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Christmas

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1. All About Rudolph and Santa's Other Reindeers

Maybe it's the undeniable alliterative appeal of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer
that makes him the most known or popular of all Santa's nine flying reindeers.
It certainly doesn't seem as easy to come up with a similar catchy description
for the others -- Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and
Blitzen -- as named in the song. The story of Rudolph whose glowing red nose
made him a standout, first appeared in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department
stores distributed about 2.4 million booklets with the poem in the form of a
story about "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It was written by Robert L. May,
who worked in the store's advertisement or marketing department, to be used to
attract more people into the store. When the booklet was reissued in 1939,
sales soared to more than 3.5 million copies. But it wasn't until a decade
later, in 1949, that the story really gained immense popularity when Gene Autry
sang a musical version of the fable. As a Christmas song, it is second only in
popularity to 'White Christmas.' Rudolph, the ninth reindeer whose lighted nose
guides Santa's sleigh through the night, is now known worldwide as the song has
been translated into more than 20 different languages and an animated
television movie has also been based on the story. Rudolph and his noticeable
nose have also become the subject of jokes and sparked more interest in
reindeers which has led to much research into Santa and the flying reindeers
who pull his sleigh through the sky. Along with the catchy rhythm of the
lyrics, Rudolph's story is also appealing because of the moral lessons it
contains. As the story goes, Rudolph was ostracized by the other reindeers,
which laughed and teased him about his shiny red nose. But on a foggy night,
when Santa must have been concerned that he may not be able to deliver his
Christmas gifts around the world, Santa spotted him and kindly asked if he
would step to the front as the leader to 'guide my sleigh tonight.' His shiny
red nose would after all be very useful in lighting the way, Santa thought.
From then on 'all of the other reindeers loved him,' and rightly predicted that
he 'would go down in history.' Among the moral lessons the story can impart is
that an attribute that is perceived as negative or as a liability can be used
for a positive purpose, or, become an asset. It also makes the point that an
individual should not let the negative behavior of others define him or her and
limit expectations of what can be achieved. And it also illustrates how quickly
opinions and attitudes about a person can change. The question still lingers
however of where Rudolph came from. He is commonly regarded as the son of
Donner (or Donder), one of the original eight reindeers. But the Snopes.com
site rejects this however, saying that he dwelled in a reindeer village
elsewhere and it was there that he was seen by Santa who had already started on
his Christmas Eve journey to deliver gifts. And in a more modern evolution of
the story according to Wikipedia.com, an animation by the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) introduced a son, named Robbie, of Rudolph. That son has now
become the tenth reindeer. It's also interesting to note that the idea of
Santa's sleigh being pulled by reindeers was originated in the poem, 'Twas The
Night Before Christmas.' That poem tells the story of St. Nicholas, who is
Santa, calling his eight tiny reindeers by their names, as previously
mentioned, just before he came down the chimney of a house to start filling the
stockings from a sack full of toys he carried on his back.

2. Eating Heartily but Consciously During Christmas Season

During the Christmas season, summer and its body-conscious state of mind are
distant memories. Hearty indulgence in the many foods shared at Christmas
therefore doesn't produce the same feelings of guilt. Nevertheless, its not a
pleasant thought to start the New Year carrying any extra pounds. So why then
eat yourself into a resolution to 'take off a few extra pounds' if you can
smartly avoid it?
Whether it's sharing cookies and candies at work, or having an evening out at a
party or dinner, you can have Christmas food and enjoy it. While you seem to be
eating heartily with a smile, the key is to have a secret strategy of
moderation. It involves sticking to a plan that can be called 'Eating on a
Budget.'
'Eating on a Budget' is not about the cost of what is eaten, but about the
quantity of what is eaten. It is important that a 'budget' or eating in
moderation plan is developed because it is almost impossible to avoid exposure
to a lot of cookies, candies and other sweets at Christmas. At work, you may
risk appearing like the Grinch who stole Christmas if your response will always
be something like, 'Uh..no..bah humbug' all the time that some Christmas goodies
are offered. It will seem as if you aren't in the spirit of the holidays
especially since at that time of year everyone is usually in a festive and more
relaxed mood, and the pace at work is usually slower.
A practical way to partake in Christmas goodies, for example, is to substitute
some holiday cookies for say the bagel that you usually have with breakfast or
for a mid-morning snack. And instead of just taking one cookie, from the
platter, which is noticeable and likely will encourage a colleague to tell you
to have more, take three instead. That's where the plan can come into play. You
can then enjoy the cookies over two or more hours, because nobody will be
watching how you really eat. You can always have a few candies, one cookie or a
cookie and a half by your desk and that way it will seem as if you are heartily
enjoying the holiday treats.
Another strategy is to bring -- bake or buy -- low calorie Christmas cookies and
candies to work to counteract others that are being offered. Since eating
healthy is highly encouraged, health-conscious cookies will not be looked down
upon so long as they taste great. A box of sugar-free Christmas chocolate
candies for example will look just as delightful as regular chocolate candies.
It's interesting to note that in a poll sponsored by the National Confectioners
Association in 2004, chocolate was the favorite food gift that Americans said
they preferred to receive for the holidays. The lowly and much maligned fruit
cake was last on the list. The second favorite holiday food gift was a fruit
basket and a plate of cookies was third on the list, according to the
Association. For an occasion such as a Christmas party or a dinner, including
Christmas Dinner, where larger quantities and selection of food is available,
the 'Eating on a Budget' plan means that serving portions and the choice of
food selected should be carefully watched. At a party where more desserts and
sweets are likely to be available, a few of the selections can be sampled. If
the urge to try everything can't be resisted, then do so, but then second
helpings have to be severely limited. The same is somewhat true for Christmas
Dinners. One big difference is that the food served during Christmas Dinner
will be heavier, so by selecting portions wisely, one can always say truthfully
that the stomach is full. And indeed, after a sumptuous Holiday Dinner, your
body is likely to be full from food and your soul full of joy from sharing
another memorable holiday tradition with family, friends and loved ones.

3. Fancy Tales Related to Christmas

A lot of what is widely regarded as true about Christmas or held as a tradition
cannot or has not been verified, or, has changed through the years. Even
Christmas Day itself, Dec. 25, has been questioned about whether that is the
exact day on which Jesus was born. Skeptics have asked why would shepherds be
out in the cold watching their flocks by night during the winter. Those
skeptics have put forward the thought that Jesus may really have been born in
the spring instead. It is therefore little wonder that there are many fancy
stories and tales that are told about Christmas and the Christmas season.
The most common fancy tale that everyone tells, particularly to children, is
about Santa Claus, also called St. Nicholas. But even if it were accepted that
Santa Claus existed, where does he live and how is he able to get to all the
houses of good boys and girls on Christmas Eve?
In the United States, Santa Claus is said to have two homes. There is a home in
Torrington, Connecticut, which is used as a distribution point for Santa and his
many helpers, who are elves, to hand out gifts. And then, a second home is said
to be located in Wilmington, New York, and that is where Santa Claus and his
delivery reindeer crew are located.
But Santa can be visited in Cyberspace at anytime and what about the widely
held belief that Santa Claus really lives in a village at the North Pole?
The people of Finland also claim that their country is the official residence
of Santa Claus. That's because in Finland, you can actually visit a village any
time during the year and see Santa's workshop and observe Santa and his elves
hard at work as they prepare for their very important Christmas gift delivery
job on Christmas Eve. The only day when Santa's workshop is closed to visitors
is of course, on Christmas Eve.
Maybe a very smart visitor could visit Santa's workshop on the day before
Christmas Eve to see if there are any clues to how Santa and his reindeers plan
to make their trip the next day. That's because as the tale goes, in Finland
Santa Claus and his reindeers do not reach their destinations around the globe
by flying.
Finland welcomes visitors to Santa's workshop but there is nothing said about
whether visitors actually have any chance of having a word with the man
himself. While the chances of doing so are believed to be non-existent, among
the questions that inquiring minds could ask Santa is whether Rudolph is the
son of Donner (and to confirm the spelling -- Donner or Donder) or whether Santa
spotted him in a different reindeer village one foggy Christmas Eve when he had
already started on his Christmas toy-delivery mission. If mere mortals got a
chance to question Santa, then he also would likely have some questions for us
humans. He may want to know whose idea was it to have Christmas trees and for
the gifts to be placed under them.
The tradition of Christmas tree as it exists today comes from Germany by way of
immigrants. But it isn't clear how the tradition really gained a foothold in
Germany. One story is that Christians in Germany during the 16th century
started to bring trees that were decorated into their homes. Some of those
Christians would build pyramids for Christmas. The pyramids were made of wood
and would be decorated with evergreens and candles if wood was in short supply.
It is however Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer, who is said to have been
the first to add lighted candles as decoration to a tree based on his
inspiration from the brilliant light of twinkling stars that shone through
evergreen trees as he walked home one winter evening.
As the legend goes, Martin Luther placed a tree in a primary room of his house
and placed wires with small, lighted candles around the branches of the tree.
And that is how, as the tale goes, the Christmas tree as known today, was
started.

4. Asides -- Interesting Facts/ Notes About Christmas

It is an accepted fact that the Christmas tree tradition is one that was
brought to the shores of America by German immigrants who continued a practice
that was popular in their former homeland. Today, a Christmas tree, even a
miniature one, is present in just about every home at Christmas. It is
therefore interesting to note some little-know facts about the Christmas Tree
and other traditions related to Christmas.
The first interesting fact is the source of real Christmas Trees for some
Americans. These can be bought at a Christmas Tree Farm or at many local stores
and other places of business in just about every town and city across the
country around Christmas time. But according to the National Christmas Tree
Association, Americans buy about 330,000 Christmas trees that are real through
e-commerce or from a catalogue and have them shipped by mail-order. The scent
of real Christmas trees is the reason they are so popular. But as they stand
silently in their decorative wonder, they also are providing another benefit.
The Christmas Tree Association says the amount of oxygen produced on a daily
basis by one acre of Christmas tree is enough to provide enough oxygen for 18
people. And during the first week, a Christmas Tree at home will use up to one
quart of water each day to help retain its longevity for the many days of
Christmas. Since Christmas celebrations gained popularity in America, the
Christmas Tree has always been a big tradition. During the 1950s however,
artificial Christmas trees were not always green. It was very popular during
those times to have artificial trees with other colors such as silver, pink and
aqua. The appeal in having these colored Christmas trees may have been due to
the fact that they looked shiny and bright and appeared like tinsel instead of
green foliage. An important ceremony related to the Christmas tree that gains
national attention during the Christmas season is the lighting of the National
Christmas Tree at the White House. This tradition can be credited to President
Calvin Coolidge who lit the first decorated Christmas tree outside at the White
House in 1923. The lighting of the National Christmas Tree has also been used to
convey some symbolic meaning not related to Christmas. It was not lighted until
Dec. 22 in 1963 because of a national mourning period of 30 days for the
assassination of President Kennedy. And while Teddy Roosevelt was President he
gave an order that banned the Christmas tree from the White House, not for the
assassination of President McKinley in 1901, which caused him to become
president, but for reasons related to the environment. Also of note is that
when the National Christmas Tree was lighted on Dec. 13 in 1984, temperatures
were in the 70s during an unusually warm December. Christmas has been
celebrated in the United States since the 1600s although it wasn't always very
popular. It took more than two centuries into the mid-late 1860s for Christmas
to become a popular holiday season all across America. So maybe the rest of the
country owes the holiday of Christmas Day to the state of Alabama, which in 1836
became the first state to declare Dec. 25 a legal holiday. It is interesting to
note that on Christmas Day of 1789 Congress was in session. And to show how far
ahead of the game Alabama was, it wasn't until June 26, 1870 that the federal
government declared Christmas as a federal holiday. Although Christmas is based
on the Christian religion, not all Christian groups celebrate the season. Among
the Christian groups who do not celebrate Christmas and related traditions such
as sending greeting cards are Jehovah Witnesses. Jehovah Witnesses and other
non-participating Christian groups say Christmas isn't specifically mentioned
in the Bible as a time or reason to celebrate and since they strictly adhere to
the word of the Bible, they refuse to celebrate Christmas.

5. Have a Chic Christmas -- All About Style and Fashion for the Holidays

In New York, a style capital of the world, black is always a chic and
fashionable selection. That's even more so in the Fall and Winter seasons when
dark colors are favored. But even the fashionistas who like somber colors add a
bit of sparkle and cheer to Christmas and holiday clothing with some color,
usually magnificent red.
Dominant colors at Christmas are red, black and white and a red scarf, or a
white one, is a must-have accessory.
Holiday-themed apparel with snowflakes, candy canes, stars, Christmas trees,
are also popular during the season. Along with being colorful, they also convey
the message that the person is fully embracing the spirit of the season and is
in a festive mood. When individuals wear holiday-themed apparel, they are
therefore radiating a positive attitude and giving the signal that it is
pleasant to be around them. After all, nobody wants to be around the 'grumpy
bah-humbug' type of personalities during the Christmas season.
Holiday-themed jewelry also works well as accessories. These can add that
little sparkle to an outfit that makes it stand out in an admirable way.
Holiday-themed jewelry is also perfect for those individuals who simply want to
show a touch of the holiday spirit without having to actually wear holidaythemed
apparel because it maybe too different from the conservative style of their
wardrobe.
It is necessary to add some sparkle to apparel during the Christmas season and
current style trends of having jewel-engraved or embroidered tops play well for
the Christmas season. They will allow the wearer to look festive in a very
understated but elegant way.
Fall popular styles will also undoubtedly be a fashionable way to dress for the
holidays. Based on the Fall Fashion Shows in New York, there are five basic
outfits that stylists say should be in the wardrobe of all women. They are: the
Tunic, Winter Short -- which is cut just above the knee -- the Vest, Pencil Skirt
and the Super-wide pant.
The vest can be a dressy one with embroidery or other adornments, or it can be
more minimal based on the overall outfit. The Winter Short and Pencil Skirt can
easily convert from working outfit to party wear with the right accessory,
making them perfect to wear to an early evening Christmas or holiday party. A
variation from the Pencil Skirt is the Pencil dress. This too is likely to be
popular for Christmas as it can be easily accessorized with a broad belt, which
is one of the accessories that top fashion advisers say is a 'must-have'
accessory for the Fall.
The Tunic and Super-wide pant are also liked for Christmas and the Holiday
season because they are very flexible in how they can be paired with other
garments. Another fall fashion staple are Knit Sweaters -- oversized and as
tunics. They will also work well with black tights and leggings, which has made
a comeback in leg wear. Leggings can be worn under skirts or dresses. Very slim
leggings can also be worn simply in place of pants, worn with a jacket or
again, with an oversized knit sweater. Using the basic colors of red, white and
black that are popular during Christmas and the holidays, colored leggings will
definitely add a nice touch of style to outfits and make them seem perfect for
the Christmas and holiday season.
It is also good that dresses are once more welcomed among the fashionable. And
the red dress for Fall fits well into Christmas and the holiday season. The
latest in jeans, which is a mainstay in everyone's wardrobe and suitable to
wear at all times including during Christmas and the holidays, is that a skinny
fit is in. And if ultra-skinny is not very complimentary to your body shape, you
can still get one of the newer types of jeans that are said to have a lot more
stretch, giving a 360-degree or all-around wrap to the body for a perfect or
near perfect fit.
And since Christmas is the season to be happy and cheery, the truly jolly can
always top off their Christmas outfit with a cone-shaped, red and white Santa
hat.

6. Spreading Goodwill at Christmas

The real meaning of Christmas, the season of good cheer, is about giving
especially to provide some assistance to those who need help for their daily
survival and who therefore don't have the material resources to enjoy the
Christmas season. The importance of giving to those in need during Christmas is
embodied in the story of Jesus' birth, which is the reason Christmas is
celebrated.
For Christians, Jesus was born to save mankind from sin by giving everlasting
Salvation to all who believe in the Word of God and chose to follow the
principles for living in the Bible. Jesus therefore gave in the ultimate way -
he offered himself as a sacrifice for every living person. Christians therefore
believe that Christmas should be about following the example of Jesus by giving
of oneself to others, especially to those who are in need.
The Christmas season should therefore be about spreading goodwill and good
cheer. This purpose of Christmas is very significant because research by social
service organizations has shown that Christmas happens to be a high time for
depression among the have-nots, among people with problems and others who just
don't have the means and resources to enjoy the merriment of the holidays.
The hundreds of Santa letters written by children are often a sad testament to
the many unmet needs of families and individuals during the festive Christmas
and holiday times. Just about every child is told the story of Santa Claus, or
hears about him because his presence is everywhere at Christmas. And up to the
age of 7 to 8 years, most children believe the story about Santa Claus bringing
toys and other gifts. That's the reason why so many young children often write
letters to Santa at Christmas time in which the innocently plead for toys and
other gifts because they their parents or other relatives will not be able to
give them those Christmas toys or Christmas gifts that they want.
Thankfully there are many volunteer and charitable efforts carried out by
groups and corporations that seek to fulfill the needs of children and also of
adults during the Christmas season. One of the most notable organizations that
do such charitable work is the Salvation Army, which has a history of giving
service to those in need. According to The Salvation Army's website, the
organization as known today was started in 1865 by a Methodist minister,
William Booth and his wife Catherine. They formed a group that preached,
provided food and shelter to the homeless, the hungry and to alcoholics in need
of recovery services. The services were provided in London's East End. Booth and
his followers, first known as 'The Christian Mission,' started to use The
Salvation Army name in 1878. The Salvation Army is now uniquely associated with
the Christmas season through its many representatives who dress up as Santa
Claus and stand outside retail establishments ringing their bells while they
kindly seek donations from shoppers to help the poor at Christmas. Individuals
also play Santa Claus at Christmas time and help out those in need by donating
toys and gifts through their companies, other business enterprises such as
banks or through their local municipality. These groups usually all have a box
or an area where new toys or clothing can be dropped off and the items are then
donated to families in need or to social service providers for distribution to
the needy during the Christmas season. Along with much charitable giving at
Christmas time, other public interest groups also work hard to inform and
educate consumers about avoiding the after Christmas blues. This is often
experienced in January when the bills and debts are due as a result of all the
spending, much of it on credit, that is done for the holidays. These groups try
to spread goodwill and cheer in a different way. They try to provide educational
information on spending responsibly during the Christmas season with the hope
that the happiness and good feeling enjoyed during the season can also carry
over after Christmas and not be spoiled by the burden of having huge bills to
pay.

