What do people do?
There are many ways to celebrate Christmas and people in different countries blend their cultural traditions with more universal Christmas celebrations. It is common for many households to have decorated Christmas trees, either real or fake. Many homes are also decorated to fit the Christmas theme prior to and on Christmas Day. Many workplaces hold Christmas parties in the weeks leading to Christmas Day.
Many people have a day off work and spend time with their families and loved ones on Christmas Day. Festive activities include exchanging Christmas presents, joining in Christmas feasts, and listening to Christmas-themed music or movies. For some cultures, Christmas is an exclusive family affair that sees relatives travel from different geographic regions to unite at this time of the year. Other people may choose to openly invite friends to a Christmas buffet or pot luck lunch or dinner.
Christmas Day is a special day for children who receive gifts that they have been longing for. Many children believe in Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, a figure who is believed to provide Christmas presents to children. Some children write “letters to Santa” a few weeks before Christmas Day, asking for a gift that they desire most. Christmas cards are also exchanged among adults and children prior to Christmas Day.
Many churches have special Christmas Day services, some of which include choirs, joyous singing, and meet-and-greet opportunities after the church services. Many churches are beautifully decorated and may include a crèche or miniature Nativity scene. Some large-scale Christmas church services are televised for those who do cannot attend a church service.
Christmas Day is a public holiday in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Government offices, educational institutions, many businesses and post offices are closed on this day. Those planning to use public transport on Christmas Day will need to check with the local transport authorities in the area they wish to travel.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the son of God. His birth date is unknown because there is little public information about his early life. There is disagreement among scholars on when Jesus was actually born. Many Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7.
The word “Christmas” comes from the old English “Cristes maesse”, or the mass of Christ. It is probably that the Christmas date of December 25 was chosen to offset the Pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti. It may also be that the celebration of the birth of the “true light of the world” was set at the time of the December solstice because this is when the days in the northern hemisphere began to have more hours of sunlight. Christmas holiday customs derive from various cultures, including Teutonic, Celtic, Roman, West Asian and Christian.
The mistletoe is a commonly used Christmas decoration. Some people believe that any male or female who meet under a hanging mistletoe are obliged to kiss. Mistletoe has pagan associations. For example, the druids of Gaul regarded mistletoe growing on oak trees as sent from heaven. Other common decorations associated with Christmas are holly and ivy – both are associated with Pagan festivals as it was customary to decorate with greenery for these festivals.
Images of Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, snowmen, reindeer, and candy canes are seen in cards, posters, signs and other printed or marketing material associated with the Christmas celebrations. Images of baby Jesus, the Christmas star, and other symbols associated with the religious meaning of Christmas are also seen during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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