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Why Christmas Is Celebrated: History, Origins, Traditions, Food and Activities

Christmas is one of the world’s most well-known and well-loved holidays – and with good reason. In many parts of the world, Christmas celebrations encompass almost the entire month of December. Here’s a look at why Christmas is celebrated, the origins, traditions as well as food and activities.

Why Christmas Is Celebrated: History, Origins, Traditions, Food and Activities

Origins of Christmas

Christmas is an old holiday; people around the world have been celebrating it (in some way, shape, or form) for over 2,000 years.

To Christians, it marks the birth of Jesus Christ.

However, there’s no clear consensus on when the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth was actually born.

The idea for celebrating Christmas on December 25th, like we do now, most likely came from traditional European winter solstice celebrations, which have been around for even longer than Christmas itself.

Why Christmas Is Celebrated

Today, Christmas serves a dual purpose.

For Christians, it’s an important religious holiday – arguably the most important holiday of the year.

Although it began as a strictly Christian holiday, Christmas has become a secular holiday in its own right.

Because of that, people often celebrate it regardless of their religious affiliation.

Typical Christmas Traditions and Activities

The way Christmas is celebrated varies a lot based on the individual; customs change depending on who you ask, and who you’re celebrating with.

Giving Gifts

Most people will say the most memorable part of Christmas is giving and exchanging gifts.

Kids usually receive toys, games, and candy.

Typical gifts for adults include clothing, music, luxury items, jewelry, alcohol, or practical items.

The amount of gifts given varies widely depending on the family.

Some families choose to focus on small, hand-made gifts.

There’s also a good variety of gift-opening traditions.

Some families open all their presents on Christmas Eve (usually after an evening church service), while others wait until Christmas morning after Santa Claus stops by their house.

Others open just their Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve and save the rest for the next day.

It’s also common for people to choose a single gift to open on Christmas Eve, as a preview for the other gifts to come.

Christmas Stockings

Christmas stockings serve a dual purpose.

Traditionally hung on the fireplace and often carefully decorated, they serve as an indoor decoration.

On Christmas Day, Santa fills the stockings with toys, candy, or small gifts as well.

Decorating a Christmas Tree

Many families set up a Christmas tree.

It can be a real, freshly-cut tree, or an artificial one.

For many families, decorating the Christmas tree with ornaments, tinsel, and a traditional star or angel at the top is one of the most cherished holiday activities.

Decorating Homes

Decorating homes with Christmas lights and other decorations is a big deal in some parts of Canada.

Most people keep it relatively modest, with just a few strings of lights on the outside of their house.

But some neighborhoods go all-out, to the extent where it’s not unheard of to travel to certain neighborhoods that are known for extravagant decoration, just to admire the sight.

Special Church Services

For faithful Christians, Christmas isn’t just a fun holiday, but a deeply significant religious event.

Observing Catholics usually attend midnight Mass, and other denominations often spend a portion of their holiday worshiping.

Writing Letters to Santa Claus

Canadians proudly claim to be Santa’s home country.

In 2008, the Canadian government declared him a full Canadian citizen; he and Mrs. Claus were even issued passports in 2013.

Santa even has a Canadian address! His postal code is H0 H0 H0.

So while it’s a common tradition everywhere for kids to write letters to Santa, Canada is unusual in that those letters can actually be mailed.

This adds an extra air of excitement and significance to the tradition.

Sending Christmas Cards to Loved Ones

Christmas cards are a time-honored tradition.

Because Christmas falls close to the end of the year, families often send everyone they know cards, complete with a short update on how every member of the family is doing and what they’ve been up to for the past year.

Winter Sports

The timing of Christmas makes it perfect for enjoying winter sports.

Sledding, skating, tobogganing, skiing, and snowshoeing are all popular additions to the festivities – weather permitting, of course.

Why Christmas is Celebrated – the delicious Christmas food, of course!

For a lot of families, food is a big part of Christmas.

Lots of effort usually goes into preparing and sharing meals with family and friends.

Sharing treats with neighbors and loved ones is a well-loved way to celebrate.

Pinnacle Hotel North Vancouver Christmas Brunch

While the menu varies widely depending on the group, there are some clear classics.


A home-cooked breakfast like ham and eggs or pancakes is very common.


A large, heavy dinner is generally the main culinary event of the day.

The menu generally includes a stuffed and roasted turkey, potatoes, an assortment of vegetables, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

Desserts (good reason why Christmas is celebrated)

Classic Christmas desserts include pumpkin pie, plum or Christmas pudding, mincemeat tarts, and fruitcake.

Snacks and Treats

Aside from meals, Christmas is usually a big day for snacking.

Pinnacle Hotel North Vancouver Christmas Brunch

You’ll often see a spread of candy, oranges, mandarins, nuts, shortbread, and butter tarts set out for people to nibble on throughout the day.

Why Christmas Is Celebrated: History, Origins, Traditions, Food and Activities

Notable Christmas Celebrations Around the World

The Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines

Every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the Filipino city of San Fernando holds a festival and competition. Eleven villages compete to see who can build the most elaborate lantern. It’s quite a sight to see.

Sweden’s Yule Goat

Every year since 1966, Swedes have built a massive 13-meter-tall Yule Goat in the middle of Gävle’s Castle Square in honor of the holiday.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a long-standing tradition of people trying to burn the goat down.

The last time the plot succeeded was in 2016.

Christmas has about as many traditions associated with it as you can imagine and good reasons for why Christmas is celebrated.

When you’re planning your celebration this year, maybe you’ll incorporate a new custom that speaks to you and your family!

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