7. Christmas Around the World Christmas in the Birthplaces of Traditions --
Bethlehem, Germany and England

Christmas as celebrated today is a culmination of centuries of traditions that
are religious and secular and which came from different countries around the
world. It is interesting therefore to look at some of the general ways in which
Christmas is celebrated in these countries. The traditions examined for each
country will be examples of some of the things that are unique to that country
and which are done today, or which were once done by people in those countries.
To begin, it is symbolic to look at the town of Bethlehem, which is believed to
be the birthplace of Jesus. The Church of the Nativity is located in Bethlehem
and at Christmas it is decorated with a lot of flags and other Christmas
decorations. A very large crowd usually gathers at The Church of the Nativity
on Christmas Eve to see a dramatic parade procession of horsemen, led by police
who are mounted on Arabian horses. Following the police in the procession is a
lone horseman who carries a cross, followed by churchmen and government
officials. Members of the procession solemnly enter the doors of The Church of
the Nativity and place an ancient effigy of Jesus in the church. A silver star
located deep in an underground cave-like section of the church marks the site
where Jesus was born. A star is also set atop a pole in the town's square. In
Bethlehem, homes of Christians usually have a cross over the door and a manger
scene is usually set up inside the house.
In Germany, home of the Christmas tree tradition, the Christmas tree is not
seen until Christmas Eve. The tree is usually kept in a special room, or
elsewhere, and decorated in secret with lights, ornaments, tinsels, angels,
candies, nuts and cookies. It is then lighted, the presents placed underneath
and then shown to the delight of Children on Christmas Eve. In Germany, Dec. 6
is known as St. Nicholas Day when Santa visits the homes of boys and girls. On
the day before, Dec. 5, children leave a shoe or boot outside or by the
fireplace for Santa Claus. If they were good, he places gifts and candies
inside the shoe. But if they were naughty, children will find twigs or a rod in
their shoe. Dinner on Christmas Day includes roast goose, long loaves of bread
filled with raisins, nuts and dried fruits. Other sweet delicacies are also
enjoyed. Many traditions in England are similar to those in the United States
because such traditions originated in England and were brought to the United
States by immigrants. The tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards started
in England and is still popular at Christmas, as well as the tradition of
neighborhood caroling on Christmas Eve. Children also hang stockings on
Christmas Eve in anticipation of Santa Claus filling them with Christmas gifts
or treats. The holly, ivy and mistletoe are also used a lot in Christmas
decorations. In England, the traditional Christmas Dinner is roast turkey,
goose or chicken with stuffing, vegetables and roast potatoes. Dessert consists
of the British or Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. A rich, fruit-filled
Christmas cake may also be enjoyed later in the day. A tradition of pulling
Christmas crackers also goes with the serving of food on Christmas Day. A
cracker is a paper tube that contains a party hat, riddle, toy or trinket, and
is brightly colored and twisted at both ends. It gives out a crack as the
contents pop out when it is pulled at each end. Also on Christmas afternoon,
the Queen broadcasts a Christmas message to the nation, which is heard on radio
and television. The day after Christmas is also a holiday that is known as
Boxing Day.

8. Christmas In Other European Countries

In Finland, Christmas Eve is the traditional time to set up the Christmas 
tree and it's also traditional to visit the sauna and for families to listen 
to a broadcast of the national 'Peace of Christmas' on the radio. Christmas 
Dinner generally consists of a main dish of boiled codfish that is snowy
and fluffy in appearance, served with cream sauce and boiled potatoes. 
Christmas dinner is rounded out with roast suckling pig or roasted fresh 
ham and vegetables. Among peasants, there is a tradition to tie a sheaf of 
grain, with nuts and seeds, to a pole that is put in a garden for birds. 
Many peasants will wait until after the birds have eaten before having 
their Christmas Dinner. And Santa Claus is expected to visit homes
in person with his Christmas elves to give out Christmas gifts. Christmas in
France is called Noel, from the phrase 'les bonnes nouvelles,' or 'the good
news,' which refers to the gospel. On Christmas Eve, cathedrals and churches
are beautifully lit and filled with the sounds of Christmas carols, ringing
church bells and carillons. The tradition among children is to put their shoes
by the fireplace for Pere Noel or le petit Jesus to fill them with gifts. In
the north of France however, children receive gifts on Dec. 6, St. Nicholas
Day, instead of Christmas. Most French homes will have a Nativity scene or
creche on display during the season. In Southern France, some people will burn
a log in their home from Christmas Eve until New Years Day, which comes out of
a farming tradition of using the log for good luck in the coming harvest. The
French also make a traditional cake called the buche de Noel, or Christmas Log,
which is shaped like a Yule log and is part of a late supper called le reveillon
held after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The main dish for this meal generally
consists of poultry, ham, salads, cake, fruit and wine but varies according to
region. The main course in Burgundy is turkey with chestnuts and in Paris it's
oysters, foie gras and the buche de Noel cake. The wines generally served are
Champagne, Muscadet, Sauterne and Anjou. An annual tradition of puppet shows,
particularly in Paris and Lyons, is popular during Christmas time. In Paris,
it's also popular for big department stores to have grand, animated window
displays. Christmas in Italy is called 'Il Natale,' or 'the birthday.'
Christmas season starts eight days before Christmas, a period called the
Novena, and runs for three weeks. During the Novena, children dress as
shepherds and go from house to house saying Christmas poems, singing and
playing pipes. They often receive money to buy gifts during this activity. The
Nativity scene, called the Presepio, has miniature figures, carved in great
detail out of clay or plaster, of the Holy Family in the stable and is the
center of Christmas for families. Families say prayers and children recite
poems around the Presepio. Christmas Eve dinner, called cenone, is a
traditional dish of roasted, baked or fried eel. In some regions, various types
of fish is prepared for this dinner, as well as pork, sausage in a pig's leg or
turkey stuffed with chestnuts. Christmas sweets are called panettone and
traditionally have nuts and almonds. On Christmas Eve, children set out their
shoes for a kind, old woman or ugly witch called La Befana, who rides on a
broomstick down chimneys, to fill them with gifts of toys or candies. If they
were bad, their shoes will be filled with coal. Some children wait until Jan.
6, the Epiphany, to receive gifts. Norway is where the tradition of the Yule
log started and which gave rise to log-shaped cakes, cheese and other desserts
during the holidays. Norwegians today often go into the forest to cut their own
Christmas trees, which is secretly decorated on Christmas Eve to surprise
children. After the Christmas tree is revealed, Norwegians engage in 'circling
the Christmas tree,' a tradition in which everyone joins hands forming a ring
around the tree. They then walk around the Christmas tree singing carols. Gifts
are distributed after this ritual is finished.

9. A Caribbean Christmas

In the tropical islands of the Caribbean, the temperature is above 75 degrees
from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, which means that it is warm and pleasant during
Christmas. The Christmas season in the Caribbean is also pleasant because it is
far removed from the rainy season, which usually occurs from late March to May.
During Christmas time in the Caribbean, the temperature is also more temperate
and tolerable compared to the searing hot days of the summer months.
As in many parts of the world, family, merriment, gift-giving are among the
many activities that the people of the Caribbean enjoy during Christmas.
Families often live in fairly close proximity to each other however. But what
makes getting together at Christmas so special is that it often involves
intense and laborious preparations that are not done at any other time of the
year.
In many homes, an intense cleaning is done in the two or three weeks before
Christmas Day. All furniture is moved and may even be rearranged and new and
fancy curtains put up for the season. The best bed linens, tablecloths, cutlery
and dinnerware are also used in entertaining any visitors during the season. It
is a common occurrence for visitors, including people from the neighborhood, to
stop for short visits during the season.
During those visits, guests are entertained with certain food and drinks, many
of which are made only at Christmas time. These include fermented drinks such
as sorrel and mauby, as well as the alcoholic drink rum punch. A special type
of cake, called Black cake or fruitcake, is also made at Christmas. It is made
with raisins and other dried fruit that are minced and placed in wine for
several weeks. This cake is the traditional dessert for Christmas dinner. The
main menu of a traditional Caribbean Christmas dinner includes baked poultry,
roast beef ham, boiled and steamed root vegetables, rice with peas, seasoned
rice or rice pilaf, with sorrel, rum punch or mauby as the beverage.
Caroling has also been a tradition, although its practiced has been declining
in recent years. Small groups from churches or schools will walk through
neighborhoods singing Christmas carols or, will drive from house to house to
sing carols in neighborhoods primarily in rural areas where houses are not
always found in close proximity.
Two Christmas traditions that are unique to the Caribbean are the practice of
Jonkonoo and having a grand market. Jonkonoo consists of a group of masked
revelers who take part in a parade dancing to the beats of drums, shaking
tambourines and improvised instruments. The group also include stilt walkers
who appear as tall as some trees and singlestory buildings. Jonkonoos perform
various antics to amuse onlookers and to give candies and treats to children,
especially younger children who may seem scared of any of the Jonkonoo
participants.
Grand market is the big outdoor market that takes place the week before
Christmas up to Christmas Eve. Outdoor markets, found in the central points of
regional towns, are common in the Caribbean as a place to get fresh fruits,
vegetables and produce that are grown by local farmers. But at Christmas time,
they also become filled with assorted items that can be given as gifts and they
bustle with activity even after nightfall. It is a special treat for children to
accompany parents to grand market during the Christmas season. Since Christmas
falls during the high winter tourist season in the Caribbean, Christmas is also
an opportunity for many school children to perform for tourists. Many hotels
take advantage of the fact that most schools and churches will have singing and
dramatic groups that perform the Christmas story and sing carols and Christmas
songs. These groups are often invited to provide local entertainment at hotels
and guesthouses during Christmas.

10. Christmas in the United States and Canada

Many of the celebrations in the United States that are associated with
Christmas were traditions brought by German and English immigrants. Along with
the well-known and practiced tradition of a brightly decorated Christmas tree,
other traditions brought by these immigrants include Advent calendars,
Christmas greeting cards, gingerbread houses and gingerbread cookies.
Christmas in the United States today can be seen as focused around family,
travel, shopping and decorations.
Family and travel go together during Christmas in the United States because
family members often have to travel fairly long distances to be with each other
at one location. The growth of cities that have primarily economic activity,
suburbs for residences, as well as the fact of different industries being found
in certain geographic locations, are among the reasons that family members often
live great distances from each other in separate states.
Christmas and its festivities therefore present a wonderful opportunity for
many members of the family to gather in celebration and see each other in an
intimate setting. The traveling involved makes the Christmas season a busy time
of the year for rail and air travel.
The occasion of seeing many family members at Christmas is also linked to the
activity of shopping that is an important feature of Christmas in the United
States. The Christmas season officially begins on the Friday after
Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday and which now ranks second in shopping for
a single day to the Saturday before Christmas. Much of the shopping that is
done is to purchase gifts for friends and family. Gifts for family members are
usually exchanged after dinner on Christmas day, when everyone gathers in the
room with the Christmas tree. Gifts are usually left at the base of the
Christmas tree in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
Gifts may also exchanged before Christmas at parties held by friends and
parties held at workplaces.
Second to gifts, shopping is also done at Christmas for decorations. While the
Christmas tree may be the centerpiece of attraction, garlands, wreaths, candles
and decorative lighting placed outside on lawns or along rooflines are also used
to create a beautiful holiday appearance for homes.
Canadians enjoy Christmas activities that are similar to those celebrated in
the United States. That is so because in the 1700s when some German immigrants
in the United States migrated to Canada, they continued to practice many of the
activities associated with Christmas. The geographical proximity of the two
countries also means they share many things, so similarities in Christmas
traditions wouldn't be an exception.
One thing that accounts for the difference between the two countries however,
is the Eskimo population in Canada. Eskimos in Canada celebrate a festival
during winter and have other traditions that are absent from American Christmas
celebrations.
A practice also exists in Nova Scotia in which small groups of masked
individuals march around about two weeks before Christmas. These masked groups
attract attention by creating stir with much bell ringing and engaging in a
noisy caper in an aim to get candy, sweets and goodies from onlookers.
This tradition bears some similarity to Jonkonoo celebrations in the
neighboring islands of the Caribbean. Those celebrations also involve masked
individuals, including some that appear on stilts that make them as tall as
trees. The parade of Jonkonoo regale onlookers with various antics and present
a minor scare to some children, who are then calmed with candies and other
treats.
In Nova Scotia, onlookers can try to calm the noise and rowdiness just a little
if they can correctly guess the identity of the masked person. A correct guess
puts an end to the noise as the mask is removed, exposing the individual. For
their part, maskers also play nice by friendly nudging answers from children
about whether they have been naughty or nice and handing out candies and treats
accordingly.

11. Christmas in Central and South American Nations

In Central and South American nations, which have a fairly large Christian
population, the Nativity or Manger Scene is the main decoration in homes at
Christmas time. In Mexico, a Christmas tree may also be set up in some homes
along with the Nativity scene or Nacimiento. The Christmas tree is usually a
small artificial tree, called arbolito. It can also be as simple as a branch
cut from a special type of tree or a type of shrub that is then minimally
decorated. The primary Christmas celebration in Mexico is called La Posada. It
is a religious procession that dramatizes how Joseph and Mary tried to find a
place where Jesus could be born. During the procession, the participants carry
images of Mary and Joseph and go from house to house seeking a place to stay.
During Midnight Mass, which is called la misa del gallo or 'rooster's mass,'
those in attendance sing lullabies to Jesus. On Christmas Day children receive
gifts as well as candies that are stuffed into a piņata. This may be one or
more sculptures made of papier mache that are hung from the ceiling. Children
are blindfolded and take turns hitting
the piņata until it breaks and scatters the candies on the floor. All the
children then scamper around as they try to get as much candy as they can.
Children also receive a gift on Jan. 6 from the Three Wise Men, if they were
good.
People in Venezuela usually put out pesebres, which show the Nativity scene, on
Dec. 16. Early morning church services, called Misa de Aguinaldo, are also
common from Dec. 16 to Christmas Eve. After Mass on Christmas Eve, a grand
dinner is traditionally enjoyed. In Argentina, red and white garlands are used
to decorate houses. After attending Midnight Mass, Argentinians have a meal,
toast each other, dance and go out to see fireworks. The meal may be roasted
pork or turkey, stuffed tomatoes, mince pies, Christmas bread and puddings.
Drinks such as cider and juice made from different fruits are used for the
toast. Christmas gifts are opened on Christmas Eve just before the family
retires to bed.
In Chile, Santa Claus is Father Christmas and is known as 'Viejito Pascuero.'
He arrives in a similar but slightly different manner than Santa Claus because
his reindeer is pulled by a taxicab. Chileans use small figures made from clay
to place near the Christmas tree in a display called pesebre to show the
Nativity story. The traditional Christmas dinner includes chicken soup with
stuffed potatoes, onions and corn on the cob. Another favorite item is a
Christmas bread that is called pan de pasqua and which is made with candies and
fruits. Christmas customs in Brazil originate from the many different ethnic
groups who make up the country. The Nativity scene is called the Presepio and
can commonly be found displayed in homes, churches and stores. Papai Noel, or
Father Noel, resides in Greenland and brings gifts at Christmas. He is said to
wear silk clothing because Christmas occurs during summer when it is very hot
in Brazil. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is called Missa do Gallo, because the
coming day is announced by the rooster and the Mass finishes at 1 am on the
following day. A traditional Christmas dinner, called Ceia de Natal, includes
ham, turkey, colored rice, a variety of vegetables and fruit dishes. Christmas
Day Mass at Catholic churches are mainly held in the late afternoon because
people enjoy sleeping late or going to the beach after having Christmas dinner.
Christmas festivities, which include folk dancing and singing, continue until
January 6th, which is called Three Kings Day.

12. Christmas in African Nations

Christmas celebrations in African nations is characterized by much outdoor
activity because the season often occurs during a time when the weather is
pleasant. Using palm trees and participating in processions are also
characteristic features of activities related to Christmas in many parts of
Africa.
In South Africa, activities that occur outside during Christmas include the
usual caroling, but also the unusual ones of swimming and camping. The beach
and mountains play an important role during Christmas in South Africa because
the season occurs during the hottest time of the year -- summer.
Given the pleasant nature of the weather during Christmas, families also take
advantage of it by often going sightseeing in the countryside on a relaxing
drive in the late evening of Christmas Day. A rich and sumptuous menu that
includes a suckling pig or roast beef, turkey, mince pies, yellow rice,
vegetables and puddings usually makes up the traditional South African
Christmas dinner.
To create a festive environment, decorated pine branches and fir, sparkling
cotton wool and tinsel are used in homes and businesses as decorations.
A similar decorative pattern of using evergreen, palm trees and lighted candles
are also seen in countries such as Ghana and Liberia. While these are used in
homes and businesses, they are also often carried in processions and during
caroling activities.
While South Africans gather at the beach during Christmas time to enjoy the
warm summer waters, people in other African nations often gather outside at in
town squares and in the streets to march, sing and enjoy an overall feeling of
merriment.
Despite the seemingly general similarity in activities, however, countries have
their own individual style that makes Christmas celebrations unique.
Of all the celebrations in African nations, Christmas activities in Ethiopia
stand out for their difference in when they are celebrated and how it is done.
One of the features that make Ethiopian Christmas different is that the main
celebratory event occurs  on Jan. 7, around the time known as the Epiphany or
Three Kings Day in North and South America.
Given the general modest economic financial situations of a significant number
of the population in many African countries, Christmas celebrations also tend
to occur over a shorter period of time, compared to activities in more
wealthier countries.
Another difference in celebrations of Christmas in Ethiopia is the
participation of various people who take part in a pilgrimage and converge on
the capital city during Christmas Eve. These wanderers fill the night air with
a din of praying and chanting and create a multicolor spectacle when they
gather on Christmas morning to have a religious service.
But retaining a similarity with other African nations, Ethiopians enjoy a
Christmas dinner that includes a meat stew. Stews, rice, root vegetables such
as yams, breads and soups often are part of the menu of traditional Christmas
day dinners in African nations.
Christmas dinners are likely enjoyed by families outside, where everyone shares
the meal while sitting in a circular pattern outside under the shade of a
sprawling tree, instead of sitting in a formal setting at a table.
As is the practice in every household during Christmas, Africans also exchange
gifts. Popular items that are exchanged as Christmas gifts include cotton
cloth, soaps, sweets, pencils and books, all very practical items that can be
readily used. Again, this may be related to the modest financial resources of
up to half the population in many African countries, as well as to cultural
norms. Individuals aren't able to afford extravagant gifts but they still want
to surprise children, family and friends at Christmas with an unexpected gift.
The generally pervasive cultural norm of humility and modesty that exists among
traditional African peoples, also plays an important role in not having
overreaching extravagance at Christmas.

