Holidays Calendar : Merry Christmas Day
On December 25, people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus
Christ. Some people celebrate by giving gifts. Children may be thanking
Santa Claus for new toys. They may also be going to church with their
families. Christmas has so many traditions and symbols associated with it,
that it's hard to determine exactly how it came to be the celebration it
By 336 A.D., the Christian church in Rome celebrated the festival of
Christmas on December 25. The same day, Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the
winter solstice (the shortest day of the year). In observance of the
"birthday of the unconquered sun," they exchanged gifts and made merry
with a festival. On the Roman New Year (January 1), people decorated
houses with greenery and gave gifts to children and the poor. Evergreens
symbol of survival.
Modern-day Christmas borrows many of these traditions. St. Nicholas became
a popular figure by the 11th century, known for his great generosity and
healing powers. With the rise of the Protestant Church, he was nearly
forgotten, except in the Netherlands, where they called him Sinterklaas.
Does that name sound familiar?
Dutch colonists settling in New Amsterdam (now New York City) brought the
story of St. Nicholas with them. In English, he became known as Santa
Claus. Added to the legend of this kind old man were old Nordic folk tales
of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children
with presents. The Santa Claus we recognize in the U.S. today, with his
red suit, jolly laugh, and long white beard, began to appear in story and
song in the 19th century. But every family has their own unique traditions
for the holiday as well.
Alan Wallace of Massachusetts, who was a boy at the end of the 19th
century, used to gather seashells from the shore in the summertime to make
into Christmas presents. Margaret Davis of Georgia, said her family ate,
danced, and went to parties all week long in the 1890s. Some children
write letters to Santa at the North Pole asking for things they want. Some
leave milk and cookies out for St. Nick the night before. Some families
attend morning mass, while others gather around a Christmas tree to open
brightly wrapped boxes. What do you or your friends do to celebrate
Christmas in your own special way? Happy Holidays!
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