Christianity gradually made its way across Europe, bringing Christmas with it. The holiday came to England, for example, via St. Christianity gradually made its way across Europe, bringing Christmas with it. The holiday came to England, for example, via St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, who reportedly baptized more than 10,000 English people on December 25, 598. Acting under the direction of Pope Gregory I, Augustine was also instrumental in bringing the celebration of Christmas to the area.
At the end of the sixth century, the pope instructed Augustine to make over the midwinter Yule festival into Christmas observances, emphasizing the importance of condoning any customs from the festival that could be found to contain Christian significance. It was a well-tested strategy, and it worked.
In ninth-century England, Alfred the Great declared that the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany should be reserved for seasonal festivities, thus formalizing observation of the twelve days of Christmas in England. Alfred was serious about celebrating: As part of his declaration, he made working during this period illegal. He followed his own rules, even at great cost. In 878, he refused to go to war during the twelve days of Christmas. His failure to do so is said to have caused England to lose the Battle of Chippenham to the Danes.
Christmas arrived in Germany in 813, via the Synod of Mainz, and was brought to Norway in the mid-900s by King Hakon the Good. By the end of the ninth century, Christmas was observed all over Europe with trees, lights, gifts, and feasts. The items that had held significance for the old religions were either tossed aside or altered to fit within a Christian context. Over the centuries, the holiday was increasingly reformed to contain fewer of the old pagan elements.
There are some who believe that King Arthur celebrated the First English Christmas in 521 with his Knights of the Round Table, without the input of either Augustine or Gregory. Given the legends surrounding King Arthur, however, this remains the territory of myth, rather than fact.