The Chronography of 354 AD contains early evidence of the celebration on December 25 of a Christian liturgical feast of the birth of Jesus.
This was in Rome, while in Eastern Christianity the birth of Jesus was already celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6.
In 245, Origen of Alexandria, writing about Leviticus 12:1–8, commented that Scripture mentions only sinners as celebrating their birthdays, namely Pharaoh, who then had his chief baker hanged (Genesis –22), and Herod, who then had John the Baptist beheaded (Mark –27), and mentions saints as cursing the day of their birth, namely Jeremiah (Jeremiah –15) and Job (Job 3:1–16).
A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is prepared for by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; and is an integral part of the holiday season, while some Christian groups reject the celebration.
In several countries, celebrating Christmas Eve on December 24 has the main focus rather than December 25, with gift-giving and sharing a traditional meal with the family.
While the 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, 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.
However, some Eastern churches celebrate Christmas on the December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, the day after the Western Christian Church celebrates the Epiphany.
This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a disagreement over which calendar should be used to determine the day that is December 25.
The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after the day on which early Christians believed that Jesus was conceived, Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and caroling, lighting a Christingle, 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.
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 regions of the world.
The canonical gospels of Luke and Matthew both describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem in Judea, to a virgin mother.
In the Gospel of Luke account, Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, and Jesus is born there and laid in a manger.