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What is the origin of "December"?


[kris-muh s] /ˈkrɪs məs/
the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts.
Origin of Christmas
before 1150; Middle English cristmasse; Old English Cristes mǣsse Mass of Christ
Related forms
Christmassy, Christmasy, adjective
post-Christmas, adjective
pre-Christmas, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for Christmas
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "I wonder if you'll get anything this Christmas," she remarked.

    Hunter's Marjory Margaret Bruce Clarke
  • Even at Christmas, 1597, Shakespeare's passion has reached the height of a sex-duel.

    The Man Shakespeare Frank Harris
  • For instance, in the Christmas holidays I can have you to stay with me at Brighton.

    Betty Vivian L. T. Meade
  • Over everything brooded the after-dinner peace of Christmas afternoon.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • For Christmas he went to another city: to relatives, he said.

British Dictionary definitions for Christmas


  1. the annual commemoration by Christians of the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec 25
  2. Also called Christmas Day. Dec 25, observed as a day of secular celebrations when gifts and greetings are exchanged
  3. (as modifier): Christmas celebrations
Also called Christmas Day. (in England, Wales and Ireland) Dec 25, one of the four quarter days Compare Lady Day, Midsummer's Day, Michaelmas
Also called Christmastide. the season of Christmas extending from Dec 24 (Christmas Eve) to Jan 6 (the festival of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night)
Word Origin
Old English Crīstes mæsseMass of Christ
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Christmas

late Old English Cristes mæsse, from Christ (and retaining the original vowel sound) + mass (n.2).

Written as one word from mid-14c. As a verb from 1590s. Father Christmas first attested in a carol attributed to Richard Smart, Rector of Plymtree (Devon) from 1435-77. Christmas tree in modern sense first attested 1835 in American English, from German Weihnachtsbaum. Christmas cards first designed 1843, popular by 1860s. Christmas Eve is Middle English Cristenmesse Even (c.1300).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Christmas in Culture

Christmas definition

A festival commemorating the birth of Jesus, traditionally celebrated on December 25 by most Western Christian churches. Although dating to probably as early as a.d. 200, the feast of Christmas did not become widespread until the Middle Ages. Today, Christmas is largely secularized and dominated by gifts, decorated trees, and a jolly Santa Claus.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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