Christmas Quick Facts - EU

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2023 Date25 December 2023
2024 Date25 December 2024


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Christmas in the European Union celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, an integral figure in Christian beliefs. The holiday is widely recognized and embodies themes of peace, love, and goodwill. Celebrations often involve traditional religious services, as well as the exchange of gifts and festive meals among family and friends.

The origins of Christmas, dating back over two millennia, took root from both religious and numerous pre-Christian winter festivals. Considering Europe is home to a considerable number of Christian followers, the celebration of Christmas is deeply ingrained in its cultural fabric. Christmas carols, originally composed in Europe, form an essential part of the tradition and are belted out with gusto during the holiday season. Traditional Christmas markets in the region, originating from Germany, are significant, providing an avenue for the exchange of gifts and exotic Christmas foods.

Observance of Christmas in the European Union varies among its member countries due to the rich tapestry of cultures and traditions. The nativity scene, inspired from the biblical story of Jesus's birth, is a common display across the region. Moreover, some countries such as Spain and Italy, place importance on the Twelve Days of Christmas, which extends festivities until Epiphany on January 6. In most European Union nations, Christmas is observed on December 25th. However, in some Eastern Orthodox countries like Romania and Bulgaria, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, due to the use of the Julian calendar for religious celebration dates.

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Christmas facts

  • During the 4th Century A.D., Bishop Nicolas of Smyrna was known to be very generous to the poor, especially to children. He was later given the title of Saint Nicholas and is patron saint of children.
  • Constantine the Great named the holiday and set the date for Jesus' birth as being December 25th. This happened in 325 A.D.
  • The Christmas tree is a custom that is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century. Candles and decorations that are lit represented the light of Christ in the world.
  • Carol singing dates back to medieval Europe, and carols as we know them today were primarily developed in 16th-century England. Carol singing remains a popular Christmas tradition in many European countries.
  • The tradition of decorating a tree for Christmas originated in Germany in the 16th century. The Christmas tree is now a common feature in homes and public spaces throughout the European Union during the festive season.

Top things to do in the EU for Christmas

  • Attend a Christmas Eve service at a local church. Many churches offer midnight mass. Alternately, watch the Pope's annual Christmas eve service broadcast live from the Vatican.
  • Many churches hold pageants for children that involve playing the parts of the nativity scene. Go to one of these events or put up a nativity scene in your home.
  • Attend midnight Mass or a Christmas church service.
  • Bake Christmas cookies, gingerbread, or other traditional treats.

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