Christmas Fast Facts

Here's a look at Christmas, a popular Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In 2015, December 25th falls on a Friday.

Facts:
Celebrated December 25th in the United States and other countries.

Christmas is celebrated on January 7 in some Eastern Orthodox countries, such as Russia.

The real date of Jesus' birth is not known.

The Christmas story is told primarily in the Gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew in the New Testament.

Considered the most popular Christian observance, Christmas is also celebrated as a secular family holiday.

The word Christmas is derived from the Old English phrase Cristes maesse (Christ's mass).

The tradition of substituting X-mas for Christmas has its origins in the early Christian church. The first letter of Jesus Christ's name is X in the Greek language.

Many of the customs and symbols traditionally associated with Christmas originated with ancient pagan festivals and winter solstice rituals.

The modern Christmas tree (typically evergreen conifers-usually pine, balsam or fir species) originated in Germany in the 16th century and became popular in England by the mid-19th century thanks to Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert.

St. Nicholas, the real person on whom Santa Claus is based, lived in the 4th century AD in the province of Lycia on the southwest coast of Asia Minor.

Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with creating the current image of Santa Claus based on his illustrations that began appearing in Harpers Weekly in 1863.

Economic Impact:
Expected holiday spending for November and December 2014 is $617 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, an increase of 4.1% over 2013. The federation notes that spenders are more sophisticated shoppers. They are taking advantage of an improved economy by shopping earlier and smarter.

The United States Post Office is anticipating delivering 450 to 470 million packages this holiday season. That is 12 percent more packages than the previous year. Online shopping is cited as one reason for the increase.

December 17 and December 18 are the busiest days for mail and package deliveries respectively, according to the United States Post Office.