13. The Christmas Story

The idea of celebrating Jesus' birth was done to counteract pagan holidays
celebrated in Rome during the Winter Solstice. Church leaders thought Christmas
celebrations were more likely to be popular if they coincided with the
traditional festivals and merrymaking during the Winter Solstice.
Although some Christmas celebrations are secular, the religious aspect of
Christmas remains central to celebrations. This is evident in church services
such as Midnight Mass and primarily in the many forms of the Nativity, or
Christmas Story, presented wherever people celebrate Christmas.
That story started in Nazareth in Galilee about two thousand years ago. Mary, a
young woman, was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. An angel appeared to her
one day and told her she was with child. She couldn't understand how that could
happen because due to her circumspect nature, she had not laid in bed with
Joseph. The angel explained however, that the child would be special as he
would be the Son of God and his name was to be Jesus. Mary and Joseph then got
married soon after the angel's appearance.. But about the time when Mary was to
have the baby, the couple had to travel far away to Bethlehem, Joseph's
birthplace, to pay a special tax.
It was difficult for them to find a place to stay because many other people
were in Bethlehem to pay their taxes. After many rejections, one innkeeper
offered a room in his stable where they could spend the night. That's where
Jesus, the Holy Child and Son of God was born and then wrapped in bundles of
cloth and placed in a manger for a cradle.
In the same hours that Mary was giving birth, shepherds who were in a field
that overlooked Bethlehem saw an extremely bright star over the sky in
Bethlehem. They had never seen anything like it and had feelings of curiosity
and scariness. An angel appeared and told them the 'good news' that the Son of
God had been born in Bethlehem.
The shepherds left their flocks to go to Bethlehem to find the baby. When they
reached the stable, they were filled with immense joy at seeing Jesus. They
fell to their knees and worshipped Him. They also told Mary and Joseph about
the bright star and the angel appearing to say Jesus would be the Savior of the
world.
The bright star was also seen by Wise Men in the east. The Wise Men, who
studied the stars, learned that a new and great ruler would appear whenever an
extraordinarily bright star appeared in the sky. Three of them therefore set
out to find the new ruler. They first visited King Herod in Jerusalem because
they thought the child would be born in the palace. But when they asked to see
the child who would be the new ruler, King Herod was very worried as he thought
he would be removed from the throne. King Herod told the Wise Men that when they
found the baby, they should return and tell him so that he could also worship
the baby. The Wise Men used the star as a guide to go to Bethlehem where they
found Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus who they worshipped and offered gifts of
gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Wise Men are celebrated in some Christmas
celebrations on Jan. 6, known as the Epiphany to mark the date when they found
Jesus. Later in the night the three Wise Men had a dream in which an angel told
them that King Herod wanted to kill Baby Jesus. They left Bethlehem to return to
the East but didn't return to Jerusalem to tell King Herod where they had found
the child. Joseph also had a dream soon after the Wise Men left in which an
angel appeared and told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod had
ordered that Jesus be killed. In an effort to kill Jesus after the Wise Men did
not return to inform him of the baby's whereabouts, Herod later ordered that all
baby boys in Bethlehem should be killed. But by then Mary and Joseph had left
with Baby Jesus.

14. Significance of Christmas Eve

The day before Christmas is one that is filled with a mixture of anxiety and
anticipation. There's anxiety at putting all the final plans and finishing
decoration touches in place and getting all the necessary shopping done.
There's also much anticipation about all the merriment and excitement of
Christmas day. Children are usually hardly able to control themselves as they
think about the Christmas gifts they hope to get the next day. They may try to
stay up through the night to catch Santa Claus, or they may just be too excited
to sleep.
Christmas Eve is also important for the simple reason that in ancient custom,
and among some cultures today, a holiday or other celebrated day really starts
from sundown of the day before the actual day that is celebrated. Therefore,
festivities and observances for Christmas Day would really begin on Christmas
Eve.
One of the most significant aspects of Christmas Eve however, is related to
religion. Attending Midnight Mass or earlier church services is mandatory for
many people whose religion is Christianity. This is so even for people who
aren't regular churchgoers during the year. Evidence of the importance of these
church services can be seen in the overflow of congregations at the churches.
Many churches will also have an added service earlier in the evening to
accommodate the above normal attendance, and also for individuals like the
elderly who would prefer a service that is earlier than Midnight Mass.
Another important aspect of Christmas Eve celebrations is related to retail
operations. On the day before Christmas, stores make a last ditch effort to
push sales of Christmas and other merchandise. There often are special
promotions last-minute advertised to capitalize on late, desperate Christmas
shoppers and other impulse buyers. This last effort is also aimed at increasing
sales for the Christmas period.
Some stores will remain open late, even up to midnight or just before midnight.
Macy's department store in New York City, which bills that particular store
branch as the world's largest, stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve of
1867 for the first time. Christmas Eve culminates the single biggest shopping
season, which started the day after Thanksgiving, for retailers.
Christmas Eve is also important for the traditions associated with it. It is
the night when parents have to play the role of Santa Claus and sneak toys and
other Christmas gifts under the Christmas tree to the absolute delight and
surprise of children who awake on Christmas morning to find the presents. The
idea of Santa Claus coming descending chimneys on Christmas Eve to leave gifts
for good boys and girls was made popular by a poem, attributed to Clement
Clarke Moore. In that poem titled 'An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, '
which Moore wrote in 1822 and which is now popularly known as 'Twas the Night
Before Christmas,' Moore described Santa Claus as 'a right jolly old elf' who
went from house to house with his sleigh pulled by reindeers flying through the
air to deliver Christmas presents to all the girls and boys who had been well
behaved.
Food plays a big role in making Christmas Day special and much of its
preparation often begins on Christmas Eve. Poultry and other meats are often
prepared by letting them stand in a mixture of various herbs and spices,
puddings and pies are baked on Christmas Eve, as well as a fresh batch of
gingerbread and other cookies and treats. The scents and flurry of activity
related to all these preparations also help to make Christmas Eve a memorable
day on its own.

15. Christmas Day

The Christmas season and all its activities are geared to the big day, Dec. 25,
which is Christmas Day. The word Christmas is derived from Middle English
'Christemasse' and Old English 'Cristes maesse,' both of which means 'Christ's
Mass.' The day is celebrated by Christians as the day that Jesus Christ was
born, although the true date of Jesus' birth isn't really known.
Given the religious significance of Christmas Day, it therefore follows that
attending church is a big tradition on that day. It is seen as mandatory for
devout Christians and for others who are concerned about retaining the sacred
meaning of the day. Many people fear that the sacred aspects of Christmas are
being lost and overshadowed amid the bustle of commercial activity now
associated with the entire season.
Church services therefore take place early on Christmas morning. Attending
those services is the first official activity that many people do on Christmas
Day. Unlike the Midnight Mass and other earlier church services on Christmas
Eve, Christmas Day services do not usually include the dramatization of the
birth of Jesus. They may be more subdued with a sermon that recounts the birth
of Jesus and his purpose to save mankind. The congregation is then exalted to
be as giving as Jesus and to help out those who are in need.
Consequently, many people will take some time on Christmas Day to volunteer in
a charitable activity such as serving dinner to the poor and hungry at a
church, charitable organization or other social services center. Others will
also work with charitable organizations to distribute toys to needy children at
shelters, hospitals and other places. As part of the religious aspect of
Christmas Day, groups that sing Christmas carols will also be out very early on
Christmas morning. Although Christmas Dinner is the most significant meal of the
day, a large breakfast will also be served in most households that will be
shared by all family members. The occasion of all family members having a meal
together is a disappearing tradition in many American households and so
Christmas is seen as a perfect time to return to the tradition. Christmas Day
after all, is all about family, sharing and togetherness. Throughout the day,
greetings of 'Merry Christmas' will be exchanged by telephone calls with
family, friends, acquaintances, and loved ones who are located elsewhere in the
country and overseas. It is a common occurrence for so many people to be trying
to make international calls to loved ones and friends on Christmas Day that
telephone communication systems to some countries often are overwhelmed. The
availability of technology and the Internet eases that somewhat nowadays
however, as emails and instant messaging can also be used as other
communication channels to exchange greetings on Christmas Day. Christmas Day
Dinner is undoubtedly the central activity of the day. Family and friends
gathered for dinner take pleasure in enjoying and sharing a delicious meal and
also are mindful and thankful for the opportunity to be able to share the meal,
to have each other and for the material things that make their lives comfortable
and give them happiness. Some of those material things are then shared in
absolute delight as everyone will gather around or near to the Christmas tree
after dinner to exchange and open Christmas presents. It's an activity that is
relished and which is filled with much laughter, happy chatter and merriment,
especially by children who are usually much delighted to get a toy that they
had wished for. After dinner and the exchange of presents, adults may have
light conversations, play games or even watch a movie. Children are often taken
up with experimenting or playing with their new toys. It has also become a
tradition on Christmas Day for members of some families, such as teenagers and
young adults, to end Christmas Day by attending the movie theater on Christmas
evening or Christmas night to see a recently released film.

16. What Makes Christmas Magical

Christmas is a special time of the year for the joy and intangible magic that
fills the season. It comes through in the delightful decorations, glorious
get-togethers with family and friends and the sheer feeling of joy one gets
from giving and receiving gifts.
Although the commercialization of Christmas is often decried, shopping is an
important and central activity to some of the intangible magic of Christmas. It
is at the malls or downtown stores that some of the favorite sights, sounds and
scents of Christmas can be experienced.
The decorations at Malls and retail establishments are usually very fanciful
and eye-catching, especially to children, with the many colorful and twinkling
lights. It's also a wonder for both adults and children alike to look at the
numerous tinsels, baubles and figurines such as fairies, angels and little
babies that adorn the main Christmas tree in the center of shopping malls and
others in department stores. These trees are usually extremely well embellished
with decorations that are arranged in a very professional way that most shoppers
can't replicate in their own homes. It's therefore a delight for them to stare
at such trees in wonder and amazement.
Along with the wide variety of decorations in retail establishments, there also
is the sound of music playing, bells ringing, the laughter and wishes of Merry
Christmas from shoppers that also create a special atmosphere and add to the
magic of Christmas. Even the sound of cash registers in the background adds
something to the special feeling shoppers have at Christmas time.
And of course there's always a Santa Claus that children can meet and tell what
they want for Christmas, and also have their picture taken. Sometimes Santa
Claus may distribute Christmas gifts to children, telling them that because
they have been very, very good they are getting an extra special early
Christmas present.
The ability to delight children by telling them stories about Santa Claus, as
well as making them see and talk to the jolly old fellow, puts a lot of magic
and excitement into Christmas. Once the tradition is started, or from the first
time that children have been told the story, it becomes something that they look
forward to every year during the Christmas season.
There's also the sound of music from choirs or school groups who often give
open performances singing Christmas carols and songs in malls and downtown
areas of towns. Families and others who are out and about will pause to listen
or to sing along with these groups. Shopping is undoubtedly an enjoyable
activity for most people during Christmas, but merrier and more memorable times
are enjoyed when time is spent with family, friends and colleagues during the
season. Before Christmas Day arrives, there usually are parties at home and at
work, an evening out with friends and other occasions to get together and share
the spirit of Christmas. The presence of special Christmas music and people
dressed in holiday attire provide a different atmosphere and contribute to the
magical feeling of the season.
Another thing that is different at Christmas is the scent from a fresh
Christmas tree, of gingerbread and other cookies baking and other food
preparations that are specially done at Christmas time. Most people who select
a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial one for their homes do so
because of the wonderful scent it provides. For many people, that scent from a
Christmas tree is what puts Christmas into everything else.
Another popular scent at Christmas comes from the popular Christmas song
'Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire.' The actual roasting of chestnuts by
families during the Christmas season may be a rare occurrence these days but it
is occasionally done in some downtown areas and in bakeries and confectioneries
that make fresh products everyday. All these events, activities, happenings,
sights, sounds and scents of Christmas and the holidays create special and
unforgettable memories. And who can deny that a pleasant memory is always
something that is truly magical.

17. Yuletide Days of Old -- Ancient and other Customs of Christmas

Christmas as a holiday period was instituted and celebrated at about the same time 
as other winter solstice festivities because church leaders at the time believed 
that would make more people participate in the new holiday period. That objective
was achieved, but people also carried over some pagan celebrations and
traditions into the religious Christmas celebrations. As an example, people
would attend church and then take part in a raucous, drunken and carnival-like
celebration, that has some similarities to Mardi Gras. During this celebration
every year, there would be a crowning of a beggar or student as the 'lord of
misrule.' Those taking part in the activities would pretend to be loyal
subjects to the 'lord of misrule,' During this time some of the poor would also
visit the rich in their houses and ask for some of their best food and drink.
Those among the rich who didn't cooperate would be subject to rowdy behavior
and mischief by the poor. For their part, the rich used Christmas as the time
when they would reach out to the poorer members of society by tolerating them
in such visits or by leaving out food and clothing for them. For many centuries
before the birth of Christ and the recognition of Christmas, there had always
been celebrations in many countries during the middle of winter. During the
darkest days of winter for example, the early Europeans were said to celebrate
light and birth. The winter solstice was a period of rejoicing for many people
because it meant that the worst part of winter was over and they could
therefore look forward to having days that were longer with more hours of
sunlight. In that tradition, the Norse peoples in Scandinavia would celebrate a
period of Yule from Dec. 21, which was the winter solstice or start of winter,
through January. To recognize the re-emergence of the sun, fathers and their
sons would take large logs home and set them on fire. There would then be a big
feast until the log was completely burned out. That could take as much as 12
days to happen. The custom also was one of hope for the Norse because there was
the belief among them that every spark from the fire represented a new pig or
calf that would be born in the New Year. Many parts of Europe also thought that
the end of December was a perfect time to celebrate because during that time, a
lot of cattle would be killed to avoid having to feed them during winter. For
many people, the end of December was the only time during the year when they
had a significant amount of fresh meat. By that time of year also, wine and
beer that was made earlier in the year would have fermented and be finally
ready for drinking.
The tradition of Santa Claus has also been an ancient legend with slight
differences or variations in olden days from the 1700s in some countries. In
German and Switzerland, children who were well behaved would receive a
Christmas present from Christkind or Kris Kringle. Christkind, which means
Christ child, was believed to be an angel-like figure that went along with St.
Nicholas on his holiday journeys to deliver gifts. A jolly elf by the name of
Jultomten was believed to deliver presents in Scandinavia in a sleigh that was
pulled by goats. And in France, Pere Noel is the one who fills the shoes of
French children with Christmas gifts, sweets or treats at Christmas time.
In Russia, there's a legend that Babouschka was an elderly woman who gave
incorrect directions to Bethlehem to the three Wise Men so that they wouldn't
find Jesus. She later felt sorry for doing so but couldn't find the Wise Men to
tell them about the error. Today in Russia, it is believed that on Jan. 5, the
day before the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, Babouschka visits Russian children
and leaves presents by their bedsides in the hope that one of the children will
be Baby Jesus and will forgive her.

18. Twelve Contemporary (Shopping) Days of Christmas

Nov. 24 -- Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving, you have time off from work 
and it's the official start of the Christmas season and of Christmas shopping. 
Stores are open 3-4 hours earlier and they close later. Holiday sales begin, it's 
the first time that some items will be available: . but definitely won't be among 
the crazies up at 4am to get to the top of the line to make some wild dash for the 
$99 flat-screen television or the Crazy Elmo toy. (Black Friday is the second
single biggest shopping day for retailers and got its name because in the days
of old so much shopping was done on this day that it would turn the tide for
many stores and put them in the black, or, make them profitable.) Dec. 2 -
First Saturday in December -- weekends are important because it means free time
to shop. The early holiday and Christmas shopper should be more than halfway
through shopping list. Average shoppers are just starting to browse. Dec. 3 -
First Sunday -- weekend Christmas shopping can be done but stores close the
usual earlier time on Sundays. Dec. 7 -- Pearl Harbor Day -- it isn't recognized
by most but is very important to war veterans. The President usually gives a
speech to a Veterans group and lays a wreath in honor of those who died on
Pearl Harbor Day and in World War II. Dec. 9 -- Second Saturday -- only two full
weeks to go before Christmas. Where did the time go and where did the year go?
To your disguised annoyance, you are starting to hear the ubiquitous phrase,
'Finished all your Christmas shopping yet?' Christmas shopping has to pick up
speed or panic will set in. You are running out of time to enjoy some quality
Christmas entertainment with your family. Dec. 10 -- Second Sunday -- go to
church if you haven't been attending so that you won't look like a 'Christmas
only attendee.' Need to squeeze in some shopping and must start sending out
Christmas greeting cards this week. Dec. 16 -- Third Saturday, First Day of
Hanukkah -- it's unbelievable that there's only one full week to go before
Christmas. Make supermarket shopping list for Christmas Eve and Christmas
dinner preparations. Dec. 17 -- Third Sunday -- exactly one week before
Christmas. Make sure Christmas toys and presents in hiding are still
undiscovered. Make final plans for family dinner on Christmas Day. Dec. 21 -- oh
dear me!!! Only three days to go before Christmas. Do last minute planning, get
as many chores as possible out of the way, finish all Christmas and supermarket
shopping. Assign final preparatory tasks to family members as necessary. Go over
plans for Christmas Dinner. Dec. 22 -- First Day of Winter -- My goodness!! you
still have shopping to do!!? You dread going to the mall this weekend. Pray for
a miracle to find one of those needle in a haystack salesperson who will hold
hand and get you 95% through your Christmas shopping list. Dec. 23 -- Last
Saturday before Christmas -- Now The Single Biggest Shopping Day of the Year!!!!
The mall is absolutely crazy and there are no sales people anywhere. It's a zoo
everywhere -- on the roads, in the supermarket, even at the gas station people
are honking, hollering at the gas attendant to pump faster! But you know what :
stopped at my favorite pastry store and was in and out in a nanosecond: there
was no line!! Dec. 24 -- Christmas Eve -- downtown is glorious, everything is so
splendid and magical: . will go to Midnight Mass: . Christmas is the Most
Wonderful Time of the Year!!!!

