The Roman church began celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, 336 AD. The emperor Constantine was in power at that time. Before, Constantine had made Christianity the official and practical religion of his entire empire. According to speculations, Constantine chose this date for political reasons, to weaken the pagan celebrations which were established.
However, the Eastern Empire did not accept this date. They instead favored the 6th of January, which was famous for the next half-century. Therefore, Christmas was not a major Christian festival until the 9th century.
What happened on this day?
On the 25th of December 336, Christmas celebrations first took place in Rome. The Christian church in Rome made merry with a festival on this day in observance of the birth of ‘The unconquered sun.’ Christians celebrated the day in style, mainly by making merry and exchanging gifts. It was practically the way Christians celebrate it today. Apart from gifting each other, the then Christians also visited and gifted children and the poor in the community.
The Christian church extended the festivities to the 1st of January, the Roman new year. On this day, Christians decorated their houses with greenery. They also gifted children and the less fortunate in their community.
25th of December AD 336 was also when the Romans celebrated the winter solstice, Saturnalia. Winter solstice was the year’s shortest day.