Abrahamic / Middle Eastern Christianity Christmas: The Celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ Share Flipboard Email Print cmart7327/Getty Images Christianity Catholicism Holy Days and Holidays Beliefs and Teachings Prayers Tips Worship Saints Christianity Origins The Bible The New Testament The Old Testament Practical Tools for Christians Christian Life For Teens Christian Prayers Weddings Inspirational Bible Devotions Denominations of Christianity Funerals and Memorial Services Christian Holidays Christian Entertainment Key Terms in Christianity Latter Day Saints View More By ThoughtCo Updated July 26, 2018 The word Christmas derives from the combination of Christ and Mass; it is the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Second in the liturgical calendar only to Easter, Christmas is celebrated by many as if it were the most important of Christian feasts. Quick Facts Date: December 25Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of ObligationReadings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18 (full text here)Prayers: Prayer for the Feast of Christmas; Prayer to Jesus in the MangerOther Names for the Feast: The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Why Do Christians Celebrate Christmas? People are often surprised to find that Christmas was not celebrated by the earliest Christians. The custom was to celebrate a saint's birth into eternal life—in other words, his death. Thus Good Friday (Christ's death) and Easter Sunday (His Resurrection) took center stage. To this day, the Church celebrates only three birthdays: Christmas; the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and the Birth of John the Baptist. The common thread in the celebrations is that all three were born without Original Sin: Christ, because He was the Son of God; Mary, because she was sanctified by God in the Immaculate Conception; and John the Baptist, because his leap in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, at the Visitation is seen as a type of Baptism (and thus, even though John was conceived with Original Sin, he was cleansed of that sin before birth). The History of Christmas It took a while, though, for the Church to develop the feast of Christmas. While it may have been celebrated in Egypt as early as the third century, it did not spread throughout the Christian world until the middle of the fourth century. It was first celebrated along with Epiphany, on January 6; but slowly Christmas was separated out into its own feast, on December 25. Many of the early Church Fathers regarded this as the actual date of Christ's birth, though it does coincide with the Roman festival of Natalis Invicti (the winter solstice, which the Romans celebrated on December 25), and the Catholic Encyclopedia does not reject the possibility that the date was chosen as "a deliberate and legitimate 'baptism' of a pagan feast." By the middle of the sixth century, Christians had begun to observe Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas, with fasting and abstinence; and the Twelve Days of Christmas, from Christmas Day to Epiphany, had become established.