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Essay/Term paper: Christmas

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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The year"s most celebrated holiday is celebrated
on December 25th, both in homes and churches
worldwide. The meaning for Christmas is to recognize
Christ"s birth, of which the exact date is not known. During
the fourth century the Bishop of Rome set December 25th
as Christ"s birth date. Some authorities claim that the
choice of December 25th was made because it coincided
with Chanukah, Mithraic"s feast of the sun god, and the
people of northern Europe"s winter solstice feast. The
winter solstice is the time of year in the Northern
Hemisphere when the noon sun appears to be farthest
south. (All About American Holidays, 1962 Encyclopedia
Encarta, 1998) The Saturnalia was celebrated for seven
days, during the period of time when the winter solstice
occurred. During this, slaves were given freedom, gifts
were exchanged, and banquets and happiness prevailed.
(Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1998) Holiday Greenery
Evergreens, the symbol of eternal life, have long been used
for Christmas time decorations. The Christmas wreath
represents everlasting life and God"s endless love for us.
Kissing under a mistletoe supposedly started out when
early Roman enemies stopped fighting when they met under
a mistletoe. Holly is the most known Christmas greenery,
and there are several legends about it, one is that Jesus"
crown was made of holly, and the holly berries represented
his blood. (All About American Holidays, 1962) The
Christmas tree: The Christmas tree is an evergreen trimmed
with lights, decorations, and tinsel, is derived from a
"paradise tree", or the tree in the Garden of Eden. (Encarta
98 Encyclopedia, 1998) The use of the Christmas tree
began early in the 17th century, in Strasbourg, France,
spreading from there through Germany and then into
northern Europe. In 1841 Prince Albert introduced the
Christmas tree to Great Britain, where from there
immigrants brought it to the United States. (Encarta 98
Encyclopedia, 1998) Santa Claus The beginning of gift
giving during Christmas started from the three wise men,
with their three gifts for the Christ child. Since then people
have made up different things to tell their children where
their Christmas presents came from. The historical Saint
Nicholas was known in early Christian legends for saving
storm-tossed sailors, standing up for children, and giving
gifts to the poor. Although many of his stories can"t be
proven true, his legend spread throughout Europe, and he
was soon know for his extreme generosity and gift giving.
Many stories include him riding through the sky on a horse
and wearing his red bishop"s cloak, sometimes
accompanied by Black Peter, an elf whose job was to
whip the bad children. His most known legend is when he
would walk through the streets in his bishop clothes,
carrying a sack full of presents, and leaving a gift on the
windowsills of children"s houses. (All About American
Holiday"s, 1962 Compton"s Encyclopedia, 1994) >From
the different parts of the world, there are different names,
but the spirit of Christmas remains the same. Spanish
children call their Santa Balthasar, children in Italy have a
female Santa named La Belfana, Denmark has a gnome
named Jule-Nissen, Holland has Sinter Klaas, Germany
has Sanct Herr, and there are even some places that
believe the Christ child brings their presents. (Encarta 98
Encyclopedia, 1998) The Christmas Feast On Christmas
day, the year"s greatest feast was served, people went, and
still do, all out. Although now we have different foods, the
idea is still the same. The feast was started off with drinks
and music, followed by a procession of the food. Once
everyone was seated, the food was served and eaten, after
dessert, people drank and danced. The banquet lasted
hours and was the highlight of the day. Some of the food
served was: beef, meat pies, roasted duck, geese, pigs,
plumb porridge, fancy cakes, bowls of wassail, and toast.
Christmas was a huge celebration filled with lots of eating,
drinking, singing, dancing, and gift giving. (All About
American Holidays, 1962) Christmas Decorations
Centuries ago, Romans decorated their homes, public
buildings, and temples on festive occasions, and we have
followed this ancient custom. During Christmas time, store
windows, malls, streetlights, and parking lot poles are
decorated to celebrate this joyous time filled with shopping,
gift giving, and happiness. Some popular and well-known
Christmas decorations are: New York"s Rockefeller
Plaza"s Christmas tree, when set up, the first lighting of the
tree signifies the official opening of the Christmas season.
Another popular attraction is Christmas Tree Lane, in
Fresno, California. People there string lights around the
great cedars lining Van Ness Avenue. Homeowners there
also set up holiday displays on their lawns and houses.
(Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1998 All About American
Holidays, 1962)  

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