The 12th Day of Christmas: What Roman Catholics Say About Christmas

“The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ… Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday… The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont’s epoch-making “Textes et Monuments” etc… Though Rome gives three Masses to the Nativity only, Ildefonsus, a Spanish bishop, in 845, alludes to a triple mass on Nativity, Easter, Whitsun, and Transfiguration (P.L., CVI, 888).” – From The Catholic Encyclopedia.

“Of all the feasts throughout the year the celebration of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the most popular… The date of December 25 was established about the year 320, and the Popes seem to have chosen the twenty-fifth day of December principally to divert the attention of the people from the celebration of a pagan feast of the Mithras cult which was called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” (Natalis Solis Invicti)… Throughout the Middle Ages, Christmas came to be celebrated more and more. Especially during the period from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries all the arts and crafts of the Christian nations were made serviceable to the festivities associated with the Nativity of the Saviour. Plays and songs, carols and dances, spices and flowers, images and statues – all creation was made to serve the celebration of the feast. The foundation of all these customs and traditions was always Holy Mass – the Christ-Mass – the Divine Office and the sacramentals. The unfortunate zeal of the Puritans has certainly influenced the American celebration of Christmas. It is very difficult in our day to realize that Christmas was outlawed in New England until the second half of the last century. As late as 1870, classes were held in the public schools of Boston on Christmas day, and any truant pupil was gravely punished or even publicly dismissed from school.” – “Meaning and History of Christmas,” CatholicCulture.org.