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The word Christmas comes from Cristes maesse an early English phrase that means Mass of ChristThe word Xmas is sometimes used instead of Christmas This tradition began in the early Christian church In Greek X is the first letter of Christs name It was frequently used as a holy symbol Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ No one knows the exact date of Christs birth but most Christians observe Christmas on December 25 On this day many go to church where they take part in special religious services During the Christmas season they also exchange gifts and decorate their homes with holly mistletoe and Christmas trees The story of Christmas comes chiefly from the Gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew in the New Testament According to Luke an angel appeared to shepherds outside the town of Bethlehem and told them of Jesus birth Matthew tells how the wise men called Magi followed a bright star that led them to Jesus The first mention of December 25 as the birth date of Jesus occurred in AD 336 in an early Roman calendar The celebration of this day as Jesus birth date was probably influenced by pagan unchristian festivals held at that time The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn their harvest god and Mithras the god of light Various peoples in northern Europe held festivals in mid-December to celebrate the end of the harvest season As part of all these celebrations the people prepared special foods decorated their homes with greenery and joined in singing and gift giving These customs gradually became part of the Christmas celebration In the late 300s Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire By 1100 Christmas had become the most important religious festival in Europe and Saint Nicholas was a symbol of gift giving in many European countries During the 1400s and 1500s many artists painted scenes of
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