19. Making Memories During Christmas and the Holidays

A favorite Christmas song has a line that describes Christmas as 'the most
wonderful time of the year.' While giving and receiving gifts is something that
is highly anticipated and remembered at Christmas time, there are also many more
activities that make Christmas memorable and wonderful.
One of these activities is decorating the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree
occupies a central spot and is the most visible display of Christmas in most
homes. Unlike in other countries, most American homes do not have a
representation of the Nativity scene, which is more likely to be located at
churches.
As soon as the Christmas season begins on the day after Thanksgiving, families
will begin their search for the perfect Christmas tree. This in itself can
become a memorable activity as children may accompany family members to places
like a Christmas tree farm to select a tree.
Once a real or artificial tree is selected, then it's an exciting activity for
the entire family to play a part in decorating the tree. Manufactured
decorations come in many shapes and forms. But a special memory is created when
family members make a special ornament for the Christmas tree, or contribute one
or more keepsake items to decorate the Christmas tree. It then becomes a ritual
each year for those particular items to be placed on the Christmas tree
although other decorations may change in coming years.
Another activity that can help to create special memories at Christmas is
baking cookies. Along with popular gingerbread cookies, using cookie cutters to
make special holiday-shaped cookies is also practiced a lot in households. Based
on the ages of children, they can help in the actual baking activity by
measuring and mixing some ingredients, or, younger children can sprinkle sugar
on the cookies or decorate them with icing when they are finished. Helping in
this activity can also be educational as parents can use the activity of
measuring and figuring out equivalent measures to teach fractions and other
mathematical elements.
An activity that is related to food which also helps to create memories during
the Christmas season is making fruit and goody baskets, which are filled with
candies, baked items and other treats for loved ones, their special friends,
neighbors, teachers or for charity. Items such as goody baskets make especially
wonderful Christmas gifts because they are home-made. That quality often makes
them more treasured than a Christmas present that is bought at the store.
Because Christmas is the season of goodwill and good cheer, it is very
important to reach out to family, loved ones and friends during the season. The
busy lives that many people lead today often leaves them little or no time
during the year to be in frequent contact with family and friends who are
located far
away, or even others who live within a reasonable distance in the same or a
neighboring state, for example. It is therefore very common during Christmas to
send a Christmas or holiday greeting card to those individuals. Along with the
pleasant memory of receiving the card, there may be a short letter included
that gives a brief account of any significant event in the individual's life or
with members of the family. That makes sending and receiving Christmas greeting
cards more memorable.
Then there's probably the most anticipated activity of Christmas -- finding out
what Christmas gift Santa brought on Christmas Eve. While adults also look
forward with much anticipation to see what Christmas gifts they will get, it's
really the children who get the most delight from receiving presents at
Christmas. The carefully planned actions to hide Christmas presents from
children and then to magically place them under the Christmas tree to be found
on Christmas morning is one of the most wonderful ways to create unforgettable
memories for children at Christmas.

20. Similarities between Kwanzaa and Hanukkah 

Celebrations at Christmas Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, celebrated by African-Americans 
and Jewish people respectively, are observed during the Christmas season. The 
celebrations are separate from activities related to Christmas however. The 
observances of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are also one reason that people also give 
wishes  of Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas during the season.
Although both activities are very different and were originated for different
reasons, some similarities can be found between the two practices. Both
celebrations have commitment as a central and important theme. They also both
include symbolic forms of light and are both commemorated over almost the same
number of days -- seven (7) days from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 for Kwanzaa, and eight
(8) days and night for Hanukkah -- usually starting about one week before
Christmas Day.
Starting with its origination, Hanukkah celebrations dates to an event in 165
B.C. when the Jews were victorious over the Syrians. Hanukkah started as a way
to restore and rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem that had been desecrated,
including its golden menorah, by the Syrians. The festival also served the
purpose of once more observing and re-instituting rituals that the Syrians had
forbidden during their rule.
Kwanzaa was started 40 years ago by a university professor as a way for
African-Americans and others in the African diaspora to engage in celebrations
that included elements of African culture.
While Kwanzaa is not as popular as Christmas, it keeps growing and its goal has
been achieved to some extent as it is now practiced in many nations such as
those in the Caribbean, which have a large population of people of African
ancestry. The wide availability of Kwanzaa greeting cards and even postage
stamps at Christmas time, also attests to the extent to which the celebration
has entered the mainstream. The primary symbol of Hanukkah, the menorah, which
consists of eight (8) individual lights, is very much a part of the mainstream.
Menorahs are available today in various shapes and sizes. A single standard
requirement that must be observed in making a menorah is that there should be
enough separation between the flame of each of the eight (8) lights so that
they don't give the total effect of a single large flame when all are lit. A
flame is lit each night over the days in remembrance of how a small quantity of
oil from the desecrated Temple kept a menorah burning for eight (8) days, when
the amount should have only lasted for a single day. It was that miraculous
occurrence that gave rise to the Hanukkah celebration to light a menorah over
eight (8) days. Kwanzaa symbols include a candleholder and seven (7) candles
that represent the roots of African ancestors and seven (7) core principles of
Kwanzaa respectively. Other symbols are, The Crops for African harvest, Mat for
African tradition, Corn for the future represented by children, the Unity Cup
and the Gifts. The Flag and Poster of Seven (7) Principles are two (2)
supplemental symbols.
These items can be found at specialty African and AfricanAmerican shops in some
malls and in town with a heavy concentration of African and African-American
population. Among the most important features of Kwanzaa are the seven (7) core
principles and values they embody: self-determination, unity, collective work
and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. These
seven (7) principles are meant to be a foundation and guide upon which the
African diaspora can build a strong, successful and fulfilling life while
maintaining a connection to their roots. While not religious, the principles of
Kwanzaa are meant to instill a strong sense of spirituality in individuals.
Kwanzaa seeks to instill spirituality upon which individuals can build
self-confidence and secure self-identity through a link to their roots. This
sense of spirituality and connection to one's history, roots or ancestry is
also an element of similarity between Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

21. Christmas Greetings and Good Cheer

Greetings at Christmas extend beyond a mere wish of 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy
Holidays.' Christmas greetings embody a wish that all will go well in whatever
preparations need to be made, and a genuine sentiment that much joy, happiness
and well being will be experienced by the individual and loved ones during the
season.
The season of good cheer and wishes also reflect the jolly ho, ho, ho nature of
Santa Claus. To the delight of children, it is very easy for them to run into
many jolly fellows dressed as Santa Claus during the Christmas season who will
quiz them about whether they have been good or naughty. Many times when
friends, relatives and loved ones call each other during the Christmas season,
they will speak to the children and wish them Merry Christmas, but not without
a warning that they had better be good or else there will be no presents from
Santa Claus. For children therefore, a greeting of Merry Christmas has the
purpose of increasing their anticipation for the arrival of Christmas Eve and
Santa's visit to leave toys and Christmas presents under the tree. Because
children also take part in many traditions associated with Christmas, holiday
greetings for them is also a reminder of the fun they will have in doing such
activities as decorating the tree, helping to bake cookies and wrapping
presents. When children have these things to look forward to at Christmas, it
creates a lasting memory for them and helps to make their childhood one on
which they will later reflect on with much fondness. The more prevalent
greeting of 'Happy Holidays' that is used today reflects in part the also
prevalent nature to be politically correct in speech and communication. The
greeting of 'Happy Holidays' can be given to anyone whether or not they
celebrate Christmas. It avoids any offense being taken if someone is wished
Merry Christmas when it's a celebration in which they don't participate or
observe. Happy Holidays is also used to extend a greeting of goodwill beyond
Christmas to the coming New Year holiday period. For procrastinators and the
chronically late greeting card senders, they can still drop a 'Happy Holiday'
greeting card in the mail to friends and loved ones close to Christmas Day or
even after and it will still be relevant. Christmas greeting cards play a big
role in communicating Christmas greetings and good cheer for the holiday
season. It's a tradition that started in Britain in 1840 with the start of the
first public postal deliveries. The production of large numbers of Christmas
greeting cards started about twenty years later in 1860 with the improvement of
printing methods. Today, Christmas greetings and greeting cards have further
evolved with massive changes and development in technology. The computer, which
has become a necessary electronic equipment in just about every home, is
commonly used to send Christmas greetings through emailing an online greeting
or postcard. Online greeting cards also have brought other changes such as
being interactive or animated and they can also be easily personalized with
pictures of individuals or families. Online greeting cards can be sent from
websites that are accessible to everyone or they can be easily created on a
home computer. Another way in which Christmas greetings are sent is by mailing
gifts and presents to relatives and friends who live elsewhere. Except for the
dreaded tax season, there is no other time when post offices become more
crowded than during the Christmas season. Post Offices therefore play an
important role in relaying Christmas greetings by handling thousands of
greeting card mailings and gift packages for Christmas. With just about
everyone having a cheerful spirit for the Christmas season, it becomes very
easy to pause for even a brief conversation and extend a greeting of goodwill
to friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors and others.

22. Why Christmas is Really All About Children

It could be said that since it was the birth of a baby as a gift to mankind
that gave rise to Christmas, then children should also and always be the
primary focus of the season. Individual families will say they have always put
children first and parents will sacrifice seeking their desires at Christmas to
make sure their children are satisfied. And although adults also look forward
with much anticipation to the Christmas season, the frenzy that accounts for
all the shopping and preparation during the Christmas season is really for the
benefit of children.
From a financial perspective, the extensive shopping done at Christmas is
really of benefit to businesses. But what really drives the maddening shopping
activity is a desire by parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances to play
Santa Claus, mainly for children. Within families, children are usually the
ones who individually receive the most gifts. And it's deservedly so because
their wide-eyed anticipation, excitement and pure joy when they open their
Christmas presents gives everyone an indescribably happy feeling.
Along with playing Santa Claus and secretly getting gifts for children, adults
also use the Santa story for all it's worth as an effective means of
discipline. As soon as the Fall season approaches, children will begin to hear
warnings about their behavior and the consequence of Santa Claus not leaving
any toys or presents like the wonderful ones they received in the prior year.
And when the Santa Claus story is not being used to help to get the best
behavior from children, it is simply pure fun to delight them by telling them
stories about Santa Claus, his elves and reindeers to simply enliven their
imagination.
The story of Santa Claus is even useful for older children who may just be
starting to unravel the mystery of Santa Claus. The stories that tell of
different places where Santa Claus actually lives can be a starting point to go
on an imaginative journey around the globe and become a geography lesson to
learn about those places.
Children are also central to Christmas because the many grand displays of
Christmas scenery, colorful lights and sparkling ornaments really target the
attention of children. So, if children were not so important at Christmas time,
then it is quite possible that many of the traditions that make Christmas what
it is would not exist. As an example, Valentine's Day and holidays related to
Easter have a much different mood and atmosphere. Children aren't the focus in
celebrations for those special periods.
Christmas is also an important period for the toy industry whose clients are
naturally children. Although the industry is part of the big retail picture and
therefore seeks to boost sales during the Christmas season, there is also a
deeper meaning for children. Toys are important to entertain, to educate, to
help children develop their imagination and to develop coordination and other
skills in children. Toys can also help children to play together and learn to
share. The toy industry is therefore important at Christmas time in introducing
new products that are integral to the development of children. When children
become totally captivated by a new toy at Christmas time, it may help them to
learn a new skill or provide new knowledge all in a fun and captivating way
that will make it more likely that whatever is learned will be remembered.
Children are also the focus of Christmas celebrations because it is important
to create fond childhood memories of the season. These memories are created not
by children necessarily receiving a lot, but by enjoying everything about the
season. The story of Jesus with the moral of sharing, giving and doing kind
deeds for others can also help to build a good character and set a moral
foundation that teaches children to have empathy and compassion during the
Christmas season and all throughout the year.

23. Making an Early Start to Christmas Shopping

Many radio stations have started playing Christmas songs so early in November
in the past few years that one wonders if we may soon start hearing Christmas
songs around Halloween time. That would be a bit weird, even creepy perhaps.
But some early Christmas shoppers likely will have Christmas Carols silently
playing in their heads even before then.
That's because shopping, much like Santa Claus, is a staple of Christmas. Santa
never gives away any secrets to shopping for all those gifts, but he must
certainly have a strategy to be so successful every Yuletide season. The early
Christmas shopper is someone who is very organized and has a strategy to
fulfill Christmas shopping before the season kicks into high gear.
The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is the official retail start
to a shopping season that is always hoped to be a robust one. The strategy of
retailers is to advertise Christmas sales, specials, pre-Christmas markdowns,
giveaways, special-hour sales and other promotions. The reason for the frenzy
of retail advertising during Christmas season is because it is the single
biggest shopping time of the year. Christmas shopping that begins the day after
Thanksgiving accounts for well over half -- with some estimates of up to 70% -of
annual revenue for stores.
Since retailers clearly have a strategy for Christmas shoppers seeking the
perfect gift, then shoppers also need to implement their own strategy.
The savvy and early Christmas shopper is the one who may start silently singing
Christmas Carols and songs very early to get in gear for shopping. Starting from
as early as the beginning of October, the early Christmas shopper can begin to
make lists of gifts and begin browsing to check the availability, variety, and
most important, the price of items.
By browsing before the Christmas shopping season officially kicks off, the
early Christmas shopper is more likely to get more bargains, better prices, and
is also better able to do comparison shopping when the season officially kicks
off.
It's important to know that retailers won't offer true 'rock bottom' or
'close-out' sales, or the very lowest prices during Christmas sales. It's also
important to remember that retailers are likely to offer earlier sales starting
in early October to near mid-November.
Two significant pre-Christmas sales are for Columbus Day, which falls on
Monday, Oct. 9, and Veterans Day, which will be on Saturday Nov. 11. The early
Christmas shopper who already has gifts in mind can benefit from price
markdowns during both sales periods. And of course the early Christmas shopper
will also have the benefit of shopping during the season, therefore extending
the thrill and joy of shopping. If there is any disadvantage to being an early
Christmas shopper and doing Christmas shopping very early, it is that some
retailers, particularly makers and sellers of toys, wait until the official
start of the season to introduce some new items into stores. The strategy in
doing this is to build anticipation for a new toy that they hope will be very
popular and to also target and capture a larger majority of shoppers.
During every Christmas season there always is one, or maybe two toys, that are
regarded as the 'must-have' toys for Christmas. And it has become a presentday
phenomenon for shoppers to arrive from the wee hours in the morning to get a
prime spot near the doors of some stores so that they can be among the first in
those stores to make a mad dash for the 'hot' toy of the season.
But being doing or starting Christmas shopping early does not mean that it has
to be over before the Christmas shopping season starts. What it means is that
most or a significant part of your shopping will be done by the time Black
Friday rolls around.
What is most important to making an early start to your Christmas shopping is
to get the best deal and to do so with as little hassle as possible, by
avoiding a crowded store for example. Both of those will be accomplished for
those who are organized and motivated to get into the spirit of Christmas
before the season really begins.

24. Shopping During the Prime of the Christmas Season

The saying that goes, 'The early bird catches the worm,' is in part true for
those who get Christmas shopping off to an early start before the season
actually begins. Most of us however, are likely to be average shoppers who wait
until that time when the season officially begins. Maybe we don't have any time
before then and we have to wait for a day off from work after Thanksgiving. Or
maybe we simply procrastinate and can't get going until the frenzy starts or
until when the stores are all fully decorated and Christmas songs and Carols
are playing non-stop to put the thrill and magic into the festive season that
is Christmas.
Average Christmas holiday shoppers go out in force and are primarily motivated
by the sales that occur during the official Christmas shopping season. These
shoppers fully believe they are getting good prices and bargains from Christmas
and holiday sales. But it is unlikely that retailers will offer the lowest
prices during a time that is prime shopping season.
The lesson for the average and for all shoppers during the traditional
Christmas shopping season is to carefully evaluate prices and consider if the
item is fairly priced when compared to a the price during other times of the
year. If items are simply snapped up during Christmas and the holidays because
they are being offered in a 'sale,' the shopper may end up busting his or her
budget or having 'buyers regret' about a purchase.
Those who are average and early shoppers have some time however to get over any
unwise purchases because such purchases can be returned and a better choice can
be made.
There is however another type of shopper. The late or chronically late shopper
is stuck with hoping that 'Aunt Sally' or Grandma will like the gift selected,
even if the buyer had second thoughts about it after the purchase was made. The
late shopper is one who realizes that there us a mere five (5) days less than a
week to go -- before Christmas and not a single gift has been bought.
Worse off than the late shopper is the chronically late Christmas shopper who
is in a mad frenzy two (2) days before Christmas and faces a crisis when a
desired gift such as a book has to be ordered and won't be shipped in time for
Christmas.
While those shoppers can get comfort from knowing they will likely benefit from
the lowest markdowns of the period, they will also find scanty selections and
some items, primarily clothing, that appear a bit worn from all the looking
over and handling done by the hordes of Christmas shoppers. But even these late
shoppers, who are often procrastinators and who can only be spurred into action
by a looming deadline, can execute a strategy to make their Christmas shopping
successful. Such a strategy involves more don'ts than things to do. Late
Christmas shoppers should try to avoid having lists that have unusual or
hard-to-get items that will need to be ordered. While retailers will offer
shipping in time for Christmas, orders usually have to be made before a certain
time, for example at least 36-72 hours before Christmas. If items aren't ordered
within that timeframe, there is no guarantee that they will arrive for the big
day.
Those who do their Christmas shopping late should also be prepared to find
items on their own in stores and not expect to get 'hand-holding help' from
sales clerks. With only days to go before Christmas and with everyone trying to
get their last minute shopping done, it is impossible for most retailers to have
enough staff to offer expert or even meaningful help to please the majority of
Christmas shoppers.
Soon after the excitement of Christmas Day passes, what frequently is the topic
of conversations and what remains memorable in the New Year, is what gifts were
received and given. So, in the coming days, it may be worth it to assess the
type of shopper that you are and create a plan and strategy to make sure you
will be a perfect Santa who will deliver the right gifts to friends and loved
ones.

