The word ‘Christmas’ has its origins in the Christian religious tradition and can be traced back to Old English and Old French.

Old English: The word ‘Christmas’ in its earliest form in English was ‘Cristesmæsse,’ which means ‘Christ’s Mass.’ It was first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle around the year 1038. ‘Cristes’ is the genitive (possessive) form of ‘Christ,’ and ‘mæsse’ is an Old English word for ‘mass’ or ‘religious festival.’

Old French: The Old English term ‘Cristesmæsse’ was influenced by Old French, where the holiday was called ‘Noël’ or ‘Natale,’ both of which mean ‘birth’ and refer to the birth of Jesus Christ. This influence came about during the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century when the Normans, who spoke Old French, ruled over the English.

Over time, ‘Cristesmæsse’ evolved into ‘Christesmesse’ and then ‘Christmas’ as the English language underwent changes. The modern term ‘Christmas’ became widely used in the English-speaking world to refer to the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th It has since expanded to encompass a range of cultural and secular traditions beyond its religious origins.

The word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek word ‘Christós’ which means ‘anointed’ and is a translation of the Hebrew term ‘messiah’. Another interesting fact is that the abbreviation ‘Xmas’ is not an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas, but rather an abbreviation of the Greek name for Christ, ‘Χριστός’, which starts with the Greek letter X.

The history of Christmas is long and complicated. While the first Christmas was not celebrated until years after the birth of Jesus, historians believe it was originally celebrated in Romein the early fourth century. However, Christmas was not always popular, especially among Puritans in America who viewed it as anti-Christian and indulgent. In fact, Christmas celebrations were even banned in Massachusetts in 1659. In 1870 it was recognized as a federal holiday in the United States.

The popularity of Christmas can be attributed to influential writers like Washington Irving and Charles Dickens. Washington Irving wrote extensively about Christmas and helped reshape the holiday to be one of family time, community, and giving. Charles Dickens wrote the classic novel ‘A Christmas Carol,’ which further popularized the holiday. These writers inspired people throughout America and Europe to embrace Christmas as one of the happiest and holiest times of the year.


Anastasia Spyropoulou

Anastasia Spyropoulou

Editor in Chief at ELT NEWS