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Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ,[1][2] observed generally on December 25[3][4] as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.[5][6] A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide, which ends after the twelfth night.[7][8] Christmas is a public holiday in many of the world's nations,[9][10][11] is celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian people,[12][13] and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

While the birth year of Jesus is estimated among modern historians to have been between 7 and 2 BC, the exact month and day of his birth are unknown,[14][15] and are not the focus of the Church's Christmas celebration. His birth is mentioned in two of the four canonical gospels. By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25,[16] a date later adopted in the East,[17][18] although some churches celebrate on the December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which, in the Gregorian calendar, currently corresponds to January 7, the day after the Western Christian Church celebrates the Epiphany. The Council of Tours of 567 "declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to be one unified festal cycle", thus giving significance to both December 25 and January 6.[19][7][20][21][22] The Second Council of Tours also stated that, the days from Christmas to Epiphany were all taken up, like the whole month of August, with feasts of saints, but it also declared that they were not all to be considered joyful: the first three days of January were days of penance and fasting.[23][24][25][26][27][28] The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived,[29] or with one or more ancient polytheistic festivals that occurred near southern solstice (i.e., the Roman winter solstice);[30][31] a further solar connection has been suggested because of a biblical verse — "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall."}} identifying Jesus as the "Sun of righteousness".[29][32][33] The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins.[34] Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore.[35] Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many parts of the world.


"Christmas" is a compound word originating in the term "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, which is from Old English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038[2] followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131.[36] Crīst (genitive Crīstes) is from Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), a translation of Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ), "Messiah", meaning "anointed";[37][38] and mæsse is from Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist. The form "Christenmas" was also historically used, but is now considered archaic and dialectal;[39] it derives from Middle English Cristenmasse, literally "Christian mass".[40] "Xmas" is an abbreviation of Christmas found particularly in print, based on the initial letter chi (Χ) in Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), "Christ", though numerous style guides discourage its use;[41] it has precedent in Middle English Χρ̄es masse (where "Χρ̄" is an abbreviation for Χριστός).[40]

Other names

In addition to "Christmas", the holiday has been known by various other names throughout its history. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the feast as "midwinter",[42][43] or, more rarely, as Nātiuiteð (from Latin nātīvitās below).[42][44] "Nativity", meaning "birth", is from Latin nātīvitās.[45] In Old English, Gēola ("Yule") referred to the period corresponding to January and December, which was eventually equated with Christian Christmas.[46] "Noel" (or "Nowell") entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French noël or naël, itself ultimately from the Latin nātālis (diēs), "(day) of birth".[47]



Avinguda Portal de l'Àngel, at Christmas time, Barcelona, Spain

Christmas and St Stephen's Day are officially recognized holidays in Spain. In most of Spain, the Christmas period, referred to as "Navidad", lasts from Christmas Eve referred to as "Nochebuena" or "the Good Night." on the 24th of December to Epiphany on the 6 January. Many homes and most churches display a Nativity scene, others a Christmas tree. In Catalonia, the Tió de Nadal (a log with a cloth for hiding presents under) is part of the celebration. The pesebre (nativity scene) is present in many homes, schools and stores. A particular and unique figure, called caganer is displayed in the scene. On the 26th, Sant Esteve (Saint Stephen) is celebrated with a family gathering.

A large family dinner is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) and can last until 6 o'clock in the morning. There is a wide variety of typical foods one might find on plates across Spain on this particular night, and each region has its own distinct specialties. It is particularly common, however, to start the meal with a seafood dish such as prawns or salmon, followed by a bowl of hot, homemade soup. The main meal will commonly consist of roast lamb, or seafood, such as cod or shellfish. For dessert, there is quite a spread of delicacies, among them are turrón, a dessert made of honey, egg and almonds that is Arabic in origin. Special dishes and desserts include Mariscos y Pescado (shellfish and fish), marzipan, Pavo Trufado de Navidad (turkey with truffles), and polvorones (shortbread made of almonds, flour and sugar).

Even though there is still the traditional Misa del Gallo at midnight, few Spaniards continue to follow the old custom of attending.

Children usually receive one or two presents on Christmas Day (December 25), brought by "Papá Noel" (Father Noel), which is a non-traditional imitation of the American Santa Claus, but in some regions there are other more traditional characters, for example the Olentzero in the Basque Country. There is a special Christmas dance called the Jota which is performed since last hundreds of years in Spain during Christmas.[48]

On 31 December (Nochevieja) there is also a large family feast. Some young people go out in "cotillón", a very big feast in bars and pubs and the drink and dance until 1 January morning, when they have churros with chocolate for breakfast. On 5 January a huge parade (La Cabalgata or cavalcade) welcomes the Three Kings to the city. Children put their shoes in the window on 5 January in the hope that the Three Wise Men will deliver them presents.[49]


In Catalonia, there are a few local Christmas traditions; one of them is the popular figure of the Tió de Nadal. Another custom is to put up a "Pessebre" Nativity scene, which often includes the Caganer, a figurine depicted in the act of defecation.[50] It is also traditional to hang small branches of mistletoe (vesc) above the doors.

