Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The actual date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, but the Western Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December and the Eastern Church celebrates it on 6 January.

Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem and laid him in a manger. There, according to the Gospels, he was visited by kings and shepherds who had heard about his birth.

Christian churches hold events for people in need, as the idea of Christmas is to spread love and peace. For example, a church might provide a space to give food and temporary shelter to people in need. There are church services with carols on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as Christians thank God for his gift of Jesus.

In the UK, Christmas is celebrated in both a religious and a secular way. Christmas Day is a national holiday and many Christians, as well as many non-religious people and people of other faiths, have parties with food and gifts. Christmas is sometimes criticised for being too commercialised.


Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. In Western Christianity, Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas Day. In Eastern Christianity, Advent begins in mid-November.

The word comes from the Latin adventus, which means ‘arrival’. During this period, Christians prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, or ‘arrival’, at Christmas. The last day of Advent is Christmas Eve.

Key events during Advent

Christians count down to Jesus’ arrival using an Advent wreath and four candles - one to symbolise each of the four Sundays in Advent