Christmas Day celebrates the Nativity of Jesus, the date of which according to tradition took place on 25th December 1 BC.
25 December will be a public holiday in most countries around the world. If 25 December falls on a weekend, then a nearby week day may be taken as a holiday in lieu.
Whilst the holiday has a strong grounding in the story of the birth of Jesus, many of the traditions we associate with Christmas have evolved from pre-Christian beliefs and certainly, the traditions have evolved beyond purely a Christian holiday to have a wider secular significance.
The celebration of Christmas in late December is certainly as a result of pre-existing celebrations happening at that time, marking the Winter Solstice.
Most notable of these is Yule (meaning ‘Feast’), a winter pagan festival that was originally celebrated by Germanic people. The exact date of Yule depends on the lunar cycle but it falls from late December to early January. In some Northern Europe countries, the local word for Christmas has a closer linguistic tie to ‘Yule’ than ‘Christmas’, and it is still a term that may be used for Christmas in some English-speaking countries. Several Yule traditions are familiar to the modern celebration of Christmas, such as Yule Log, the custom of burning a large wooden log on the fire at Christmas; or indeed carol singing, which is surprisingly a very ancient tradition.