Christmas started as a Christian holiday, celebrated nationally every year on Jesus' day of birth, December 25th. Now it is both a religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. People around the world have been celebrating traditions that are both religious and secular in nature. December 25 has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870, but people have been celebrating Christmas for two millennia. Jesus' birth date in the bible wasn’t actually specified, but Pope Julius I chose December 25th as the official day to observe Christmas. The church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the Pagan festival of Saturnalia. This celebration consisted of food, drink, and loud celebrations in the streets.
Christmas wasn't always accepted as it was like we know today. In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated. However, this did not last long and Christmas was reinstated by popular demand. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to really celebrate Christmas. A man named Washington Irving began a movement and invented the traditions of Christmas we celebrate today. He changed it from a drunken carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. Americans slowly embraced these new traditions and within the next 100 years, and appended many other customs, including decorating trees, sending cards and exchanging gifts.