25. Where To Do Christmas Shopping

Christmas shopping can be seen as an absolute thrill and to some extent, as a
necessary evil. It's a thrill to be out and about amid the sights and sounds of
the season and the jovial crowds. But for the same reasons, others dread
shopping at Christmas time. These days, you don't have to leave your home much
or at all to get your Christmas and holiday shopping done. That's because the
Internet puts shopping at your fingertips. And rather than competing with
traditional retail stores, the Internet has actually expanded the ability of
traditional stores to sell more merchandise to a larger number of people in
various locations.
Both large and small retailers can be found at their specialized Web sites on
the Internet. Most will also offer selections that can be found in the store.
Many times online retail sites will have additional items available, or access
to additional items, that aren't found in the store.
Another advantage of shopping by the Internet is that it offers access to
stores that are located anywhere. It's therefore becomes easier to order a
unique gift from niche or specialty boutique stores in locations that you
otherwise wouldn't be able to reach. It is also easy to do comparison shopping
using 'shop bots' or simply comparing prices yourself.
If Christmas shopping is done through the Internet, you have to pay careful
attention to the order times and any cutoff dates to get an item delivered in
time for Christmas. Based on anticipated volume, most sites will give a date or
the number of hours within which orders have to be confirmed for guaranteed
delivery of the items before Christmas.
The mall is a popular place for traditional Christmas and holiday shopping to
be done. Malls offer one-stop shopping and have a large variety and wide
selection of merchandise, which can minimize endless searching of several
stores for some items. They will also be beautifully decorated for Christmas,
have splendid displays and a Santa Claus to interact with children. These and
other activities that are usually at the mall during Christmas and the holidays
also make them an interesting place to take children to enjoy some of the
season's delights.
To maximize shopping at the mall, you'll need to know the differences between
the mall department stores. You'll need to find out which stores have certain
exclusive brands, which stores are moderately priced and which are more upscale.
There are also the specialty standalone stores and spinoff store branches for
children and teenagers that seek to fill a particular niche. As an example,
stores have emerged that carry only styles related to hip-hop culture or styles
that have an 'urban' look. So it may be worth consideration to start your
shopping at a specialty store, because they are more focused, and then continue
at a department store that has a wider selection. Another interesting place to
shop at malls are the standalone kiosks that are usually located at intervals
in the open areas of a mall where there is a lot of foot traffic. These kiosks
are more likely to carry one-of-a kind and unique items, which can even provide
or inspire ideas for Christmas presents.
Also at malls will be specialized that offer home/household items, books, music
and movies, electronics, sports gear and shoes.
All of the types of mall stores previously mentioned can also be found at
Outlet or Factory Malls or Warehouses, which offer lower prices. These stores
often carry clearance items from their related mall store, merchandise with
minor flaws and merchandise that is made for the outlet. Those merchandise
usually have slight style variations from what is found in mall stores and may
also be made from different materials.
A final place to consider for Christmas shopping is downtown businesses. They
are usually small and intimate, have unique offerings and offer more
personalized assistance. Although downtown businesses are also likely to be
crowded at Christmas time, there likely will be less of a crush of people like
that found at malls.




26. Making Gift Selections at Christmas

Many people adore Santa Claus because he brings them the perfect that often
produces squeals of joy. Individuals, especially children, are often thrilled
to get what they want and need from Santa. To bring joy to others, you also
need to not only give a Christmas gift but to also try to get an item that will
be a good match for the individual by selecting a gift that suits the person. It
is possible to find the right Christmas gift without having to fall for the easy
way out by giving a 'sweater.' To find the right gift for Christmas for anyone
means a gift has to capture one or both of the following qualities something
that you know the person will like or desire, or something with useful purpose
that will captivate the person. A Christmas gift that captivates the receiver
will produce a 'wow' reaction or comments of 'that's cool' from others, who
will be wishing silently that they had gotten such a gift. The key to selecting
a wonderful Christmas gift that will produce a 'wow' reaction is to make sure
the item is one that will appear interesting to others. The gift itself may
have limits to its use. That means it may not be something that will be used
frequently, such as a sweater or other clothing. The 'wow' factor or coolness
of the gift must however overshadow it's possible limited usefulness. Selecting
a Christmas gift that is desired can prove to be difficult if you think you
don't know what the person wants or needs. But when we think that we don't
really know what someone wants for a Christmas gift, our real thought is that
we haven't really heard the person specifically say they want or desire a
particular item. That however is not an obstacle to truly knowing what someone
may desire for a Christmas gift. To help to identify an item that will make a
perfect Christmas gift, you need to focus on what you know about the person -
various qualities, what leisure activity the person likes, what type of books,
art and music for example, do they like. To focus on what you know about the
person, think about conversations you have engaged in with the individual.
Conversations in general can often give splendid ideas of good gifts to give
for Christmas because oftentimes people will say 'I wish for .....' when
talking with someone else. The character of the person is also a good indicator
of items that will make wonderful Christmas gifts. Remember, a gift for
Christmas is a token to show love, fondness or appreciation or some combination
of those qualities. An item that captures a quality of a person is therefore
likely to be much appreciated. So, for example, books make good gifts for
someone who likes to read. But if the person also has a humorous persona, a
book on jokes would be a desirable Christmas gift. For someone who likes to
drive, a travel book on scenic routes is likely to create a large amount of
interest. A Christmas gift like that also could stir some 'wow' remarks as it
could easily cause others to want become engrossed in browsing it. A Christmas
gift like that also is an example of something that is very useful but which
may not get a lot of frequent use. Another strategy for selecting a perfect
Christmas gift is to think of how something will fit into someone's lifestyle.
A friend once recalled that wish another friend often expressed in conversation
was for a playstation. But knowing that the friend also didn't have much leisure
time to actually sit and use a playstation, a hand-held game gadget was given
instead that could be used during commute on public transportation or in 10-15
minutes of short downtime. Selecting Christmas gifts for friends, acquaintances
and loved ones that will be remembered and treasured is therefore not too much
of a difficult task if the strategies previously mentioned are kept in mind.

27. General Festivities and Entertainment at Christmas

Christmas is described as a festive season therefore we should all engage in
activities during the season that provide entertainment, merriment and which
give pleasure. Because Christmas is about celebration, many types of
festivities can be found to suit all preferences to make the season a joyful
one.
A readily available option is watching Christmas movies. This can be done from
the comfort of home or by spending a few hours out at the theater. A wonderful
option now available for obtaining movies is to rent them via the Internet.
It's an option that allows you to get any movie you want to see whether
traditional, popular or a remake of an original title. There's also fairly easy
access to obscure movie titles, as well as movies with holiday or Christmas
themes.
Although Christmas movies embody the spirit of the season, you can also take
time out during Christmas to enjoy new releases that may or may not have a
holiday theme. Christmas is a good time to catch notable new releases because
they are timed to be shown in theaters before the end of the year to be
considered for prestigious Oscar nominations.
Performances of Christmas plays that depict the Nativity scene are also another
popular entertainment during Christmas. Although these performances are done
year after year, they never grow old because of creative difference in
interpreting the story, and also in how each role is acted by different actors
every year. The dramatization of the Nativity demonstrates the meaning of
Christmas and can also simplify the meaning of Christmas for children.
Participation in the Nativity is also an important activity for children in
drama groups at schools and church groups. Along with depicting the meaning of
Christmas, the Nativity play also portrays moral lessons that can serve as an
inspiration for the way to become a more spiritual person and to live a better
life. Watching or taking part in the Nativity play at Christmas time can
therefore affect your attitude and outlook on life. Musical entertainment at
Christmas can come from pausing during shopping to listen to a choral group at
the mall or downtown. It can also be entertaining to simply hum along to a
Christmas carol or song being played on the radio. Carols as a tradition at
Christmas is said to originate in England and France in the Middle Ages. At the
time, carols were dances accompanied by singing. The tradition that Anglo-Saxons
preferred was to have small choirs gather on the village green and sing carols
and Christmas songs to passersby. Over time, the meaning of the word changed to
refer to only certain types of songs. The tradition of carols is also believed
to evolve from the angels, shepherds and Wise Men who bowed down to sing
praises and to worship Baby Jesus. For those who are really lovers of the arts,
professional groups like Orchestras, Symphonies, Conservatories and Choirs also
offer splendid concerts during Christmas. They will also sing Christmas carols
and songs. But the harmony of their voices accompanied by a full compliment of
instruments provides a richer and more melodious rendition of the carols that
is unlikely to be heard anywhere else. Probably the most popular festivities at
Christmas are parties, which seem to happen everywhere all the time at
Christmas. There are parties at work, home, with friends and class parties at
school. Even social hubs such as bars may have special nights with different
food and lower-priced drinks during Christmas. It seems there is no end to the
festivities during Christmas. It's always important however to have a good
time, to remember the unfortunate and to reach out to them and to have fun but
in a responsible manner.

28. Christmas Movies

Movies related to Christmas help to create a fun atmosphere and can also teach
moral lessons related to Christmas. While everyone will have different
Christmas movies that are most enjoyable, there are some that remain favorites.
'A Christmas Story' is told from the point of view of a little boy in the days
before Christmas and on Christmas Day. It shows him doing routine things each
day but against the backdrop of the Christmas season with the decorated store
windows, Santa Claus, the snow and frostiness, and of course his wish for a
Christmas toy. But his parents disapprove of the toy that he desired. The movie
is good in showing the innocence of the Christmas season.
'A Christmas Carol,' written by noted author Charles Dickens, tells the story
of old Scrooge whose only purpose in life is to make money. Scrooge puts making
money above his family, friends and everyone who cares about him. His response
to Christmas is a grumpy, 'Bah Humbug.' He gets a different experience however,
when ghosts appear to him and try to point out the error of his ways. The
movie's lesson is about the importance of appreciating people in your life.
'It's A Wonderful Life' is a story about hope and the worthiness of everyone.
It tells the story of a man experiencing despair and self-destruction because
he thinks he is of no worth to those around him, and they would be better off
if he didn't exist. An angel grants him his desire and he gets to see what he
contributes and what life would be like without him.
Every Christmas, 'A Miracle on 34th Street' can be seen on television. It asks
and answers the question 'Is there really a Santa Claus?' The movie is about a
man who claims to be Kris Kringle, or Santa Claus, but is not believed and so
he has to prove his identity claim.
'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' is about the Griswold family with Mr.
Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, who gets into silly accidents that provide a
lot of humor. The movie shows the lives of the family as they celebrate
Christmas and the difficulties that arise when their entire family comes to
visit for Christmas.
'Home Alone' is about a large and chaotic family with lots of kids who are
going on Christmas vacation. Amid the chaos of leaving on the morning of the
trip, one child is left behind and must stay and fend for himself in a very
large house during the Christmas season. At first he was happy to be alone but
then two thieves break in and he has to fight them off. The movie shows the
importance of family and loved ones. A sequel, 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York'
tells of the boy who was left alone going to an aunt and uncle's home and again
encountering the two thieves who are seeking revenge.
'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' was first made as an animation for television
but other versions have since been done as motion pictures. The Grinch is a
grouchy, green man who lives in the mountains above the small town of Whoville
where residents, called The Whos, celebrate Christmas enthusiastically every
year. The Grinch who doesn't like Christmas wants to spoil it for Whoville and
so he tries to steal all the toys, food and gifts that The Whos have
accumulated for Christmas. The movie provides a lesson on the true meaning of
Christmas.
'A Charlie Brown Christmas is an animated television movie about the popular
Peanuts comic strip. The movie is about the comic strip's main character,
Charlie Brown, and tells of the experience with his friends for Christmas. It
also has Biblical references that relates to the true meaning of Christmas.
'Frosty The Snowman' is an animated story about a snowman, named Frosty, that
comes to life and who must avoid a greedy musician who is trying to get the
magic that brought Frosty to life. The movie is very funny and has lots of
wonderful songs.
'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' is also an animation about the reindeer with a
shiny nose that kisses a pretty girl and also helps out his friends.

29. Christmas Activities for Children 

While adults indulge in the festivities and revel in enjoying the spirit of 
Christmas, undoubtedly it is more fun for children because they are able to lose 
themselves in the wide-eyed wonders and glorious splendor of the season. Activities 
at Christmas that children can enjoy include all of the sights, sounds and scents 
that put the magic and a festive spirit into Christmas. At major shopping centers 
like malls, children can enjoy various window displays and arrangements inside stores 
that show Christmas sceneries. The displays, which can be moving, stationary or
interactive, can be so numerous and mesmerizing that parents often arrange a
trip to such malls just for children to view the many displays. Shopping malls
are also a popular place where Santa Claus is sure to be found. For a small
fee, children can get to sit or stand with Santa Claus, talk with him and most
importantly, get a picture taken with Santa. Those children, like pre-teens and
teenagers, who may be too old for Santa Claus can also be entertained by the
various grand Christmas displays as well as one of their favorite activity -
shopping. Various colorful and twinkling lights is certain to be a part of the
displays at malls and shopping centers, but other arrangements of Christmas
lighting can also be a delightful activity for children to enjoy. Because
Christmas displays have become so common, everyone has some form of lighting
arrangement at their houses. This has led to neighborhoods where it is common
to see an increase in traffic during the Christmas season because of the
fanciful, landscaped displays of outdoor Christmas light decorations. These
usually include figures of reindeers, Santa, sleighs, angels, shepherds and
animals that are a part of the story of Jesus' birth. It can therefore become
an activity to take a tour of these neighborhoods with children for them to
feast their eyes. In a similar manner to the grand Christmas lighting that can
be found in some neighborhoods and the occasional home, there are also
themed-lighting at quaint villages and special large, Christmas light displays
at venues like some public parks. The displays can be similar to those seen in
neighborhoods except that they are usually on a larger and grander scale. As an
example, a typical home lawn display will have a Christmas display that includes
Santa, a sleigh and a reindeer or two all as separate pieces. A Christmas
display at a themed-village or park would have a large and possibly moving
display of Santa Claus with elflike figures in a sleigh that is being pulled by
reindeers as one big structure. These Christmas sights are what often bring out
the wide-eyed wonder in children as their faces express awe and amazement.
While children will have a beautifully decorated Christmas tree at home to
enjoy, it will also be fun for them to go to other lightings of Christmas tree
because again, those trees are usually bigger and decorated on a grander scale
than the ones in their living rooms at home. Just about every town, city or
municipality will have a Christmas tree lighting in a central location.
Sometimes local firehouses will also have a special Christmas tree lighting. At
these events, children can see a local official or personality flip a switch to
symbolically turn on the Christmas tree, in a similar like they would have seen
the President do on television. Those local events are likely to include
Christmas treats and goodies, a Santa Claus to present Christmas gifts to
children and the singing of Christmas carols. Taking time out to engage in
activities just for the enjoyment of children will make them feel special,
experience the magic of Christmas and create memories that will last a lifetime.

30. Christmas Plays/Performances

It's always a good thing when families can enjoy outings together. Attending
Christmas plays, performances and concerts offer wonderful holiday
entertainment for all members of the family. Attending Christmas performances
and concerts offers wonderful entertainment for the entire family and provides
another way to enjoy the festivities of the Christmas season.
Families usually don't have to venture too far from their home to enjoy a
Christmas play or concert. That's because amateur actors, singers and budding
musicians in their neighborhood will usually take part in several Christmas
performances for local residents. These amateur but entertaining events can be
found at local schools, churches or at a community theater or performance
center.
It's very popular for those groups to stage performances of the Nativity story,
or other Christmas related works such as 'A Christmas Carol.' churches and
school groups may even have a complete concert series that includes a
fulllength production of a play along with choirs, soloists and the band
singing Christmas carols and other Christmas songs.
What makes local Christmas performances special is that members of the
community and maybe even of your own household  can be among the entertainers.
It is therefore special to see familiar faces doing something interesting and
different. For those who are budget-conscious, the performances are usually
priced to be very affordable, therefore offering an economic incentive to go
out and have an enjoyable afternoon or evening.
Those people who are lovers of the arts and who are more interested in seeing a
professional performance will likely also have a professional theatrical company
within reasonable proximity of their residence. Professional groups may also
perform Christmas classics such as 'A Christmas Carol' or they may do another
dramatic production from the works of other playwrights.
Music lovers also have a variety of performances to enjoy at Christmas time.
While one can always catch various groups singing carols in downtown areas or
at malls, there are other places to hear rich, melodious performances of
Christmas music. These include concerts by acclaimed or recognized
conservatories, orchestras, symphonies and renowned choir groups. The beauty of
hearing Christmas music by these groups is in the accompaniment of instruments
and the harmonious blending of voices, which all happens in a venue that has
acoustic features to optimize the auditory pleasure of the performances. The
different components that together make the whole performance offers a richer
quality to Christmas songs and carols that may be described as 'sounding
heavenly.' Another popular artistic performance that is popular during the
Christmas season is classical dance in the form of ballet, and particularly the
performance of the 'Nutcracker' ballet. With music written by Tchaikovsky, the
story is about a young girl who has a dream on Christmas Eve of a Nutcracker
Prince and a fierce battle with a Mouse King that has seven heads. After a
fierce battle between the Nutcracker, who leads an army of toy soldiers, and
the Mouse King who leads an army of mice, the Nutcracker is captured. But the
little girl throws her slipper at the Mouse King, hits him in the head and
kills him. In the end, the Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes the little
girl to the magical and enchanting Land of Snow with dancing snowflakes and the
Land of Sweets with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Attending Christmas plays, concerts or
musical performances serves the basic purpose of providing enjoyment, but it can
also help young people, and even adults, to develop an appreciation for the
arts. Seeing different variations and the creativity in performances of
Christmas plays, as well as hearing different renditions of Christmas songs,
can be the first exposure that leads to a lifelong love of the arts and maybe a
dream to pursue a career in the arts.

