ChristmasThe 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 GreeneryEvergreens, 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 ClausThe 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 FeastOn 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 DecorationsCenturies 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)