Pine trees decorated with ornaments. Presents adorned with bows and ribbons. Gingerbread cookies. Mariah Carey. There's something that connects these things together.
Through the years, Christmas has evolved past its religious traditions and origins. But no matter how you ring in the holiday, Christmas always falls on the same date every year: Dec. 25.
So, if you've already hung up your stockings and are eager for Santa Claus to come to town, here's what you need to know about Christmas, including its day of the week this year.
When is Christmas?
Christmas Day will be Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. Christmas Eve falls on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023.
Is Christmas a federal holiday?
Yes, Christmas is a federal holiday. It is one of 11 federal holidays in the U.S.
Christmas was designated as a federal holiday on June 26, 1870, reports the History Channel.
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How did Christmas get its name?
The English name "Christmas" has relatively newer origins than previous references to the holiday, according to Britannica. It derives from "mass on Christ's day" since the holiday celebrates the birth of Christ.
While the exact birth date of Jesus Christ is unclear, Pope Julius I chose December 25 to be the official date of the Feast of the Nativity, according to the History Channel. It is believed it was chosen in "an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions" of the pagan festival Saturnalia, which took place near the winter solstice.
In other countries, the holiday's name is closer to "nativity," such as "Navidad" in Spanish, "Natale" in Italian and "Noël" in French.
Despite its religious origins, Christmas is also celebrated as a secular holiday in many countries.
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What is the true story of Santa Claus?
A jolly, older and larger man with a white beard, dressed in red may come to mind when you think of Santa Claus. But the legend of Kris Kringle is different than how we perceive him today.
Santa Claus' origins date back to about 280 A.D., or when St. Nicholas was born, the History Channel reports. The monk – whose feast day is on Dec. 6 – was known for his piety and kindness. He would eventually become known as "the protector of children and sailors."
But how did the saint end up being a figurehead for Christmas?
St. Nicholas was a popular figure in Europe, particularly in Holland. The name Santa Claus comes from the Dutch nickname "Sinter Klaas." It's a shortened form of "Sint Nikolaas," which is Dutch for Saint Nicholas.
Current depictions of Santa Claus began around 1804 when John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The backgrounds of these cuttings displayed stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace, similar to the imagery we still have today.
In 1809, stories of Sinter Klaas became popularized by Washington Irving through his book, "The History of New York." Irving portrayed Claus as "the patron saint of New York," according to the History Channel.
Now, Santa Claus has become known for delivering toys to good children on his sleigh with the help of his reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: When is Christmas 2023? Begin your countdown to the holiday now!