31. Christmas Music

Christmas music in the form of carols, songs stringed or instrumental
renditions, is constantly heard during the Christmas season. Music forms the
background against which everything else takes place to make the Christmas
season different from all others. Christmas music plays such a significant role
that during the entire season, other popular music temporarily disappears from
radio. That may be the reason for all the different types of Christmas music
sacred, secular, popular and traditional -- that have emerged throughout the
years.
Popular and secular renditions of Christmas music has been developed by musical
artists and performers who 'make over' classic styles of Christmas music with
their own personal touch. One reason for popular make overs of Christmas music
may be because regular popular music is not heard during the holiday season so
pop musicians and artists do Christmas music to keep their voices always in
earshot of their fans and the general audience. It could also be that they want
to capitalize on the popularity of Christmas music.
Whatever the reason, it has become a trend for popular musical artists to
release new Christmas or holiday music albums during the season. Since variety
is the spice of life, it means there are more variations of secular, sacred,
classical or traditional and popular renditions of Christmas music that can be
heard.
Music at Christmas time is important to create the right mood. The prevalence
of Christmas music is what helps to create the special holiday type of feeling
or spirit that is present everywhere and among everyone. Everyone has
particular Christmas songs and carols that are favorites, maybe for the melody,
the lyrics or because they are reminders of special memories.
The most popular Christmas song is said to be 'White Christmas,' which is
popular even in warm and tropical climates where people sing of 'dreaming of a
White Christmas,' which in reality they would not want. Other popular Christmas
songs and carols are: Away in a Manger, which tells the Nativity story in song;
O Holy Night, Silent Night, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels and Angels
we have Heard on High. All of those songs are sacred and are all about the story
of Jesus' birth. Of note also is Handel's majestic 'Hallelujah Chorus,' which is
a favorite that choirs like to sing because of the splendor embodied in the
music. Nat King Cole's 'Chestnut Roasting On an Open Fire' is a classical
favorite. It defies categorization as it isn't sacred but is also not
considered secular like a song such as 'Sleigh Ride.' Among secular Christmas
songs, there are also funny ones such as 'I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the Mistletoe Last Night' and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The
availability of a wide Christmas music selection makes it possible to choose
ones for different occasions, such as for general use at home, for a fun or
informal party or for a formal dinner. As an example, selections can be made to
create the right mood at the start of a party, followed by more lively music
when the party is in full swing, and then selections to slow down the pace when
the party is nearing its end. It's also important to note that professional
groups such as choirs, symphonies and orchestras will also record performances
of Christmas music on albums. For the very serious and critical music
aficionados, these albums will provide wonderful listening pleasure and also
make good Christmas presents. Listening to music from those groups is also a
way of enjoying their performances if doesn't get the opportunity to attend a
live concert by the professional group. Whatever selections of Christmas music
are made however, it's likely that it will create a festive mood and spirit
among all who hear or are listening to the music.

32. Holiday Parties at Work

During Christmas and the holiday season, the festive spirit and relaxed mood
even extends into the workplace where the pace is likely to slow considerably
as the volume of work is lessened. By having parties at work, everyone can
unwind a bit, have some fun and enjoy the satisfaction from the results of a
year of hard work. Colleagues at work can celebrate goals that have been
accomplished and look forward to an even more rewarding year.
Parties at work during Christmas and the holidays may include a voluntary gift
exchange and individuals have to make a decision whether or not they will
participate in it. In a situation where an individual may not know other
colleagues very well and is unsure what Christmas present to give, it may be
better to opt out of exchanging gifts. If the party and gift exchange is among
a fairly large group, such as company-wide or of several departments, it may
not be noticed if someone doesn't participate in the gift exchange. If it's a
small group however, it is likely to be noticed. To eliminate the possibility
of any negative talk regarding non-participation, it would likely be better to
be among those agreeing to exchange gifts.
A basic thing to remember in selecting gifts for Christmas gift exchanges at
work, which are usually called Secret Santa, is to not choose anything that
could be considered inappropriate or offensive. Although the sender won't be
revealed, it won't leave a good feeling and it will become the topic of
conversation among everyone.
Separate from the 'Secret Santa' Christmas gift exchange at work, it may also
be a good gesture to give Christmas presents, which can be small tokens or even
just candies or treats, to colleagues in a division or department if you are the
respective leader or manager. Such a gesture shows thoughtfulness and that the
work of individuals has been appreciated. It will be a good note on which to
end the year and to start a new one.
Another important thing to observe during Christmas parties at work is good
behavior that is considered casual but still business-like. Although there will
be much fun and laughter, it will still be occurring within a work environment
or within the parameters of work. So, individuals will still be observed by
their colleagues. It is of utmost importance to be careful about how much
drinking is done, or how much alcohol is consumed, because drunken or any
offensive behavior will not be tolerated and could have negative repercussions
on one's career.
The consideration of good etiquette is also something to be remembered and
observed at holiday parties at work. As examples, talking and laughing with
food in one's mouth, emptying a platter of delicious hors d'ouevres or bagging
candies, cookies or treats to take home are all considered poor etiquette. A
Christmas party at work can also provide an opportunity to have a brief
conversation with supervisors, managers and other company officials whom one
may not come in contact with frequently. It can be the ideal time to leave a
good impression on a key decision maker. By introducing yourself and striking
up a conversation, it is also putting a face to a name or making yourself known
and standing out among fellow colleagues. For those who are strivers and who
want to advance such interactions at work holiday and Christmas parties can be
beneficial and advantageous.
It's therefore important to keep in mind that while Christmas parties at work
are fun, there are still ways to inconspicuously seek some benefit while you
laugh and enjoy a break from the stress, competitiveness and daily routine of
work.

33. Holiday Parties at Home

It can be very satisfying to cater to friends, families and loved ones during
the Christmas holidays. Taking the time to share food, fun and laughter in a
happy, jovial manner truly embraces the spirit of Christmas.
In deciding to have a party at home, one of the first things to consider is
whether it will be formal or informal. Among the key things that need to be
considered are the number of people to attend, the menu, the preparation of
food and arrangement of decoration that is attractive and has themes for the
holidays. It's also important to make a note of how much, if any, help will be
available from friends or family members.
A formal Christmas party likely would include a small number of people not more
than 12 and likely fewer -- who would be seated at a table for the duration of
the meal. It means that place settings and seating have to be done and a
decision made on whether the meal will be a three- or four-course dinner.
The advantage of a formal dinner is that it is very organized, it has a known
content and everyone around the table usually engages in pleasant conversation.
It also usually provides a good opportunity to get to know and hear from
everyone present without having to initiate any small talk, which some people
are not comfortable doing.
As the host of a formal dinner, you will also have the responsibility of
keeping the meal flowing smoothly by having each course brought out at the
perfect timing and to also be aware of any special needs that a guest may have.
In contrast, an informal Christmas party at home is organized in a different
manner and does not have the predictability of a formal one. The fun and
festive spirit of an informal holiday party comes from groups of people who
mill around, move about freely to have conversations, laugh and enjoy munching
on Christmas treats, goodies and other foods. Despite the easy, fun-filled
atmosphere, it is necessary to plan the use of space and to think about the
area that people will use or wander around. Making such a plan will facilitate
contact between partygoers so that the party spirit will pervade everywhere and
put participants in a livelier mood. Another consideration to make for an
informal Christmas party among friends and family is if children will be
present and about their ages, if they are allowed to attend. Children, even
older ones, always need careful supervision. If children are going to attend a
holiday party at home, arrangements should be made for adequate supervision of
them and special activities should also be provided that can occupy their
attention. An important feature that must be a part of a festive Christmas
party at home is the right mix of music. In selecting Christmas music,
consideration should be given to what will be played at the start of the party
as guests are welcomed and introduced to each other, the songs that can be
played later to inject or enhance liveliness and later to create the right mood
as the partygoers bid farewell with 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.' Along
with the music, Christmas decorations and even the food can also help to enliven
a Christmas party at home. Food that is interesting because it looks 'pretty'
due to the color palette of items, infuses a mellow feeling among guests and
adds an intangible element to the level of enjoyment and excitement of the
partygoers. Christmas parties at home can also be personalized with special
cookies, treats and dishes that are ethnic. The presence of some ethnic food,
but not an overwhelming quantity, which isn't frequently enjoyed by guests will
be different and will add something that is unique to the host. And that is a
part of what a Christmas or holiday party at home is about. It's to entertain
family, friends and acquaintances with a personal style while all enjoy some
merriment in the season of goodwill and good cheer.

34. Christmas Games and other Fun Activities

Maybe no other single activity really embraces camaraderie, playfulness and
fierce but friendly competition as heartily participating in playing indoor
games with friends and family. Christmas games does all those things but also
serves the purpose of bringing friends and family together to interact directly
with each other in a competitive and happy way. Participating in Christmas games
is another way of sharing, but it is also doing something tangible to get into
the festive, jolly and relaxed mode for the holidays. Otherwise, its easy to
get caught up in all the preparation and shopping and become ridden with
anxiety. Here are some holiday and Christmas games that will cause fierce but
friendly competition and leave everyone in a jolly mood. For the 'Gift Wrap'
game, items needed will be small gifts, wrapping paper, scotch tape and music
that can be turned on and off at will. Each gift item is wrapped in several
layers of paper. The number of layers used will depend on the duration you want
the game to last. A gift is given to the group which should start passing around
the gift when the music starts. Whenever the music stops, whoever has the gift
should remove one layer of gift wrap. This continues until the last layer of
paper is removed. Whoever has the gift unwrapped gets to keep it.   The items
needed for the 'Sock Guessing' Christmas game are two or three thick new
thermal socks, items used or seen during Christmas, pens, pencils and paper.
Each sock is stuffed with 20-25 items that are used or seen during the
Christmas season. These can be useful items such as scotch tape, ornaments,
decorations etc. Each sock should have the same items and the opening should be
tied with a ribbon so the contents inside aren't visible. The socks are then
passed around for each person to try to feel and guess the items then write
down what they think is in the sock. The person with the most correct guesses
of objects is the winner and can be awarded a separate special gift or token.
The 'Gift Grab Card Game' needs two deck of cards and a few small Christmas
gifts that are wrapped to look very interesting and enticing. One deck of cards
is passed out one at a time to guests. Each should have an equal number of cards
from the deck. The gifts are then placed in the center of the group. Someone
then calls out cards from the second deck. Whoever has an identical card gets
to choose a gift. When all the gifts are taken, everyone can steal gifts from
each other until the deck is finished and those with gifts get to open and keep
them as prizes. The fun increases when the stealing begins because everyone will
have different ideas about which gift looks interesting and try to hang onto it
by stealing it over and over if it is stolen. Some people will also try to
disguise the fact they have a gift, although they should be kept in sight. A
children's Christmas game is 'Pin the Nose on the Reindeer,' which is the
Christmas game version of 'Pin the tail on the Donkey.' The items needed are a
drawing of a reindeer's head with an incomplete drawing of the nose and several
noses with the names on one side and tape on the other. The picture should be
placed against a wall so that children can reach the nose. Each child then gets
a nose. They take turns being blindfolded spun around a couple times to
disorient them a little then told to walk to the reindeer and place the nose on
the picture. The child who places the nose closes to the reindeer's nose wins. A
delightful Christmas game for work is the 'Match the Desk to the Item' game. A
day or so before the Christmas party at work, someone needs to secretly take
one item from each person's desk and assign a number to each item. At the
party, all the items are displayed for everyone to guess whose desk the item
belongs to.

35. Christmas Decorations

The various types of decoration used at Christmas are what gives a pretty and
sparkling look, and what puts some splendor into the season. The Christmas tree
with its myriad decorations is a standard and central decorative element of
Christmas. But the presence of the Christmas tree is also enhanced by
decorations such as wreaths, garlands, lights and figurines.
Wreaths have a round or circular shape and are often used as the decorative
piece on the front of a door. Variations of wreaths include berry, grapevine,
poinsettia and snow. The berry wreath will have individual and small clusters
of red berries, holly leaves with features like a gold tint, pine cones and
needle styles. A grapevine wreath has a vine-like look and may have pine sprigs
and clusters of red berry. Poinsettia wreaths showcase leaves that are red or
different shades of red, and may have glittered fruits such as pear, apple and
grape clusters throughout its structure. Based on the size of a poinsettia
wreath, it may also have large or small pine cones, pine sprigs and holly
leaves. And then there are snow wreaths that have an icy look from pine cones
that are sprinkled or covered with snow and which are scattered throughout the
wreath.
Garlands are primarily used to decorate stairways, banisters and mantels.
Garlands also have variations such as those that have a lighted Christmas tree
look with twinkling lights and tiny ornaments or tinsel to sparkle. Others such
as a mixed needle lighted garland would have branches of wide and thin pine
needle and Christmas lights.
Christmas lights come in various forms and are also used in numerous ways to
make homes and business places shine and sparkle during the holidays. Christmas
lights may be colored or plain, may or may not twinkle, and may be
single-stringed or have multiple strings to be hung to create a look like
icicles, which makes them very flexible in how they can be used.
To beautify houses during the Christmas season, Christmas lights may be strung
around the roof line, in shrubs, placed at windows to form different patterns
and placed on patios or porches to hang as icicles. Lighted candles are also
used in windows to make them visually appealing.
Another type of lighted decoration seen during Christmas is in the form of
figures that are placed on lawns. It's a matter of personal taste that decides
how many figures to place on lawns, whether a lot or a few pieces or sometimes
just a single one may be attractive enough. Christmas trees are the standard
decorative elements that are mandatory during the season. They may be real or
artificial and can be placed inside or outside. If placed outside, they should
be lighted and also in a sufficiently lit but subdued lighted area to maximize
their visual beauty. Christmas trees are wonderful to decorate because the
entire family can participate in the decorative process by placing the
ornaments, baubles, lights and tinsel on the tree. Some ornaments may even be
personal, such as hand-made items or treasured keepsake mementos. When these
are placed on the tree every year, it can become a tradition that is kept in
the family and which creates a special memory as each Christmas comes around.
Poinsettia flowers, with their flaming red leaves, are also a staple decoration
at Christmas time. They can be placed wherever it's suitable to place plants.
Poinsettias are commonly used around offices in general and personal work
spaces during the Christmas season.
If there's snow and a lucky 'White Christmas,' especially on Christmas Day,
then it's worth it to bundle up and with the children jump into the snow to
make a 'Frosty Snowman.' While a smiling snowman on a lawn is a temporary
decorative feature during Christmas, it's always a surprise and delight because
it means that children were out playing in the snow and having fun.
Given the many types, variations and ways in which Christmas decorations can be
used, everyone can have some pleasure and be creative in arranging some form of
Christmas decoration to add their own sparkle and twinkle to the holidays.

36. Decorating Strategies At Christmas

With so much decorative choice at Christmas, a strategy is needed to ensure
that whatever is done looks organized, well arranged and beautiful, and not
haphazard and disorganized. By doing some basic or traditional decoration,
along with trying creative and different ideas, a beautiful and pleasing
decorative environment can be created in all homes.
Traditional decorating ideas include using wreaths for doors or entranceways
and on a wall with unobstructed view. Garlands can be placed along surface
where they can be hung vertically or horizontally. And Christmas lights can be
used by itself or with garlands, in shrubs and of course on Christmas trees.
Using Christmas lights outdoors along the frame of houses and icicle shaped
ones to decorate the roof lines of homes have become very popular. Icicle
lights are just as easy as regular lights to put in place and they create a
very pleasing display for the holiday season. Adding color to these outdoor
light displays can also make houses and the lighting display look more
spectacular.
For indoor lighting, candles have become an attractive Christmas decorative
item as they can light up the night in a subdued but beautiful manner. Candles
create a pleasing look when displayed at windows if there are at least two sets
of two or three windows directly above each other, which is in a vertical
pattern. New technologies with candles have also made them safer to use. There
are electrical candles but also battery-operated ones that can be used safely
instead of electrical ones or in places where there aren't any electrical
outlets.
There are also creative ways to use and incorporate various items around the
home to make Christmas decorations. Christmas or holiday ribbons can be used to
make bows that are pinned onto curtains to provide a festive look and a creative
Christmas decoration. Like curtains, houseplants can also be dressed up for the
holidays. Small Christmas ornaments can be gently placed on houseplants to give
porches, patios and front lawns a surprising Christmas decorative look.
Although many people don't use Christmas stockings anymore to stuff Christmas
gifts, they can still be used to create perfect Christmas decorations. A
collection of Christmas stockings can be hung on the mantle, shelf or a wall
with or without anything inside them. They will look just as beautiful as those
that are often seen in stores.
Christmas lights can also be wrapped along with garlands on a banister or stair
railing to add a twinkling Christmas look. Mistletoe can also be hung just about
anywhere with or without Christmas lights. If the tale about mistletoe is
believed however, then it should be hung somewhere with room underneath where
two people can have a friendly holiday kiss or even a hug. Fake snow can also
be sprinkled on garlands, mistletoes and wreaths to further enhance their
appearance with something from the Christmas season. And to borrow a decorative
feature from department stores, several differently sized boxes can be wrapped,
piled in a haphazard manner and placed in a corner from floor to ceiling to
make a gift pillar decoration. Old Christmas cards can also be used for
decoration by cutting pictures from them to make a collage. The pictures are
then glued onto a poster board that can be framed or hung as is on a wall as
Christmas decoration. Even Christmas cookie cutters can be put to an easy,
simple and creative use as a decorative item at Christmas time. A ribbon can be
used to string two or three or even single cookie cutters that can be placed on
the Christmas tree or at a window as decorative ornaments. Any home can
therefore be decorated to be appealing for Christmas and the holidays, given
the many ideas and ways that Christmas decoration can be done.

