Christmas etymologies

A selection from

Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan (1912)

by

Clement A. Miles


The names given to the feast by different European peoples throw a certain amount of light on its history. Let us take five of them—ChristmasWeihnachtNoëlCalendas, and Yule—and see what they suggest.

I. The English Christmas and its Dutch equivalent Kerstmisse, plainly point to the ecclesiastical side of the festival; the German Weihnacht (sacred night) is vaguer, and might well be either pagan or Christian; in point of fact it seems to be Christian, since it does not appear till the year 1000, when the Faith was well established in Germany. Christmas and Weihnacht, then, may stand for the distinctively Christian festival, the history of which we may now briefly study. Continue reading “Christmas etymologies”