Why is Christmas called Christmas?

Unravelling The Term “Christmas”

Christmas tree with decorations

Here at Gorse Hill, we love all things Christmas! But have you ever wondered why Christmas is called Christmas? 

In a nutshell, the word "Christmas" is a shortened form of "Christ's mass," or "Cristes Maesse" which was first documented in 1038. 

Join us as we delve deeper into the fascinating origins of this term. 

Meaning of the word Christmas

So, where does the word "Christmas" come from and what does it mean? 

Many of us might think it's linked to the word "Christ" since Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus.

jesus, mary and joseph ornament

To some extent, that's correct. "Christmas" is a shorter form of "Christ's Mass," or "Cristes Maesse," which was first recorded in 1038. 

In 1131 it was referred to as "Cristes-messe," according to The Catholic Encyclopaedia.

The word "Christ," originally spelled as "Crīst," comes from the Greek word "Khrīstos," which is a translation of the Hebrew word "Messiah," meaning "anointed."

And the word "messe" is related to the Latin word "missa," which is connected to the tradition of the Eucharist where people eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of Jesus. The practice is also known as Communion and the Lord's Supper.

That's the interesting story behind why Christmas is called Christmas.

stain glass window of the last supper

Why is Christmas celebrated?

Christmas is a yearly celebration that marks the birth of Jesus Christ whom Christian’s regard as the Son of God. 

While Protestants and Catholics observe Christmas on the 25th of December, many countries and religious groups follow a different date for their celebrations which aligns with the Julian Calendar.

Originally a Christian holiday exclusively dedicated to Jesus's birth, Christmas has evolved into a global cultural celebration enjoyed by individuals from diverse backgrounds and beliefs, all united in the spirit of the season.

friends celebrating christmas with a party


We hope you found our article on "Why is Christmas called Christmas?" both informative and intriguing. For more entertaining festive-related reads, feel free to explore our article on "Christmas Cracker History."

And if you're seeking a festive adventure in Surrey, don't miss out on our Christmas offerings. From special afternoon teas and lunches to Christmas party nights, we've always got something spectacular lined up!


festive afternoon tea at gorse hill in woking

Frequently Asked Questions Related To: Why is Christmas called Christmas? 

Q: Where did Christmas get its name?
A: According to The Catholic Encyclopaedia the word "Christmas" comes from an old phrase "Cristes Maesse," which was first documented in 1038. It basically translates to the Mass of Christ or Christ's Mass.

Q: What did Christmas originally mean?
A: Originally, Christmas was a Christian festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus. However, in the early 20th century it also became a holiday for families whether they were Christian or not.

Q: Was Christmas originally called Christmas?
A: The English word "Christmas," which means "mass on Christ's day," is relatively new. The older term "Yule" might have come from the Germanic "jōl" or the Anglo-Saxon "geōl," which both described the feast of the winter solstice.