If you were a Roman on December 25, 200 AD, you wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas, but rather the Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. In 221 AD, the Western Christian Church defined the day of the birth of Christ to be the twenty-fifth of December, choosing this date due to its proximity to other end-of-year celebrations such as Hanukkah. Initially, Christmas was not a very popular holiday, but it slowly gained traction and has boomed in the modern era.
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but this holiday has been repeatedly altered to match with the times, and relics of these celebrations still exist in Christmas’ current practice. For example, during the High Middle Ages in Europe, great feasts were held on Christmas for hundreds of nobles. Many families today mimic this custom with a slightly less grand Christmas feast. Similarly, the importance of present-gifting and togetherness were practices established in Europe and the Americas in the 1800s, and still continue today.
However, the current commercial nature of Christmas was established only in the past century. Everywhere you see stores advertising for Christmas, and according to the National Retail Foundation, from Thanksgiving to the holiday season Americans purchase a whopping $680 billion worth of presents. For this reason, for many companies, the holiday is one of their main sources of revenue. In fact, Christmas itself has become an economy, with companies that manufacture Christmas cards, Christmas trees and ornaments. Thanks to this commercialization and the gradual diminishment of the religious connotations of the holiday, Christmas has been altered into something that many people celebrate regardless of its religious roots. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 92 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, meaning that many religious minorities have adopted the tradition as an American rather than a Christian holiday.
Christmas has become a global phenomenon and is celebrated by all kinds of people, religiously or secularly. For some, it may mean spending time with family, and for others, it may have strong religious connotations. Christmas has branched off from just a religious holiday into something special and unique for each person who celebrates it.