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A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts. Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
History of Christmas
Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.
In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous—a lot like today’s Mardi Gras parties.
From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.
The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.
Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.
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