There are a number of Catalan culinary traditions, some of them coincide with a religious festival, like cooking a big Christmas Day meal on December 25 which includes escudella i carn d'olla. St. Stephen's Day on December 26 is a holiday in Catalonia. It is celebrated right after Christmas, with another big meal including canelons stuffed with the ground remaining meat of the previous day. These events are usually celebrated along with kin and close friends.

Tió de Nadal


Photograph of a typical contemporary Tió.

The Tió de Nadal (Catalan pronunciation: [tiˈo ðə nəˈðaɫ], Western Catalan: [tiˈo ðe naˈðaɫ]; meaning in English "Christmas Log"), also known simply as Tió ("Trunk" or "Log", a big piece of cut wood) or Tronca ("Log") and popularly called Caga tió ("Shitting log"), is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition widespread in Catalonia. A similar tradition exists in other places such as the Cachafuòc or Soc de Nadal in Occitania, or the Tizón de Nadal or Tronca de Nabidá in Aragon, regions with a common history.

The form of the Tió de Nadal found in many Catalan homes during the holiday season is a hollow log of about thirty centimetres length. Recently, the Tió has come to stand up on two or four little stick legs with a broad smiling face painted on the higher of the two ends, enhanced by a little red sock hat (a miniature of the traditional Catalan barretina) and often a three-dimensional nose. Those accessories have been added only in recent times, altering the more traditional and rough natural appearance of a dead piece of wood.

Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), one gives the tió a little bit to "eat" every night and usually covers him with a little blanket so that he will not be cold at night.

On Christmas day or, depending on the particular household, on Christmas Eve, one puts the Tió partly into the fireplace and orders it to defecate; the fire part of this tradition is no longer as widespread as it once was, since many modern homes do not have a fireplace. To make it defecate one beats the Tió with sticks, while singing various songs of Tió de Nadal.[51]

The tradition says that before beating the Tió all the kids have to leave the room and go to another place of the house to pray asking for the tió to deliver a lot of presents. This makes the perfect excuse for the relatives to do the trick and put the presents under the blanket while the kids are praying.

The tió does not drop larger objects, as those are considered to be brought by the Three Wise Men.[52] It does leave candies, nuts and torrons. Depending on the part of Catalonia, it may also give out dried figs. When nothing is left to "shit", it drops a salt herring, a head of garlic, an onion, or it "urinates" by leaving a bowl of water. What comes out of the Tió is a communal rather than individual gift, shared by everyone present.

In addition to the names listed in the opening paragraph, the additional nickname Caga tió (pronounced: [ˈkaɣə tiˈo] or [ˈkaɣa tiˈo], "shitting log")[53] derives from the many songs of Tió de Nadal that begin with this phrase, which was originally (in the context of the songs) an imperative ("Shit, log!"). The use of this expression as a name is not believed to be part of the ancient tradition.

Nens fent cagar el Tió

Beating the Tió de Nadal

Caga tió song
"Caga tió,

caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!"

shit, log,

shit nougats (turrón),
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
shit, log!

Two alternate versions goes something like this:

"Caga tió,

tió de Nadal,
no caguis arengades,
que són massa salades
caga torrons
que són més bons!"

shit, log,

log of Christmas,
don't shit herrings,
they are too salty,
shit nougats (turrón)
they are much better!

"Tronca de Nadal,

Caga torrons,
pixa vi blanc,
no caguis arengades,
que són massa salades
caga torrons
que són més bons!"

log of Christmas,

shit nougats,
pee white wine,
don't shit herrings,
they are too salty,
shit nougats (turrón)
they are much better!

After hitting it softly with a stick during the song, it is hit harder on the words Caga tió!. Then somebody puts their hand under the blanket and takes a gift. The gift is opened and then the song begins again. There are many different songs: these are just examples.

