Christmas is important because it is a major religious holiday for Christians, because it is a widely celebrated secular holiday, and because it accounts for significant economic activity in the United States and worldwide. For Christians, this holiday is significant because it celebrates God becoming man in order to save mankind from its sin through the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is observed by billions of people around the world.
Religious Christmas celebrations on Dec. 25 began as early as 354 A.D. with Christian feasts in Rome. In 1843, Charles Dickens' novel "A Christmas Carol" promoted the spirit of seasonal merriment and expanded enjoyment of the holiday beyond Christians, framing it as a time of goodwill, family togetherness and generosity. In 1848, a photo of the British royal family with a Christmas tree became popular both in Great Britain and the United States. Putting up a Christmas tree became common in the United States by the 1870s.
As of 2013, about 96 percent of Christians in the United States said they celebrate Christmas. Among U.S. non-Christians, 81 percent said they celebrate Christmas.
Christmas typically represents a significant stimulus to economies around the world, with retail sales increasing dramatically around the holiday. In the United States, retail sales were about $3 trillion during the Christmas holidays as of 2012 and represented more than 19 percent of total annual sales. More than 720,000 people worked holiday jobs that year. The Christmas buying season often begins as early as September.