History of Christmas Day
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Many argue that, historically, evidence suggests that Christmas day was indeed celebrated back in 354 AD as a Christian liturgical feast of the birth of Jesus. Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus' birth, with certain elements having origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity.
The prevailing atmosphere of Christmas has also continually evolved since the holiday's origin, ranging from a raucous, drunken, carnival-like state in the Middle Ages, to a tamer family-oriented and children-centred theme in the 19th-century. The celebration of Christmas was banned on more than one occasion within certain Protestant groups, such as the Puritans, due to concerns that it was too pagan or unbiblical. Additionally, from 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
It should also be noted that Jehovah's Witnesses rejected and still continue to reject Christmas celebration. While the exact month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, by the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted in the East.
Today, most Christians celebrate Christmas on the date of December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which is also the calendar in near-universal use in the secular world. The date of Christmas may (as many believe) to have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after the day on which early Christians believed that Jesus Christ was conceived. In the United States Christmas was declared a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.