Did you know that Christmas is celebrated to coincide with the return of the sun after the darkest days? Early Christians associated the coming of Christ with light, shining in the darkness and so chose a day in which many people celebrated the return of the sun for the feast. Roman Saturnalia celebrated that with a huge festival involving family and gift giving—and other wild events. Winners of races and competitions were presented with laurel wreaths that were hung on doors.
Gift-giving in Medieval Europe was more associated with Saint Nicholas’s feast than Christmas. The idea of giving gifts on December 25 rather than December 6 is generally attributed to Martin Luther, who frowned on icons of and devotion to saints.