See also




  1. Christmas, Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2008-10-06.
    Archived 2009-10-31.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Martindale, Cyril Charles."Christmas". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908.
  3. Ramzy, John. "The Glorious Feast of Nativity: 7 January? 29 Kiahk? 25 December?". Coptic Orthodox Church Network. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  4. Several branches of Eastern Christianity that use the Julian calendar also celebrate on December 25 according to that calendar, which is now January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. Armenian Churches observed the nativity on January 6 even before the Gregorian calendar originated. Most Armenian Christians use the Gregorian calendar, still celebrating Christmas Day on January 6. Some Armenian churches use the Julian calendar, thus celebrating Christmas Day on January 19 on the Gregorian calendar, with January 18 being Christmas Eve.
  5. "The Global Religious Landscape | Christians". Pew Research Center. 2012-12-18. Retrieved 2014-05-23.
  6. "Christmas Strongly Religious For Half in U.S. Who Celebrate It". Gallup, Inc.. 2010-12-24. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Forbes, Bruce David (1 October 2008). Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780520258020. "In 567 the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide. On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself. After Christmas and Epiphany were in place, on December 25 and January 6, with the twelve days of Christmas in between, Christians gradually added a period called Advent, as a time of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas."
  8. "The Christmas Season". CRI / Voice, Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  9. Canadian Heritage – Public holidaysGovernment of Canada. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  10. 2009 Federal HolidaysU.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  11. Bank holidays and British Summer timeHM Government. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  12. Why I celebrate Christmas, by the world's most famous atheistDailyMail. December 23, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  13. Non-Christians focus on secular side of ChristmasSioux City Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
  14. Some of the historians and Biblical scholars who place the birth of Jesus in the 7–2 BC range include D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, 54, 56
  15. The year 5 BC corresponds to year 749 AUC used during the Roman Empire.
  16. [1] Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays 2011: The Almanac for Pastoral Liturgy by Corinna Laughlin, Michael R. Prendergast, Robert C. Rabe, Corinna Laughlin, Jill Maria Murdy, Therese Brown, Mary Patricia Storms, Ann E. Degenhard, Jill Maria Murdy, Ann E. Degenhard, Therese Brown, Robert C. Rabe, Mary Patricia Storms, Michael R. Prendergast – LiturgyTrainingPublications, Mar 26, 2010 – page 29
  17. The Chronography of 354 AD. Part 12: Commemorations of the MartyrsThe Tertullian Project. 2006. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
  18. Roll, Susan K., Toward the Origins of Christmas, (Peeters Publishers, 1995), p.133.
  19. Hill, Christopher (2003). Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year. Quest Books. p. 91. ISBN 9780835608107. "This arrangement became an administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east. While the Romans could roughly match the months in the two systems, the four cardinal points of the solar year--the two equinoxes and solstices--still fell on different dates. By the time of the first century, the calendar date of the winter solstice in Egypt and Palestine was eleven to twelve days later than the date in Rome. As a result the Incarnation came to be celebrated on different days in different parts of the Empire. The Western Church, in its desire to be universal, eventually took them both--one became Christmas, one Epiphany--with a resulting twelve days in between. Over time this hiatus became invested with specific Christian meaning. The Church gradually filled these days with saints, some connected to the birth narratives in Gospels (Holy Innocents' Day, December 28, in honor of the infants slaughtered by Herod; St. John the Evangelist, "the Beloved," December 27; St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, December 26; the Holy Family, December 31; the Virgin Mary, January 1). In 567, the Council of Tours declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to become one unified festal cycle."
  20. Hynes, Mary Ellen (1993). Companion to the Calendar. Liturgy Training Publications. p. 8. ISBN 9781568540115. "In the year 567 the church council of Tours called the 13 days between December 25 and January 6 a festival season. Up until that time the only other joyful church season was the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost."
  21. Knight, Kevin (2012). "Christmas". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved 15 December 2014. "The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde (506), in canons 63-64, orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany."
  22. Bunson, Matthew (21 October 2007). "Origins of Christmas and Easter holidays". Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Retrieved 17 December 2014. "The Council of Tours (567) decreed the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany to be sacred and especially joyous, thus setting the stage for the celebration of the Lord’s birth not only in a liturgical setting but in the hearts of all Christians."
