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Christmas vs. Thanksgiving — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 21, 2023
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, while Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks for the harvest and blessings of the past year.
Christmas vs. Thanksgiving — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Christmas and Thanksgiving


Key Differences

Christmas and Thanksgiving are both significant holidays in the United States, celebrated with fervor and joy. Christmas, observed on December 25th, marks the birth of Jesus Christ, and is both a religious and cultural event. On the other hand, Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, is a day set aside for giving thanks for the harvest and the blessings received during the preceding year.
Christmas often involves decorating trees, giving and receiving gifts, and attending church services, while Thanksgiving is traditionally marked by a feast, typically including turkey and a variety of side dishes.
Both holidays emphasize family and togetherness, but while Christmas has a more religious underpinning and spans across cultures globally, Thanksgiving's origins are rooted in American history and its early settlers.

Comparison Chart


Celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Commemorates the Pilgrims' 1621 feast with Native Americans.


December 25th
Fourth Thursday of November


Religious and cultural celebration.
Day of giving thanks for the year's harvest.

Traditional Symbols

Christmas tree, Santa Claus, nativity scenes.
Turkey, pumpkin pie, cornucopia.


Church services, gift-giving, caroling.
Feasting, parades, football games.

Compare with Definitions


Accompanied by festive music and carols.
Carolers visited our neighborhood on Christmas Eve.


Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
This year, Thanksgiving falls on the 25th.


Marked by gift-giving and merriment.
Children eagerly await Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.


A day to express gratitude.
Our family shares what they're thankful for each Thanksgiving.


A major Christian holiday.
Families gather from all over to celebrate Christmas together.


Commemorates a historic feast.
Schools teach about the Pilgrims and Native Americans during Thanksgiving lessons.


Celebrates Jesus Christ's birth.
We light candles in the window during Christmas.


Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.


Features decorations like trees and lights.
We always decorate our tree a week before Christmas.


An act of giving thanks; an expression of gratitude, especially to God
A hymn of thanksgiving.


Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration by billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night.


Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Day.


A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus.


An expression of gratitude.


December 25, the day on which this feast is observed as a public holiday in many countries.


A short prayer said at meals; grace, a benediction.




A public celebration in acknowledgement of divine favour.


An annual church festival (December 25) and in some States a legal holiday, in memory of the birth of Christ, often celebrated by a particular church service, and also by special gifts, greetings, and hospitality.


The act of rending thanks, or expressing gratitude for favors or mercies.
Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.
In the thanksgiving before meat.
And taught by thee the Church prolongsHer hymns of high thanksgiving still.


Period extending from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6


A public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness; also, a day set apart for religious services, specially to acknowledge the goodness of God, either in any remarkable deliverance from calamities or danger, or in the ordinary dispensation of his bounties.


A Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ; a quarter day in England, Wales, and Ireland


Fourth Thursday in November in the United States; second Monday in October in Canada; commemorates a feast held in 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag


Spend Christmas;
We were christmassing in New York


A short prayer of thanks before a meal


Traditionally involves a turkey dinner.
Mom prepares a big turkey for our Thanksgiving meal.


Marks the beginning of the holiday season.
The Macy's parade on Thanksgiving morning is a family favorite.

Common Curiosities

Is Christmas only a religious holiday?

While Christmas has religious roots, it's also celebrated culturally worldwide.

Is Christmas celebrated worldwide?

Yes, Christmas is celebrated in many countries, though traditions may vary.

Is Thanksgiving unique to the United States?

While the U.S. Thanksgiving has unique origins, similar harvest thanksgiving celebrations exist in other countries.

Why is football associated with Thanksgiving?

Football on Thanksgiving has become a tradition, with NFL games being a fixture since 1920.

What's the significance of turkey on Thanksgiving?

Turkey became a Thanksgiving staple over time, symbolizing abundance and the historic feast.

Are there other names for Thanksgiving?

It's often called Turkey Day informally because of the traditional meal.

Why do people give gifts on Christmas?

Gift-giving during Christmas has religious symbolism and is also a cultural tradition.

How long has Thanksgiving been a national holiday in the U.S.?

Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Is Santa Claus a part of the Christmas religious story?

No, Santa Claus is a cultural figure, separate from the religious narrative.

Do all Christians celebrate Christmas?

Most do, but ways of celebration and the importance placed on the holiday can vary.

Is pumpkin pie a traditional Thanksgiving dessert?

Yes, pumpkin pie is a classic dessert often enjoyed on Thanksgiving.

How did the date for Christmas get chosen?

December 25th's choice has various theories, including pagan festival dates and Christian beliefs.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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