By Adam MacTaggart
Christmas is celebrated on December 25 around the world as one of the most important Christian holidays. Gifts are exchanged, Christmas music plays in homes and department stores, and people spend time with their families. While the diverse population of the United States means everyone celebrates Christmas a little differently, there are some important features that are widely observed throughout the country.
For observant Christians, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who is considered the the most important figure in the Christian faith. Many Christians attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, where services often feature plays depicting the story of Jesus’s birth and hymns giving thanks. There is a festive atmosphere, with candles being lit and pine wreaths usually decorating the walls. Children often have Advent Calendars, little calendars that last from December 1-25, with a chocolate attached for each day leading up to Christmas. People often volunteer or give more money to charity during this time of year because Jesus was known for helping the poor during his lifetime.
For religious and non-religious people alike, shopping and gift giving are a major aspect of the Christmas holiday. Many stores in the United States have their best sales of the year in the days leading up to Christmas, encouraging Americans to shop often. Many large stores have special sales late at night or early in the morning that are very popular. Children in particular receive many gifts at Christmas, particularly from Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicolas. According to Americans, Santa Claus is a portly man dressed in red and white who flies around the world the night before Christmas in a sleigh pulled by magical flying reindeer, delivering presents to all the children in the world through their chimneys. American children leave milk and cookies by their fireplace for Santa Claus, and often hang a stocking above the fireplace, hoping this will convince Santa Claus to give them gifts. On Christmas morning, excited children run to their fireplace to see what presents they have received.
Pine trees are a key feature in many Christmas celebrations. Christmas trees can be plastic trees families use specifically for Christmas or they can be actual pine trees cut down in a forest. These trees are brought inside a family’s home and decorated with ornaments, with some gifts placed under the tree until Christmas day. In many cities and towns across the United States, a large Christmas tree is decorated at the center of town, covered in lights and decorations.
Christmas lights add to the holiday atmosphere in the time leading up to Christmas day. Christmas lights can be any color and sometimes are in the shape of Santa Claus, reindeer, or another holiday image. Some lights flash in a way that suggests the image in moving, such as a running reindeer. Christmas lights are one of the most visible signs of the Christmas holiday and are a very popular feature outside many American homes.
In the days leading up to the holiday, Christmas stories and music play an important part in celebrating Christmas. The poem Twas the Night Before Christmas is often read to small children who are excited about receiving gifts from Santa Claus. Other stories, such A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens are often read or seen at theaters around the country. Music often features prominently in the Christmas holiday, with numerous Christmas songs being played in stores and sung by carolers, people who sing Christmas songs in public, sometimes even going from house to house singing songs. Christmas songs range from songs originating centuries ago to songs recently released by popular recording artists.
Some Christmas Songs:
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
American football is also a key feature of the holiday season. With the college football season drawing to a close, Christmas marks the middle of a period spanning several weeks known as “bowl” games. These bowl games feature some of the best college teams facing each other to win a trophy and glory for their universities. Football is something watched by many Americans during the holidays due to the top level competition and is played by some families as part of their holiday tradition.
Christmas is a holiday that brings people together, so give a friend a gift, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy one of the most popular holidays in the United States! Happy holidays and have a wonderful winter break!