Christmas is a worldwide holiday celebrated on the December 25. Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and also brings in the new season of Christmastide in the Christian liturgical year. Although a Christian holiday, Christmas is celebrated annually by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Christmas is derived from the words Christ and Mass. This is the day in which followers of the Christian faith recognize the birth of Jesus in a special congregation. It is not known why December 25 is associated with the birth of Jesus. The New Testament does not clearly state when Jesus was actually born. One explanation is that the December 25 is nine months after March 25, the day Jesus was crucified. Christmas is an integral part in Western culture and around the world, which brings a number of people together to set aside their differences and focus on goodwill and peace.
At first, Christmas was nothing more than a time of remembrance. As time progressed, many components were integrated into the Christmas celebrations. Around 250 AD, families started gathering on Christmas for a special meal and celebration. In the Middle Ages, gift giving was introduced--which is an enormous component of Christmas today. The incorporation of Santa Claus was first seen in the early 15th century in England where he was first known as Father Christmas. Its American version, Santa Claus, was introduced by Thomas Nast in the 1880s. Christmas became a federal holiday in the United States in 1870.
Many key celebrations and events are associated with Christmas. The symbolic reconstruction of the nativity scene is a prominent tradition and is conducted in most Christian countries. The nativity scene is often represented by sculptures, paintings, a play or other form of art that depicts the birth of Jesus. The nativity scene features Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus in a manger, the Three Wise Men and other parts of the story of the birth of Jesus.
In some parts of the world, such as the United States and South America, a Christmas tree, lights and decorations adorn houses beginning a few weeks before Christmas. Gifts are placed under the tree for friends and family members. Parents place additional gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve as gifts to their children from Santa Claus.
On Christmas morning, the family gathers to open all the presents under the tree. Other activities associated with Christmas include singing Christmas carols, hanging Christmas stockings and kissing under the mistletoe as well as attending a church mass.
Christmas has many advantages and benefits for the whole community. Besides being a festive time for friends, families and neighborhoods to get together, it also has economical benefits. Christmas Day is the slowest day of the year economically, however the weeks prior to Christmas are very important in business. The Christmas season often results in a boost in the economy as people flock to the stores to buy gifts for loved ones. The film and entertainment industries also benefit from Christmas due to children being out of school for Christmas vacation and parents having time off work to head to the movie theaters. For this reason, many blockbuster films are timed to be released around the Christmas holiday.
America's official national Christmas tree is located in King's Canyon National Park in California. The tree, a giant sequoia called the "General Grant Tree," is over 300 feet high. It was made the country's official Christmas tree in 1925. Although Christmas may seem like an American staple, it was not celebrated much in the early American colonies. In fact during the American Revolution, Christmas was rarely recognized because it was seen as an English custom. Alabama was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1836. Other names for Christmas include Yule, Crimbo and Xmas.