  23. Bingham, Joseph (1726). The Antiquities of the Christian Church. Robert Knaplock. p. 357. Retrieved 20 December 2014. "Besides these Fasts at the Four Seasons, Philastrius mentions a Fast before Epiphany, or rather, as has been observed before, put it in the Room of the Fast of September. The Second Council of Tours [Conc. Turon. 2. can. 18. Inter Natalem Domini & Epiphaniam omni die Festivitates sunt. Excipitur Triduum illud, quo ad calcandam Gentilium consuetudinem, Patres nostri statuerunt privatas in Kalendis Januarii fieri Litanias. &c.] takes notice of this, and tells us it was appointed particularly at that Time in Opposition to the Heathen Festivals. which they were used to observe with a great deal of Corruption, and licentious Revellings for Three Days together: Which Three Days the Fathers chose to make Days of Abstinence and private Litanies, to refrain the People from running into the extravagants Riots and Excesses of the Heathen. So that New-year's-Day, or Circumcision, was rather kept as a Fast, than a Festival, for several Ages in the Church. [...] One of the French [Conc. Turon. 2. can. 18. [...] In Augusto, quia quotidie Missae Sanctorum sunt, prandium habeant ] [...] August is excepted, because in this Month every Day almost was celebrated as the Festival of some Martyr [Ibid. can. 19]"
  24. Butler, Alban; Butler, Charles (1839). The Moveable Feasts, Fasts, and Other Annual Observances of the Catholic Church. James Duffy. p. 110. Retrieved 20 December 2014. "This fast on the new year's day is mentioned by the Second Council of Tours, can. xvii."
  25. Miles, Clement A. (2012). Christmas in Ritual and Tradition. Netlancers. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-62394116-1. Retrieved 20 December 2014. "In Gaul, as is shown by a decree of the Council of Tours in 567, a solemn fast was held on the Circumcision and the two days following it, in order to turn away the faithful from the pagan festivities of the Kalends"
  26. Dues, Greg (2008). Advent and Christmas. Twenty-Third Publications. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-58595722-4. Retrieved 20 December 2014. "January 1 has had many religious themes in Christian history. None of them are associated with the secular understanding of New Year's Day so popular in our society today. At first the day was celebrated as special because it was the Octave of Christmas and, so to speak, a repeat of that day and theme. The church promoted penitential liturgies and fasting to offset the influence of pagan New Year's boisterous practices. In the year 567, the Second Council of Tours prescribed a three-day fast to correspond with the first days of the new year."
  27. Adam, Adolf (1990). The Liturgical Year. Liturgical Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-81466047-8. Retrieved 20 December 2014. "The Second Council of Tours (567) prescribed that penitential exercises were to be held on the first three days of January as a way of eliminating pagan practices, and the Fourth Council of Toledo (633) ordered a strict fast modeled on the Lenten fast"
  28. Labadie, Christopher (June 2014). "The Octave Day of Christmas: Historical Development and Modern Liturgical Practice". Obsculta, Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 89–90. Retrieved 20 December 2014. "The earliest evidence for the celebration of an official octave day of Christmas is not until the seventh century [Pierre Jounel, "The Year: The Christmas Season" in The Church at Prayer, Volume IV: The Liturgy and Time, ed. A.G. Martimort (Collegeville: the Liturgical Press 1986), 84]. In the preceding centuries the Church resisted celebrations on January 1st due to pagan idol worship and debauchery, which surrounded the New Year [Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year (C...1990), 139]. Instead, the Church observed January 1st as a day of penance so that the faithful might refrain from participating in idolatrous activities. In the fourth century the monk Telemachus was martyred after exhorting a stadium full of revelers to "Cease from the superstition of idols and polluted sacrifices. [For]Today is the octave of the Lord!" [Tanya Gulevich, Encyclopedia of Christmas (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2000), 209] Around the same time the Church in Rome began to celebrate a Missa ad prohibendum ab idolis (Mass for prohibition of idols) [Adam, The Liturgical Year, 139] and Augustine encouraged the faithful to celebrate the New Year with "prayer and penance". [Catholic University, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 658] These penitential practices were confirmed by both the Second Council of Tours in 567 c.e. and the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633 c.e., which called for prayer, penance and fasting during the first days of the new year. [Ibid.]. This penitential emphasis lasted into the seventh century, when the Roman Church adopted a Constantinopolitan commemoration of Mary and assigned it to January 1st."
  29. 29.0 29.1 McGowan, Andrew. "How December 25 Became Christmas, Biblical Archaeology Review, Retrieved 2009-12-13". Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  30. Robert Laurence Moore (1994). Selling God: American religion in the marketplace of culture. Oxford University Press. p. 205. "When the Catholic Church in the fourth century singled out December 25 as the birth date of Christ, it tried to stamp out the saturnalia common to the solstice season."
  31. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia. Merriam Webster. 2000. p. 1211. "Christian missionaries frequently sought to stamp out pagan practices by building churches on the sites of pagan shrines or by associated Christian holidays with pagan rituals (eg. linking -Christmas with the celebration of the winter solstice)."
  32. Newton, Isaac, Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733). Ch. XI. A sun connection is possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4:2.
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    Roll, Susan K. (1995). Toward the Origins of Christmas. Peeters Publishers. p. 130.
    Tighe, William J., "Calculating Christmas". Archived 2009-10-31.
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  45. nativity, Online Etymology Dictionary
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  47. noel Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved December 12.
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