37. Christmas Lights

It's only fitting, perhaps, that along with the magic of Santa Claus at
Christmas, holiday and Christmas lights also came about through the work of a
wizard -- the Wizard of Menlo Park in New Jersey -- as Thomas Edison was called.
It was Edison who first developed and demonstrated an incandescent electric
light bulb in 1879 that had commercial potential, an event that led the way for
the mass use of electricity and lights on Christmas tree as used today.
Before the discovery and use of electricity, candles were used to light
Christmas trees. That practice evolved into having glass covers with candles
inside them or metal lanterns that had small wicks. These were hung like
ornaments on Christmas trees. But even after Edison invented the incandescent
electric light bulb, it took many years before the large-scale manufacture of
Christmas tree lights were available commercially.
It is said that the idea of Christmas lights came from one of Edison's
assistants, Edward Johnson. In 1882, Johnson had Christmas tree bulbs made
specially for him. He displayed these electric bulbs on his Christmas tree at
his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City and it drew widespread attention. But
Christmas tree lights underwent many changes and improvement before General
Electric Co. introduced Christmas lights on a commercial scale. As an example,
among the earlier lights used on Christmas trees were night-lights that were
strung together to make light strings. After the commercial introduction of
Christmas lights, sales and wide-scale use of them soared. Decorative
mini-lights to be used for Christmas tree lighting were introduced in the
1970s. Since then, they have continued to be popular and are the dominant types
of Christmas tree lights in the marketplace. Before that, icicle lights were
introduced as decoration for rooflines. Those decorative lights are the most
popular ones used for outdoor landscape lighting during the holidays. Outdoor
decorative lighting has evolved from Christmas tree lighting to also become a
popular way to use colorful lighting during the holidays to create spectacular
scenes. Another development in decorative lighting at Christmas time is the use
of candles. Real candles can be used, but electric candles became more popular
and safer because they present less threat of a fire hazard. Today that threat
has also decreased with the development of flameless battery candles. The
battery operation also makes their use more flexible because they can be placed
in areas where there aren't electrical outlets. Candles are usually displayed at
several windows of a house during the holidays. They produce an appealing look
especially if there are at least two sets of three windows each other where
they can be placed. Battery-operated candles can also be used during Christmas
and the holidays for other activities such as caroling, church services, school
activities and for other holiday arrangements around the home. As Christmas
lights have become a mandatory feature of the holidays, they are continually
being used in new ways that differ considerably from their early beginnings.
Outdoor lighting is now just as common as indoor lighting and that is an area
in which a change in the use of holiday lighting can be seen. Along with icicle
lights that illuminate rooflines and frames of houses, there are also lights
that are placed in shrubs. Holiday lighting also comes in the shape of trees
and other ornaments that can be placed on lawn to enhance the visual appeal
during the holidays. Many lawns are landscaped by lighting during Christmas and
the holiday season with lighted figurines and various other items associated
with the season. In some communities, entire blocks of streets will have such
elaborate holiday lawn lighting that they attract passersby and even tourists -
residents from elsewhere -- who are captivated by the spectacular visual displays
of the landscaped holiday lighting.

38. Christmas Carols

The tradition of caroling and Christmas carols is believed to have originated
in England when wandering musicians would go from town to town and visit
castles and other homes of the rich to give impromptu performances. But there
also is the belief that singing carols at Christmas likely came from the group
of angels, shepherds and Wise Men who visited Jesus at his birth, because they
worshiped the holy child, sang and proclaim praises unto Him. And after their
visit, they continued their proclamations in the street. The origin of the word
carol however, is thought to come from the word 'caroller,' which is a French
word that describes a circle dance with singers. And from the twelfth through
the fourteenth centuries, the carol was highly popular as a dance song. The use
of carols then evolved to festivals where they were sung as processional songs
and others were used as part of religious mystery plays in Europe. Some
traditional qualities of a carol was that the words expressed should celebrate
a topic that was seasonal, have verses and a chorus arranged alternately and
have music that was suitable for dancing. Although many of the carols that are
now popular at Christmas time are very old, there are others from earlier times
that didn't survive. During the 17th century when the Protestants, led by Oliver
Cromwell were in power in England, many Christmas caros were banned and
consequently some were never heard again. The Christmas carols that survived
the Protestant Reformation period didn't become very popular again until the
mid-19th century to the start of the 20th century. Many of the Christmas carols
that were banned, and early Christmas carols in general, had lyrics that
expressed joyous and merry themes instead of the serious somber words found in
church hymns. During the time when carols were banned, some composers and
musicians wrote non-religious songs that had highly varied choral music, which
they called carols, for Christmas. After Christmas carols again became popular,
many of those songs were re-arranged with new Christian lyrics and used by the
church. Making changes to Christmas carols continues in a different way today
with pop artistes singing the carols to different tunes and melodies to give
them a style that characterizes the particular artiste. Having Christmas carols
with tunes of contemporary or popular music of today means that they are also
more likely to survive because younger listeners will be interested in hearing
any music that is done by their favorite or other popular singers. The
popularity of Christmas carols in the United States increased in the 19th
century, as it did in England, because many of the traditions related to
Christmas came to the United States from England. The United States and England
also have closely linked religious observances, which also accounts for the
popularity and similarity of Christmas carols that are enjoyed in both
countries. Today, radio stations are the first to play Christmas carols,
usually starting toward mid-November, to signal the coming season. At the start
of December when the Christmas season official begins, mall stores and other
retail establishments will begin to pipe Christmas carols and songs through
their places of business. The singing of carols at churches, schools, and by
groups performing at malls usually will be a common sight starting in early to
mid-December. Carol singing as a part of Nativity plays and concerts at
churches and schools is usually in full swing by mid-December as the Christmas
season gets into high gear and the countdown to Christmas Day begins. Whether
it's the traditional tune or popular makeovers of Christmas carols that you
enjoy, listening to them is part of an old Christmas tradition. And any version
of a Christmas carol that is played will serve the purpose of putting you in a
festive mood for Christmas that you may even want to dance, just like the music
of original carols was meant to do.

39. Gift-giving At Christmas

The real meaning of Christmas is often expressed as being about giving to
others during the season. Giving can take many forms, but during the Christmas
season the most obvious way in which giving is done is by preparing beautifully
wrapped Christmas presents for family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues,
teachers and others such as business clients.
The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is believed to have started with the
Three Wise Men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But the
practice of giving gifts as is common today, evolved from a retail strategy
that involved Santa Claus and attracting children into stores. For that reason,
giving gifts at Christmas and during the holidays has been centered on children.
Giving gifts during Christmas started in the early 19th century when the
celebration of Christmas was restored after a period when the Protestants in
England banned Christmas celebrations. In 1820 to 1840 when Christmas
celebrations regained popularity, stores started to advertise special Christmas
shopping promotions. At the same time, newspapers also created advertising
sections solely for holiday shopping advertisements. These special advertising
sections had prominent displays of Santa Claus. In 1841 when a store in
Philadelphia had a life-size model of Santa Claus, hundreds of children turned
up to get a look at Santa Claus, which had become a new and popular element of
revitalized Christmas celebrations. The interest in seeing Santa Claus provided
a marketing idea to retailers that they could attract children and parents to
stores through offers to have a look at a 'real' or 'live' Santa Claus. Because
of that marketing strategy to attract children during Christmas, the focus was
therefore to give Christmas presents to children. Today, gift-giving is still
focused on children, but adults are as much popular recipients as children.
Within families, the focus on children is evident in the fact that an
individual child will get more gifts than any other individual adult member of
the family. For young children, who are particularly delighted and enchanted by
the holidays and Christmas festivities, toys are usually the gift given. Among
older children, clothes and electronic gadgets are popular items to give as
Christmas gifts. Adults are the ones however, for whom there is the widest
range of items that can be given as Christmas presents. An item that will make
a good Christmas or holiday present to just about any adult is a decadent box
of chocolate or holiday cookies. This is enjoyed even by those who are
diet-conscious because, they can be sugar- and, or, fat-free or also low in
carbohydrates. At Christmas time also, many people tend to temporarily
disregard any strict diet rules that they are following and so they welcome and
enjoy any type of Christmas treats heartily. According to a survey done in 2004
by the National Confectioners Association, 90 percent of 1,000 adults who were
surveyed responded that giving or receiving a box of chocolates and creating or
receiving a stocking filled with goodies were among the top three ways they
enjoyed candy during the winter holidays. A third way was having candy that was
placed in a dish, which indicates that having sweet treats at Christmas time is
generally enjoyed by a broad cross-section of people. Aside from family members
and friends, it may also be a nice gesture to give a holiday or Christmas
present to colleagues at work, teachers of your children and based on your
profession, to business clients. The primary reason to give any of those
categories of people holiday or Christmas gifts is likely to express
appreciation. For that reason, a holiday present of goodies or treats would
indeed be a sweet gift to give.

40. Different Types of Christmas Trees

The tradition of Christmas trees in America came from German immigrants who had
settled in Pennsylvania. It is believed that the tradition of Christmas trees
started in Germany from as early as 700 A.D and was practiced by many Germans
in the 1800s. It's also since that period that Christmas trees have also been
available for sale in the United States. While artificial Christmas trees are
popular, many people like to have a fresh Christmas tree in their homes, or
outside on their lawns. And similar to all other trees, Christmas trees also
have different shapes and qualities that make some types more popular than
others.
Along with other decorative Christmas items such as wreaths and garlands,
having a Christmas tree in your home is very essential in creating a special
atmosphere for the season. It is believed that Christmas trees have been
available for sale in America since the 1800s, which is about the same time
that the former Woolworth's department store started selling ready-made
ornaments for Christmas trees.
Choosing the right type of Christmas tree is important because Christmas trees
are often a focal point for many family activities and traditions. Given the
many types of Christmas trees that are available, it is important to think
about how the tree will be used. While a tall tree may look very elegant, it
may not be suitable if there aren't many adults around who can reach the tree's
heights. And a very short tree may be dwarfed by other furniture in the room.
It's therefore very important to carefully consider and get a tree that has a
suitable height and also one that has sturdy branches to hold heavy ornaments.
Artificial and real Christmas trees can often be bought from the same retail
stores these days as local businesses and retail chain stores often sell both
types of trees. The best place to get a real and fresh Christmas tree, and also
to see a wide variety, is likely a Christmas tree farm however. Using modern
technology, both types of trees can also be obtained through online
transactions, via telephone as well as by mail-order through catalogs.
Among Christmas trees there are certain types that are always favorites and
which are bestsellers. These include: Douglas, Fraser, Noble and Balsam firs,
and Scotch, Virginia and white pine trees.
These evergreen trees all have all have one or more excellent features related
to shape, color or sheen and fragrance, which makes them favorites for
Christmas trees.
The most favorite Christmas trees basically have a pyramid or cone shape. A
pyramid-shaped tree is likely taller and has somewhat of an elegant look.
Douglas Fir, which ranks first among Christmas tree favorites, is an example of
a pyramid-shaped tree. Other examples are Fraser, Balsam and Noble firs. A cone
shape tree tends to be short with dense branches, which makes them excellent
for holding many ornaments and other decorations. Families that have a strong
tradition of making their own ornaments, or putting mememtos on Christmas trees
may consider a cone-shaped tree. Virginia and Scotch Pines, Norway Spruce and
the Eastern White Pine all have cone shapes.
Another feature that makes Christmas trees appealing is their color. While all
trees have a green appearance, a closer look at their needles will reveal
differences such as a bright or dark-green, bluegreen or yellowish-green hue.
The needles may also emit a silvery sheen with the right lighting. Fraser and
Noble firs both have needles with a silvery sheen, and the branches of both
trees are also used for garlands and wreaths. Most people choose a fresh
Christmas tree for its fragrance, which can be fairly strong or just subtle,
giving off just enough of a whiff of scent. Douglas Fir, which is the most
popular Christmas tree in homes and public places, is a very fragrant tree. The
Balsam fir is also fairly fragrant. The Eastern White Pine is however, a tree
that doesn't have much fragrance. Whether you have a favorite type of Christmas
tree or will choose one from its appearance, there are many choices to satisfy
the desire to have a fragrant and well-decorated tree for Christmas.

41. Selection of Christmas Trees

Given the many types of Christmas trees available and the various ways in which
they can be bought, it's important to know certain qualities that a Christmas
tree should have so that it will be suitable for decorating and will also last
through the season.
One of the most important qualities a Christmas tree should have is freshness.
This makes buying a tree from a Christmas Tree Farm the best option because you
will observe the tree being cut at the time it is purchased. If a tree is bought
elsewhere, such as from a retail lot, it is important to find out where the tree
came from and when it was cut. To determine the freshness of a tree, observe
whether it looks green and healthy, has a fragrant scent and has needles that
are moist and flexible. If the needles appear dry or show browning, then that
is a sign the tree isn't very fresh. If a large amount of green needles fall
when a few branches of the tree are shaken, that's also a sign that the tree
isn't the best one to buy to last for the entire season. The needles of fir
trees should break crisply when they are bent. If a fir tree needle is bent and
doesn't break readily with pressure, it might mean that the tree isn't absorbing
water and that will affect its longevity. Another reason a Christmas tree farm
can be a better option for purchasing a Christmas tree is that it will be more
likely to offer more species of trees and therefore a wider variety of shapes
and sizes. For those Christmas trees that are located on retail or other
commercial lots, freshness can be determined by looking at the conditions in
which the trees are kept. Observe whether the trees are kept in stands that
hold water, if baled trees are protected from the wind and sun, if a fresh cut
is put on trees and if the trees are tied down correctly. Another quality to
consider in selecting the right Christmas tree is its size. Before buying a
tree, its important to decide where it will be placed so that the space can be
measured. You will need to do a floor to ceiling measurement and then subtract
at least 10-12 inches to get the maximum height for the Christmas tree. It is
recommended that at least 10-12 inches of space should be between the top of
the Christmas tree and the ceiling. The bottom of the Christmas tree also needs
to be checked to make sure there is adequate space between the end of it and the
lowest branches. A small diagonal fresh cut, such as an inch, is made in that
area to enhance absorption of water, which will make the tree last longer. This
cut should be made just before the tree is placed in water. If a fresh cut is
done and the tree is exposed to the air too long, the vessels can become
blocked. Along with freshness and size, a tree should be selected based on the
shape that you like, the smell of the needles and bark and on how dense and
sturdy the branches are. For the density and sturdiness of the tree, you need
to have an idea how the tree will be decorated -- how many heavy ornaments,
Christmas lights or bows will be used. As an example, a fir tree that has
sturdy branches will be better for holding heavy ornaments and a pine tree is
good for Christmas trees that have light decorations such as bows and a string
of Christmas lights.
The texture of the branches and how durable or long-lasting the tree will be
are also worth considering in choosing a perfect Christmas tree.

42. Effortless Christmas Tree Decoration

The decoration of Christmas trees has evolved and undergone many changes, much
like many of the early traditions of the Christmas season. Christmas tree
lighting that started out with real candles underwent probably the biggest
change when electric light became commercially available and special Christmas
tree lights were manufactured. It is therefore not surprising that today you
can set up Christmas trees that are expertly decorated with little or no effort.
While many people choose a fresh Christmas tree for its scent, many others
simply want a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and will choose an
artificial or man-made tree. Artificial trees have been available in America
since the start of the 20th century. Many artificial trees are made to have a
similar appearance like real Christmas trees, but changes have been made to
them to make them decorative and different from regular Christmas trees.
As an example, in the 1950s some artificial Christmas trees had branches made
of aluminum-coated paper to give them a shiny metallic look. For those who like
to have a Christmas tree with a unique look, trees with a similar shiny,
metallic appearance are available today. They are however made with a different
material because the older trees were a fire hazard.
For the those people who are very busy and don't have the time to spend
carefully placing Christmas lights on trees, there are several pre-lit models
of Christmas trees on the market today. A standard type of these Christmas
trees look like their real counterparts except multi-colored fiber-optic lights
can be found scattered throughout the limbs and branches of these trees. This
arrangement saves
time and effort of having to undo or untangle strings of Christmas tree lights.
Another type of pre-lit artificial Christmas tree are those that are made
completely of fiber optics so that the tree appears to be shaped out of strands
of light that are wispy. Some of these brightly-lit fiber-optic trees also come
equipped with pre-recorded Christmas songs and carols and speakers to give the
added pleasure of music.
Many pre-lit Christmas trees have electric Christmas tree lights however which
need to be plugged into a real electrical outlet. The advantage of these trees
is that the lights are already strung on them from the factory and you need
only to follow the instructions about how to assemble the tree and plug in the
different parts for it to appear lighted. Once this is done correctly, the tree
will look as if it was decorated with lights manually or professionally. Another
ready-made decorative feature of artificial Christmas trees is to have the
appearance of snow-covered branches. That trend is an evolution of faux snow
that is often sprinkled in garlands and wreaths to add a Christmas quality to
those decorations. Icicle ornaments are also used to decorate real and
artificial trees and icicle lights are commonly used along rooflines and
outdoor areas for additional lighting decoration. These decorations, along with
the ready-made snow-covered branches of artificial trees, all convey the frosty,
icy and cold feel of the winter season when Christmas occurs.
Christmas trees that arrive from the factory with lights also have decorations
such as apples and minute red berries to provide additional color, and real
pinecones that may or may not be frosted or sprinkled with faux snow. They may
also be pre-decorated with red or gold bows, round ornaments, flowerlike
patterns, dried bow and twigs and gold frosted branch tips. to give an
appealing, sparkling appearance. The trees also have varying hues of green
similar to real Christmas trees.
Pre-lit and pre-decorated Christmas trees are therefore an excellent way to
brighten the holiday in your home and enable you to gain more time to enjoy the
festivities of the season.

