reign of Diocletian a churchful of Christians, gathered to celebrate Christmas, were burned by order of the emperor. The birth was celebrated in May, April and January by the early Christians. It is almost certain that the 25th of December is not Christ’s birthday, as it is the rainy season in Judæa, and shepherds could hardly be watching their flocks by night in the plains at that time. The present date came to be used probably because all heathen nations celebrated that season with great festivities, as the old Norse Yule-feast. The beautiful Christmas carols at first were manger-songs, telling the story of Christ’s birth. The Christmas-tree with its hanging toys was a custom borrowed from the Romans, and is told about by the poet Vergil. The visit of Santa Claus bearing gifts belongs properly to December 6, the festival of St. Nicholas.