Why is Catholic Christmas celebrated on December 25th? To answer this question, one must first ask one more question: why, in fact, the last month of the year is called December. After all, this word has a Latin origin, from “deca” - “ten”. Why did the ancient Romans call the last, twelfth month of the year the tenth?
In ancient Rome, the beginning of the year fell on March 1. Only many centuries later, the famous Gaius Julius Caesar, having become a dictator, ordered the shortest day to be considered the beginning of the year. And the Romans, rejoicing that with the beginning of the new year, the length of daylight began to increase at least a little, that it was coming to spring, they organized magnificent festivities that had long traditions. They were called "Saturnalia", in honor of one of the most revered deities - Saturn. These days, class distinctions were temporarily erased, luxurious tables were laid right on the streets, wine flowed like a river. Of course, there could be no question of any abstinence. It is not surprising that when Christianity became the dominant religion, the priests wanted to erase even the memory of the "vile pagan amusements" dedicated to the "wrong" god. But it turned out to be not so easy to do it. The people stubbornly did not want to give up the fun that falls to their lot in the last days of December each year. Neither persuasion nor threats of eternal torment in the afterlife helped. Century after century, and the inhabitants of the former Roman Empire stubbornly continued to celebrate Saturnalia. In the end, reluctantly, the highest hierarchs of the church decided to simply replace the pagan holiday with Christmas. Despite the fact that, naturally, no one knew the exact date of Christ's birth, it was announced that he was born at this time. So gradually the former Saturnalia turned into Christmas. Why is Christmas celebrated on different days in different countries? For example, in Russia - January 7? The fact is that at the end of the 16th century, a new, so-called "Gregorian" calendar was introduced in Europe, designed to correct the difference between the actual duration of the Earth year and that arising from the "Julian" calendar, according to which many countries lived, including Russia. The length of the year in the Julian calendar exceeds the actual one by only 11 and a quarter minutes. This, of course, is negligible in comparison with the true value, but over many centuries a fairly decent total error has accumulated, to correct which Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar. In 1918, the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Russia, but the church continues to live according to the old, Julian calendar. That is why Christmas is celebrated in Europe on December 25, and here - on January 7.