Article by Victor Epand
In many countries, businesses, schools, and communities have Christmas parties and dances in the weeks before Christmas. Christmas pageants may include a retelling of the story of the birth of Christ. Groups may visit neighborhood homes to sing Christmas carols. Others do volunteer work or hold fundraising drives for charities.
On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, a special meal of Christmas dishes is usually served. In some regions, particularly in Eastern Europe, these family feasts are preceded by a period of fasting. Candy and treats are also part of Christmas celebration in many countries.
Many people also send Christmas cards to their friends and family members. Many cards are also produced with messages such as “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays”, so as to including senders and recipients who may not celebrate Christmas.
In the United States and Europe, rolls of paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts. Common motifs include Christmas trees, wreaths, Santa Claus, the Nativity, angels, Christmas tree ornaments, candies, stars, snowflakes, snowmen, and penguins.
Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments. The interior of a home may be decorated with garlands and evergreen foliage, particularly holly and mistletoe. In Australia, North and South America and to a lesser extent Europe, it is traditional to decorate the outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures.
Since the 19th century, the poinsettia has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus.
Municipalities often sponsor decorations as well. Christmas banners may be hung from street lights and Christmas trees placed in the town square. In the U.S., decorations once commonly included religious themes. This practice has led to many lawsuits, as some say it amounts to the government endorsing a religion. In 1984, the US Supreme Court ruled that a city-owned Christmas display, even one with a Nativity scene, does not violate the Amendment, Lynch (1984)
Although Christmas decorations, such as a tree, are considered secular in many parts of the world, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bans such displays as symbols of Christianity.
Gift-giving is a near-universal part of Christmas celebrations. The concept of a mythical figure who brings gifts to children derives from Saint Nicholas, a bishop of Myra in fourth century Lycia, Asia Minor. He made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine in his youth and soon thereafter became Bishop of Myra. He was imprisoned during the persecution of Diocletian and released after the accession of Constantine. He may have been present at the Council of Nicaea, though there is no record of his attendance. He died on December 6 in 345 or 352. In 1087, Italian merchants stole his body at Myra and brought it to Bari in Italy. His relics are preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari. An oily substance known as Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from his relics.”Nicholas of Myra”, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1998.
The Dutch recognized a Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, who gave gifts on the eve of his feast day of December 6. He became associated with Christmas in 19th century America and was renamed Santa Claus or Saint Nick. In the Anglo-American tradition, this jovial fellow arrives on Christmas Eve on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and lands on the roofs of houses. He then climbs down the chimney, leaves gifts for the children, and eats the food they leave for him. He spends the rest of the year making toys and keeping lists on the behavior of the children.
One belief in the United Kingdom, United States, and other countries passed down through the generations is the idea of lists of good children and bad children. Throughout the year, Santa supposedly adds names of children to either the good or bad list depending on their behavior. When it gets closer to Christmas time, parents use the belief to encourage children to behave well. Those who are on the bad list receive a booby prize, such as a piece of coal or a switch with which their parents beat them, rather than presents.
The French equivalent of Santa evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image. In some cultures Santa Claus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. In other versions, make the holiday toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. Claus. Many shopping malls in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia have a Santa Claus children can visit to ask for presents.
In many countries, children leave empty containers for Santa to fill with small gifts such as toys, candy, or fruit. In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada children hang a Christmas stocking by the fireplace on Christmas Eve because Santa is said to come down the chimney the night before Christmas to fill them. In other countries, children put their empty shoes out for Santa to fill on the night before Christmas, or for Saint Nicholas to fill on December 5, the eve of his saint’s day. Family members and friends also bestow gifts on each other.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert commentator at http://www.CustomDesignPostcards.com. Visit us when you need to make custom designed holiday, gift, and invitation cards, as well as business cards and brochures. We are the only design utility that lets you download the print-ready images!
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