General Christmas Information
Christmas is a joyful religious holiday when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas story comes from the Bible. An angel appeared to shepherds and told them that a Savior had been born to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem. Three Wise Men from the East (the Magi) followed a wondrous star which led them to the baby Jesus to whom they paid homage and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
To people all over the world, Christmas is a season of giving and receiving presents. In Scandinavian and other European countries, Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas, comes into houses in the night and leaves gifts for the children. Saint Nicholas is represented as a kindly man with a red cloak and long white beard. He visited houses and left gifts, bringing people happiness in the coldest months of the year. Another character, the Norse God Odin, rode on a magical flying horse across the sky in the winter to reward people with gifts These different legends passed across the ages to make the presentday Santa Claus.
Immigrant settlers brought Father Christmas to the United States. Father Christmas's name was gradually changed to Santa Claus, from the Dutch name for Father Christmas, which is Sinter Claas. Although he has origins in Norse and pre-Christian mythology, Santa Claus took shape in the United States. Americans gave Santa Claus a white beard, dressed him in a red suit and made him a cheery old gentleman with red cheeks and a twinkle in his eye.
Most children believe that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole with his wife. All year he lists the names of children, both those who have been good and those who have been bad. He decides what presents to give to the good children. He oversees the manufacturing and wrapping of the presents by his helpers.
Santa Claus supposedly gets his list of toys from the millions of children who write to him at the North Pole. Children also find Santa Claus at shopping malls across the country. They sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. Of course, their parents are probably nearby listening in as well.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, Santa hitches his eight reindeer to a sleigh, and loads it with presents. The reindeer pull him and his sleigh through the sky to deliver presents to children all around the world, that is, if they had been good all year.
Santa Claus exists only in our imaginations. But he, Saint Nicholas, and Father Christmas are spirits of giving. Christmas has been associated with gift giving since the Wise Men brought gifts to welcome the newborn Jesus Christ.
Going home for Christmas is a most cherished tradition of the holiday season. No matter where you may be the rest of the year, being at "home" with your family and friends for Christmas is "a must." The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the busiest times of the year at airports, train stations, and bus depots. It seems that all America is on the move and Americans are on their way to spend the holidays with their loved ones.
This means that the house will be full of cousins, aunts and uncles that might not see each other during the year. Everyone joins in to help in the preparation of the festivities. Some family members go to choose a Christmas tree to buy and bring home, Others decorate the house, or wrap presents. And of course, each household needs to make lots of food!
Long ago, each child hung a stocking, or sock, over the fireplace. Santa entered down the chimney and left candy and presents inside the socks for the children. Today the tradition is carried on, but the socks are now large red sock-shaped fabric bags still called stockings. Each child can't wait to open his or her eyes to see what Santa has left in the stocking.
Giving gifts is a Christmas tradition. However, in recent years, more and more people have complained that Christmas is too commercialized especially in large cities. Store owners begin advertising and decorating very early in hopes of selling more goods. Children demand more and more from Santa Claus because manufacturers and retailers saturate television with advertising. Some people believe that the origin of Christmas has been lost. Commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ is the very reason for Christmas and should be central to the celebration.
Every year human interest newspaper articles remind readers of the origin of Christmas. Shelters for the homeless and hungry appeal through the newspaper to send money or gifts to those who are less fortunate. Members of organization such as the Salvation Army dress up as Santa Claus and stand on the sidewalks outside stores to collect money for their own soup kitchens. City police forces supervise a "Toys for Tots" donation, in which people contribute new or used toys for children in hospitals and orphanages. Employees give a small part of their paychecks as a donation to a favorite charity. Such groups and organizations try to emphasize the true message of Christmas; To share what you have with others...