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Region: England, Wales and Northern Ireland

RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

We are delighted to share with you our library of resources. You can use the filter feature below to find topics most relevant to your curriculum.

Christmas: Traditions

What are the origins of our Christmas traditions?

Read through this timeline to find the reasons we do the things we do at Christmas...

Christmas cards
The very first Christmas card was made in 1843. Henry Cole had it designed, and printed 1000 of them.
Advent Calendar
One December a mother cut a cake into 24 pieces and put them onto a piece of cardboard. Her little boy got to eat one piece each day until Christmas.That little boy grew up to be a printer. He always remembered what his mother had done, and in 1903 he produced the first Advent Calendar.
Santa Claus
The name Santa Claus comes from Saint Nicholas who was Bishop of Myra, which is now in Turkey.
Christmas Carols
The first Christmas Carols came from France. The singers would dance as they sang - the word 'carol' means a circling dance.
Christmas tree
The tradition of the modern Christmas tree was likely started in the 8th century with St. Boniface, a Christian monk who was working and living in what is now Germany.
Christmas presents
One of the main reasons we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas, is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.
Star
A star is usually placed on the Christmas tree to remind people of the star that brought the Wise Men to Jesus. Read more about the Christmas story here.
Candy Canes
The candy cane began as an all-white, straight, sugar treat, and is believed to have been invented by French priests in the early part of the 15th century. It took on the shape of a shepherd's crook as a reminder of the shepherds who visited Jesus.
Crib
Tradition says that Christmas cribs began with St Francis of Assisi who in 1220 celebrated Mass in a cave with a manger and real animals. Today for Christians Nativity scenes are a visible reminder of that night when Jesus was born.
December 25th
No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? There are many theories of why this date was chosen. One of the most popular theories claims that December 25th might have been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti' took place in December around this date - so it was a time when people already celebrated things.