History of Christmas: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

For many people, Christmas is an exciting and magical time of year. In this lesson, learn about the history of this holiday and how the celebrations have changed throughout the years.

Merry Christmas!

In the weeks up to December 25, people spend time buying gifts, decorating trees, and baking cookies in anticipation of Christmas Day. You might have enjoyed these activities yourself! But have you stopped to learn the history of this holiday? Let's explore the beginnings of Christmas, how Christmas celebrations have changed over time, and the reasons behind modern day traditions.

Ancient Holiday

Long before decorated trees and gingerbread cookies, ancient cultures had festivals centered around the winter solstice. This is the shortest day of the year, and it signals the start of winter. People looked forward to days starting to get longer again, and took the opportunity to enjoy times of feasting.

Christmas became an official holiday of the Christian religion in the fourth century. Christians believed that the supreme being of God sent a savior for the world in the form of his son, Jesus. The religious text of Christianity is the Bible, and although it tells the story of the birth of Jesus, it does not say exactly when this happened.

Christians celebrate the birth of a savior from God known as Jesus.
birth of Jesus

Pope Julius I, a Christian religious leader, determined the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus would be December 25. This date was around the same time as the solstice festivals, and people who study history believe that was the reason he chose December 25.

The holiday's original name was the Feast of the Nativity. Nativity is a word often used to describe the birth of Jesus, and it is common in December to see displays of nativity scenes with baby Jesus surrounded by his Earthly parents, Mary and Joseph.

Christmas Cancelled

The celebrations of Christmas spread, but not everyone was happy with the merriment. In the early 1600s, a group of people in England called the Puritans were upset with how some Christians were living. They believed that their lifestyles were too extravagant, meaning they ate too much, spent too much money, and were not focused on important things.

This group was led by a man named Oliver Cromwell. He and people who believed in his ideas took over in England, and in 1645 they declared that Christmas was cancelled. As you can imagine, this was very disappointing for many people. Eventually, King Charles II retook control over England and Christmas was back!

King Charles knew that Christmas was popular, and he reinstated the holiday when he returned to power.
King of England

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