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What is Christmas?

What is Christmas?

The history of Christmas dates back over 4,000 years. The word Christmas is originally from Middle English, obtained from the term "Christ's mass". Many of the famous traditions that are practiced during the holiday have Mesopotamian roots. The 25th of December is the official date of the Christmas holiday. This date marks the celebration of the birth of Jesus; although most scholars are uncertain that this is his actual birth date. It is also the date on which the Romans observed the winter solstice.

The history of Christmas traditions practiced by Americans today, originated as Germanic Christmas traditions. Christmas is probably the most commonly celebrated holiday in the world. Although the history of Christmas plays a part in the traditions practiced today, it does not account for all aspects of the holiday.

The Christmas tree, one of the most famous symbols of the modern Christmas celebration, has its roots in Germanic practices. By the 19th century the Christmas tree had become very popular in Europe and America. The Christmas tree is an evergreen tree, although some people prefer to use an artificial tree. It is usually placed near the front windows of homes for passerby's to admire. Early Christmas trees were decorated with apples, nuts and candles. However, today they are decorated with electrical lights, tinsels, ornaments and a large star is usually placed on the top of the tree.

Santa Claus is another extremely prevalent figure associated with the Christmas holiday. The story of Santa Claus originated from a story where on the eve of St. Nicholas' feast day, children would place their shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill with candy and fruit and the bad children would receive twigs. America altered the story of Santa Claus as follows: Santa Claus comes from the North Pole, dresses in a red robe with white fur and on Christmas Eve he travels down the chimneys of homes and delivers gifts to children. Similar to the St. Nicholas story, Santa Claus places gifts in the stockings of good children and coal in the stockings of those who have been bad.

Along with the decorated evergreen tree and the story of Santa Claus, the modern American Christmas celebration commonly includes many other customary activities. Such practices as decorating homes with electric lights, giving gifts to friends and family, setting up nativity scenes, going to church, singing Christmas carols, cooking special meals and gathering with friends and family are also extremely popular Christmas customs. There are also countless songs and movies associated with Christmas that are played throughout the holiday season.


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