Christmas is celebrated across the world by some 2.1 billion Christians Jesus’s name day. But when you take a closer look at its traditions, you’ll find that Christmas traditions have less to do with the religion more to do with cultural exchange. Here are four questions you may have about the history Christmas traditions:

1. Why is Christmas on 25 December?

No one knows why we celebrate Christmas on 25 December. There is no precise date given in the Bible and early Christians – making the origins of the date murky. The most popular theory posits that Christmas is on the 25th because it coincides with the winter solstice which was celebrated throughout the Roman Empire. This argument makes sense – Christmas traditions borrows heavily from pagan traditions. Another theory holds that 25 December was selected because it’s nine months after Jesus’s conception. But both these theories lack written historical evidence – we just don’t know for sure why the Church selected 25 December.

2.  Who is Santa Claus?

The modern day Santa Claus is an amalgamation of several separate European traditions interpreted from the legend of Saint Nicholas.  St Nicholas is the fourth-century Greek bishop of Myra. He is the patron saint of children, students, merchants and the falsely accused, amongst others. Tradition holds that St. Nicholas was a generous secret gift giver – it’s this habit that gave rise to Santa Claus and Sinterklaas.

St. Nicholas, who’s legend evolved to Santa Claus.
Sinterklaas, the Dutch precursor to Santa Claus








Traditions surrounding Santa Claus (like his penchant for chimneys) was intermix with the European legends of Father Christmas, Christkind, La Befana and Odin. Though the modern day depiction of Santa Claus has its origins in Europe, the iconic image we think of now is courtesy of Coca-Cola. Coke used an illustration that accompanies Twas a Night Before Christmas as the basis of Santa and has cemented the persona of a chubby and jolly St. Nick in our minds forever.

1881 illustration vs. Cokes reinterpretation


3. Where do Christmas Trees come from?

Christmas trees have its history rooted in the pagan traditions of Europe. The practice of bringing evergreens into the home during winter festivals had existed long before Christianity came to the continent. The modern tradition evolved from 17th century Germany, although historians are unsure of what brought it about. Chances are it’s a remnant of earlier European traditions.

4. Why is eating fruit cake a Christmas tradition?

Christmas cake (baked) and plum pudding (steamed) are similar

Christmas cake, as Commonwealth nations know it, has its beginnings in the British yule time dessert, plum pudding. Plum pudding can be traced back to medieval times. As time passed, plum pudding evolved into what we recognise as Christmas cake. Like most Christmas traditions, exactly how this happened is unknown.

The traditions that surround Christmas developed over centuries, evolving from traditions that existed before Christianity came to Europe. This ensures that the origins of Christmas traditions remain as mysterious as it is magical.

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