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What is the true meaning of Christmas?

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Quick Answer

Christmas, the 25th of December, is a Christian holiday that honors the birth of Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago. Since then, it has grown to become a worldwide religious and secular celebration. In a modern sense, Christmas is a time for family gathering and gift sharing.

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Full Answer

Since long before Jesus of Nazareth's birth, many ancient societies celebrated the winter solstice as a time to reflect on the winter past and the spring to come. Because the Bible provides no date for Jesus' actual birth, it is presumed that church officials aligned the Christmas festivities with pagan traditions as a means to gain popular approval. In fact, Easter was the main observance of the Christian church until the fourth century when priests decided to permit Christmas as a holiday. The celebration of Christmas day incorporated all sorts of pagan rituals. It built in the feasting of the Norse Yule celebration, the good behavior brought by the German worship of Odin, and the altruism of the Roman Saturnalia.

Christianity had, for the most part, displaced pagan religion by the Middle Ages, and many of these traditions became associated with Christianity instead of their historic religious ties. Once these pagan bonds had been severed, Christmas became a peaceful, warm-hearted Christian holiday that champions charity and good will across lines of wealth of social status. Modern Christian traditions of tree decorating, holiday card sending and gift-giving are all descendants of entirely non-Christian religious practice.

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