It is well known that the word behind Christ-'mas' (shortened form of 'Christ's Mass) is 'mæsse', which comes from the Latin 'missa', the same word used for the Roman Catholic 'Mass' / Holy Eucharist.

Are there historical accounts which show that the Christian use of the term 'missa' is (hopefully) coincidental and that we are not accidentally celebrating a feast that initiated with, and is closely connected to the Roman Catholic mass, which is obligatory on both Dec24 & 25th?

  • 3
    The 'accident' runs deeper - to the whole concept of shifting the celebration of the solstice from 21/22 december to a later point and altering the significance : the concept of confining certain aspects of Christianity to certain days of the year.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 9:02
  • Very useful Wikipedia link, especially this part: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas#Choice_of_date
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


The History of Christmas has this to say:

The earliest evidence of Christ's birth being marked on December 25 is a sentence in the Chronograph of 354. Liturgical historians generally agree that this part of the text was written in Rome in AD 336. Though Christmas did not appear on the lists of festivals given by the early Christian writers Irenaeus and Tertullian, the early Church Fathers John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome attested to December 25 as the date of Christmas toward the end of the fourth century. December 25 was the traditional date of the winter solstice in the Roman Empire, where most Christians lived, and the Roman festival Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of Sol Invictus, the 'Invincible Sun') had been held on this date since 274 AD.

The article goes on to explain that the prominence of Christmas Day gradually increased after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.

During the 17th century the English Puritans condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the “trappings of popery” or the “rags of the beast”. Calvinist clergymen and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland disapproved of Christmas celebrations. Even though King James VI of Scotland (who later became King James I of England, Ireland and Wales) commanded its celebration in 1618, attendance at church was scant. Those pesky Protestants!

With regard to the choice of dates it seems that it is no coincidence or accident that Christians are celebrating what originated as a Catholic Mass.

The 'history of religions' theory suggests the Church chose December 25 as Christ's birthday (dies Natalis Christi) to appropriate the Roman winter solstice festival dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of Sol Invictus, the 'Invincible Sun'), held on this date since 274 AD. Some early Christian writers noted the solar symbolism in placing Jesus's birthday at the winter solstice and John's birthday at the summer solstice. Another theory, the 'computation hypothesis' or 'calculation theory', notes that December 25 is nine months after March 25, a date chosen as Jesus's conception (the Annunciation) and the date of the spring equinox on the Roman calendar.

Protestants distance themselves from the historical and religious history and would deny that they have anything to do with any Catholic Mass. Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas because of its pagan and Catholic origins.

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    Thank you for bringing this discussion in a good direction. The testimony of, and explicit promotion through Augustine of Hippo (2nd RCC doctor; patriarch of the RCC and of Augustinian-Calvinism), Jerome (4th RCC doctor, secretary to the Pope) and Chrysostom (6th RCC doctor) are indeed potent indicators for an origin of Christmas within the RCC. We better stay away from a festival that eventually was celebrated to worship the birth of a sun-god and then masquerated as the worship of the birth of the true God. Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 2:06

Christ-'MAS' = 'Mæsse' = Latin 'Missa' = Catholic 'Mass' / Holy Eucharist

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ is cultural expressed as a Christmas Mass. The term Christmas is employed these days that celebrates the Birth of Christ without any thought to a literal connection to a Catholic Mass celebrated on this day.

According to Catholicism, the Feast celebrated on this day of Christmas is the Feast of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. The term Christmas is a cultural way of expressing this.

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the liturgical year in Christianity, it follows the season of Advent (which begins four Sundays before) or the Nativity Fast, and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many countries, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season surrounding it.


The English word Christmas is a shortened form of 'Christ's Mass'. The word is recorded as Crīstesmæsse in 1038 and Cristes-messe in 1131. Crīst (genitive Crīstes) is from the Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), a translation of the Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ‎), 'Messiah', meaning 'anointed'; and mæsse is from the Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist.

The form Christenmas was also used during some periods, but is now considered archaic and dialectal. The term derives from Middle English Cristenmasse, meaning 'Christian mass'. Xmas is an abbreviation of Christmas found particularly in print, based on the initial letter chi (Χ) in the Greek Khrīstos ('Christ'), although some style guides discourage its use. This abbreviation has precedent in Middle English Χρ̄es masse (where Χρ̄ is an abbreviation for the Greek Χριστός). - Christmas


I hate to answer my own question, but it is certainly worth to share the research I have done after posting this question, and to stimulate further discussion:

  • 1-3 c. AD · No official celebration of Christ-mas in the Christian Church.
  • ~180 AD · Irenaeus and Tertullian do not show a Feast of the Nativity on their lists of Christian celebrations, but Irenaeus calculated March 25 as spurious conception date, based on an assumed birthday of John the Baptist on the Day of Atonement (Month 7, Day 10) and adding the 6 months difference (=Month 1, Day 10, Selection of Lambs), plus assuming 9 months of pregnancy. This is rather wild-west-theology and simply ignores the time-lapse between the annunciation through the Angel and the conception as described in Luk 1:24 through the wording 'And after these days his wife Elizabeth conceived', which excludes any precise date and adds several days, weeks or months btw. the annunciation and the conception. Hippolytus later copied Irenaeus.
  • 198 AD · Clement of Alexandria reported that some celebrated Christ's birthday on ~April 19 / 20 and others ~May 20. Basilidian Christians held to January 6 and 10. Clement himself calculated November 18. Other Alexandrian and Egyptian Christians adopted January 4 or 5. The regions of Nicomedia, Syria and Caesarea celebrated Christ's birthday on January 6.
  • ~200 AD · Julius Africanus assumed like Irenaeus March 25 as conception date.
  • 243 AD · The work 'De Pascha Computus' proposed March 28 as either birthdate or conception.
  • 274 AD · The birthday of the official sun god** of the late Roman Empire, Sol In*tus, is celebrated on December 25.
  • 336 AD · The Chronography / Philocalian calendar used in Rome, includes opposite of the birthday of the sun god ('Natalis In***ty; December 25) the phrase 'VIII kaali ian natus Christus in Bethleem Iudea', which should read 'Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea on the 8th of January.' (commonly stated as Dec 25)
  • 386 AD · Chrysostom (6th RCC doctor): "Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December ... the eighth before the calends of January [25 December] ... But they [the pagans] call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered [sun god / Natalis In***ty]'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, [we may say] He is the Sun of Justice".
  • ~400 AD · Augustine (3rd RCC doctor): "For he is believed to have been conceived on March 25 [biblical New Year, spring equinox], and also suffered on this same day [rather same month, 3 weeks later] ... But according to tradition He was born on December 25".
  • 567 AD · The Council of Tours called the 12/13 days btw. Dec 25 and Jan 6 a festival season.
  • ~1170 AD · Bishop Bar-Salibi: "It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries, the Christians also took part. Accordingly, when the [Catholic] doctors of the church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day".
  • 1223 AD · First creche and nativity pageant by the Catholic St. Francis.
  • 1647 AD · English Puritans forbade the celebration of Christmas by an Act of Parliament.
  • ~1835 AD · Introduction of Christmas trees
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    Answering your own question is allowed and perfectly acceptable. Thank you.
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 18:02

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