43. Care and Disposal of Christmas Trees

Since so much time and effort is put into selecting the perfect Christmas tree,
it follows that similar consideration should also be given to giving the tree
the best possible care. Otherwise, there will be disappointment if needles
start to brown or turn yellow, or branches begin to break with days or weeks to
go before the season is over. Safety is also an important reason to take proper
care of your Christmas tree because a drying Christmas tree also presents a
grave danger as a fire hazard. The average Christmas tree should last for about
five to six weeks if the proper care is given to it.
After selecting a Christmas tree and getting it home, the first thing that
should be done is to make a fresh cut and place it into a stand with water. A
Christmas tree shouldn't be mounted dry and the water in its stand should be
replenished regularly. A fresh cut is made by cutting about an inch off the
bottom in a slight diagonal shape to help the absorption of water. If a fresh
cut isn't going to be made immediately after getting the tree home, it should
be placed in a container with water and left to stand in a shaded area that is
away from the wind. If a fresh cut isn't made and the Christmas tree is left
exposed to air, the vessels for transporting water can become blocked. If this
happens, another fresh cut can correct the problem and the tree would need to
be immediately put in a container with water.
Your Christmas tree should be secure in its stand and it should be placed away
from open flames or sources of heat such as furnaces, fireplaces and air vents,
all of which may dry it out. Decoration of the tree should also begin after it
has been mounted in its stand. Several decoration precautions should be taken
to lessen or avoid the Christmas tree being a fire hazard.
Ornaments that have an open flame or candles should never be used for
decoration. Christmas tree lights should be checked to make sure the bulbs are
working properly, the connections are intact and that no part of the cord is
damaged. If there appears to be any exposed wiring or bulbs that are not
working or which are working intermittently, that string of Christmas tree
lights shouldn't be used.
A good Christmas tree stand should be selected since water is the most
important item to getting the longest life out of your Christmas tree. In
selecting a stand, find out the amount of water it can hold when a tree is
placed in it. Some water will be displaced from the space taken up by the base
of the tree so it is important that a selection is not made based on the total
volume of water the stand can hold. According to the National Christmas Tree
Association, the average Christmas tree may absorb up to one gallon of water
each day. It is therefore important to check the water everyday and replenish
it accordingly. To make sure your Christmas tree gets enough water, the
Association recommends that one quart of water is required for each inch of the
diameter of the tree's trunk. After Christmas is over and your wonderfully
decorated Christmas tree has provided much joy, it is important to remove it
before it dries out. Options to discard your Christmas will likely depend on
the services offered by your municipality. Some municipalities will pick up
Christmas trees on particular days, with a cut-off date. Some towns may require
that residents take their trees to specific locations, while in others Christmas
trees will be picked up with the garbage, again up to a certain date. But
Christmas trees should never be burned in the fireplace as it can cause the
build up of creosote, a colorless, oily substance. There's also the choice that
you can continue to get a different use from your Christmas tree by cutting it
to pieces yourself and be environmentally sensitive by using it for mulch.

44. All About Santa Claus

It's only fitting that since Santa Claus has the magnificent capability to
visit homes around the world in a single night that more than one place would
claim to be his home. It's common belief that Santa hails from the wintry North
Pole, but folks in Finland will also tell you that Santa calls that country his
home. To prove it, the Finns will even invite you to visit Santa in his
workshop before Christmas or during the year and talk with Santa Claus as he
and his elves busy themselves for their end-of-year Christmas expedition around
the globe.
The popularity in America today of the images and legend of Santa Claus can be
traced to the poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,' that was written by
Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. In that poem, Moore described St. Nicholas as a
jolly fellow who flew from house to house in a sleigh pulled by reindeers and
waited for children to go to bed on Christmas Eve before he came down the
chimney to deliver Christmas presents for them. Following the distribution of
that poem, the popular magazine Harper's Weekly published cartoons by Thomas
Nast between 1863 and 1886 that depicted Santa as a cheerful fellow with a
large round belly and long white beard who wore a bright red suit that was
trimmed with white fur. In those cartoons, Santa also held a sack, which was
filled with toys for boys and girls, over his shoulder. The cartoons also
showed Santa reading letters from good boys and girls, working in his workshop
with his elves, checking his list to make sure he had all the required toys and
even showed his wife, Mrs. Claus. The tradition of Santa Claus was brought to
America however by Dutch colonists who settled in New York City, which was
called New Amsterdam at the time. The real St. Nicholas is said to be a minor
saint from the 4th Century with a reputation for generosity and kindness that
gave rise to legends of many miracles that he performed for the poor and
unhappy. One of the stories about the legend of St. Nicholas is that he saved
three poor girls who were sisters from being sold into a life of slavery or
prostitution by their father. According to the legend, Santa Claus provided the
girls with a dowry so that they could get married. The legend of St. Nicholas
led to hundreds of people being devoted to him and consequently thousands of
European churches became dedicated to him. After the Reformation period
however, widespread practice and worship of St. Nicholas disappeared in
European countries that were Protestant, except in Holland where the legend of
St. Nicholas continued. St. Nicholas was known as Sint Nikolaas but that was
later corrupted to Sinter Klaas. Dutch colonists took this tradition of Sinter
Klaas to New York City where it was adopted using the Englist name of Santa
Claus. Over time, the Dutch legend of the kindly saint was combined with old
Nordic folktales about a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded
good ones with presents to give rise to the stories that now exist about Santa
Claus. The red and white-trimmed suit of Santa Claus is believed to be the
colors that the original St. Nicholas worebecause red and white were the colors
of the robes worn by traditional bishops. It is also believed that the Coca Cola
Co. played a role in what is regarded as the popular look of Santa Claus today
through paintings by artist Haddon Sundblom that were placed in some of the
company's advertisement between 1931 and 1964.

45. Favorite Foods of Christmas

Favorite foods enjoyed by Americans for any given holiday, season or special
occasion will likely include some ethnic dish, given the many ethnic groups
that reside in the country. Despite this variety of melting pot cuisine, there
are some similarities in dishes that will be a part of most meals during
celebrations such as Christmas.
Christmas in the United States comes almost one month after another big
holiday, Thanksgiving, in which the traditional meal must consist of a turkey
as the main dish. This dish also carries over into Christmas as roast turkey is
one of the main dishes that may be served for Christmas dinner. But unlike
Thanksgiving, which is solely devoted to turkey meat, Christmas dinners may
also include other birds or poultry. These include roast goose or duck. Roasted
ham may also be served. Cranberry sauce, vegetables, pumpkin pie and a plum
pudding or fruity Christmas pudding for dessert tops off traditional Christmas
dinners. Mince pies and pastry that is filled with a mixture of chopped, dried
fruit may also be added to the menu.
For drinks at Christmas dinner, a bottle of champagne is very popular, as well
as wines. But the everyday beverage of beer is a must for many people to make a
meal truly enjoyable.
Before Christmas Day and the big dinner arrives, there's also another type of
food that Americans enjoy in large quantities during the Christmas season. The
consumption and sales of candies, gingerbread and other cookies and holiday
treats increases rapidly during the holidays. Similar to how department stores
seek to attract shoppers to buy items for Christmas gifts, candy manufacturers
also put out special boxes and types of candies for Christmas and the holiday
season.
A survey done in 2004 by the National Confectioners Association found that many
adults derived much pleasure at Christmas from giving and receiving candies and
other treats. In their responses the survey participants said that giving
decadent boxes of chocolate to friends and family, placing candy canes on the
Christmas tree and hiding candy treats in Christmas stockings were favorite
ways to give and receive candies, cookies and treats during the holidays.
Sweet treats remain popular at Christmas despite a constant message about
dieting that is present in everyday life in the media, in billboards and from
some food manufacturers. At Christmas time, people feel free to enjoy the
festive season without constraints. But they also know that they can enjoy
candies and cookies that are health conscious by eating ones that are targeted
to the low-carb dieter by having ingredients that are sugar-free and fat-free
or both.
Cookies that are enjoyed at Christmas are often home-baked ones and usually
include gingerbread items. The tradition of gingerbread cookies at Christmas is
also believed to have originated in Germany and brought to America by German
immigrants. German bakeries began baking very fancy gingerbread houses with
icing as edible snow and other decorations after the Grimm Brothers published
their children's story, Hansel and Gretel. That story had a description of a
house that was made of bread, a roof of cake and windows of barley. The
popularity of the creations by German bakeries gave rise to cookie cutters that
were made in a variety of shapes, enabling small gingerbread cookies of various
shapes to be baked at home. Some of these cookies that had the shapes of little
people and animals were used to decorate Christmas trees.
More than one hundred years ago from today, German homes in Lancaster County in
Pennsylvania would have cookies that were up to one foot high in the front of
windows of their houses as decorative items during winter. The cookies were
often giant gingerbread men and women that had colorful rows of buttons and big
smiles. Passersby were often cheered and intrigued by the sight and brought the
idea to their homes on a smaller scale.
Being able to enjoy special dishes, candies, cookies and other goodies during
Christmas and the holidays adds a sweet flavor to the season and also helps to
create warm and cherished memories.

46. Travel At Christmas

Because Christmas is a time to be with family, loved ones and friends, it is
one of the busiest times of the year to travel. People locally, to different
regions and to international destinations to share Christmas dinners, exchange
gifts and recall fond memories they have of the season. There's also travel for
entertainment reasons that's done by tourists within the country or from abroad.
And even on Christmas Day, the highways are busy with vehicles as relatives and
friends travel between towns and states to spend the day together.
The massive and rapid shift away from an agrarian society to one of commerce
with the development of cities and suburbs caused family members to move
farther and farther away from each other, therefore making it necessary to
travel by land, air or rail to be together for holidays such as Christmas and
other special occasions. And with some countries being economic powerhouses in
the world, movement of peoples got even farther as they migrated to other
countries to take advantage of better opportunities to improve their lives.
Consequently, air travel has expanded in modern times to take people to
international destinations.
But travel during Christmas and the holidays is not limited to visiting
relatives and friends. Many people travel for entertainment, including families
who are interested in seeing interesting sights at Christmas and enjoying
worldrenowned entertainment that are in faraway places from where they live.
Travel to a destination that is far away, within or outside a country, may only
be done once by a family and that in itself creates a special memory.
Within the United States, it is popular for families and groups of friends to
visit New York City to see the general sights of the city and to shop at
Christmas. Some of these sights are known throughout the country and are
celebrated each Christmas. The annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center
Christmas Tree is an example.
The lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, which is located west
of Fifth Avenue from 47th Street to 51st Street in New York City, has been an
tradition since the time of the Depression. The first tree was placed at the
site in 1931 but it wasn't decorated with any Christmas ornaments. In recent
years, more than 25,000 Christmas lights and other ornaments have been placed
on the tree.
Also in New York City, it is very popular for tourists to travel at Christmas
to see the spectacular Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall with the
signature high-kicking Rockettes. The show is a favorite of both adults and
children as it is very festive, lively and filled with the spirit of Christmas.
Tourists also travel during Christmas to international destinations for
entertainment. Because the Nutcracker Ballet originated in Russia and that
country has worldwide acclaim for some of the most technical and artistic
ballet performers, it is a popular destination at Christmas. The legendary
Tchaikovsky composed the music for the Nutcracker Ballet, which was first
performed in Russia's Mariinsky Theatre that is home to the acclaimed Kirov
Ballet. The story is about a little girl's dream on Christmas Eve about a
beloved Nutcracker toy she received as a present.
Travel to international destinations is also popular at Christmas time to
escape the cold of a 'White Christmas.' For those who do not like the cold but
like to be out and about at Christmas, the alternative is to go somewhere with
a more tropical climate. Travel to destinations in the Caribbean, where
Christmas is robustly celebrated, is popular during the Christmas season.
One of the intriguing places to travel during the Christmas season is to a
place where Santa can be observed. There is such a place in Finland at a
village where Santa Claus has his workshop. Travel to see and possibly talk to
Santa Claus is a delightful adventure for children. But such a trip has to be
made before Christmas Eve when Santa, his elves and reindeers embark on a trip
themselves to every home in the world.

47. The Joy of Toys at Christmas

Although adults like to receive gifts, many will readily forego the pleasure by
sacrificing, if it means a small member of the family will be totally pleased
and delighted with their Christmas gift. Seeing the sparkle of joy in
children's eyes when they receive a toy or other Christmas present certainly
confirms that Christmas is for children. And after all, Santa brings gifts for
all the good little boys and girls, not for moms and dads or other adults.
It was very humorous, as parents once related how on Christmas Day when their
child opened a Christmas gift and was pleased, they pretended to be a bit
saddened that Santa Claus didn't bring them any Christmas present. The child
responded, 'Because you bad mummy and daddy. You make me stand in corner.'
Toys are therefore a significant part of Christmas. Parents go all out for
children, they make the extra effort to give children something really special
such as what the child wishes, desires or longs for. It may be a toy such as a
particular type of doll, a dream dollhouse or an item like a bike or train set,
or motorized vehicle. The fun of getting a toy at Christmas begins earlier for
children as they start to make their wish list and anticipate getting one or
more of what they desire.
For teenagers, the most desired toy may not be a toy in the real sense of the
word. A toy, in today's casual speech, can mean a favorite gadget such as an
ultra-stylish cell phone, an iPod, MP3 player, electronic organizer or even a
computer. Toy sales at Christmas play a major role in the economics of
retailers in the toy industry. Toy makers use the Christmas season to release
new and updated products with the hope of capturing a significant slice of the
billions of dollars that consumers spend during the holidays. The strategy
among toy makers has been to release a new product that hope will be the
'must-have' toy for the season. Consequently, they try to create buzz about the
product and have a specific release date, all with the hope that parents and
other consumers will clamor for the item and even make it sold-out or hard to
obtain as the season progresses. Such driving demand can easily justify a spike
in the price of the item.
Toys have also evolved beyond dolls, trains and cars to be very interactive and
educational. The popularity of educational toys and the presence of increased
technology have combined to produce many toys that are highly computerized.
Receiving a toy as a gift at Christmas can play an important role in creating a
lasting memory. When a child gets the right toy -- one that is highly desired or
is surprised by a wonderful toy -- he or she will remember the feeling it
brought for a lifetime and recall it whenever there's talk of which Christmas
was a favorite. It also helps to create a tradition as the child becomes an
adult nd wants to recapture a similar feeling by seeking to do the same for his
or her own child. Then, there are the children with a wish list that's basically
a hope to get something, any toy at Christmas. Many companies, businesses,
churches and social organizations arrange to have members donate new and age
appropriate toys that are distributed to children in need. Putting a smile on
the faces of those children will create warm memories about Christmas and Santa
Claus for them. And by participating in a charitable effort, the donors are
themselves Santa Claus and spreaders of goodwill and cheer that embody the
meaning of Christmas.

48. History of Christmas

Commercial activities during Christmas today are often decried as making the
season too materialistic. This has caused comments that the religious aspect of
Christmas is so overlooked and overshadowed that its celebration seems to be
purely pagan. But today's comparisons aren't the first there has been some link
between Christmas and pagan celebrations. As a religious, church leaders
instituted Christmas during winter because that time of year was a popular for
the celebrations of many pagan festivals. The hope was that Christmas would
also become a holiday that would gain much popularity. Long before the birth of
Jesus Christ, people in various parts of Europe would celebrate light and birth
in the darkest days of winter. The winter solstice, when the harshest part of
winter was over, was a time of celebration for many peoples because they would
look forward to more hours of sunlight during the longer days ahead.
The Norse in Scandinavia celebrated Yule from the winter solstice on December
21 through to January. Men brought home logs that were lighted and a feast
would take place until the log was completely burned. Each spark from the fire
was believed to represent a new pig or calf to be born in the coming new year.
The pagan god Oden was honored by Germans during the mid-winter holiday. Oden
inspired great fear in the Germans who believed that Oden traveled at nights
through the sky to observe people and make a decision about who would perish or
prosper in life. This belief caused most people to stay inside during the period.
In Rome it was the god of agriculture, Saturn, who was honored in a holiday
called Saturnalia. It was a holiday that started during the week that led up to
the winter solstice and continued for a month with hedonistic celebrations.
There was plenty of food and drink and the normal social class rules of who had
privilege and power in Roman society were totally disregarded as everyone
participated in the festivities. Some Romans also had a feast called Juvenalia
to honor children and the birthday of the sun god Mithra was sometimes
celebrated by the upper classes.
In the early years of the start of Christianity the main holiday was Easter. It
was in the 4th Century that church officials made a decision to have the birth
of Jesus celebrated as a holiday and Pope Julius I chose December 25 as the day
of Jesus' birth. The holiday, which was first called the Feast of the Nativity,
spread to England by the end of the 6th Century and to Scandinavia by the end
of the 8th Century. Church leaders achieved the goal of having Christmas
celebrations, including attendance at church, become popular during the winter
solstice, but they were unable to control other pagan-like celebrations during
Christmas. Believers would attend church on Christmas and then participate
later in raucous and drunken celebrations. But by the Middle Ages, from around
the 5th to the 16th Century, Christianity had outgrown paganism as a religion.
The celebration of Christmas in Europe changed in the early 17th Century when
Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans gained power in England in 1645. To remove
decadent behavior from the society, Cromwell cancelled Christmas as the
Puritans noted that the Bible doesn't mention any date for Jesus' birth. The
lack of this information and specific Biblical references to Christmas is also
cited by religious groups like Jehovah Witnesses as the reason they don't
observe or participate in Christmas. Christmas celebrations returned in England
around 1649 when Charles II was restored to the throne.
Christmas wasn't a holiday in early America because the Pilgrims who came to
America had even stricter beliefs than Cromwell and the Puritans. Christmas
celebrations were even forbidden in Boston from 1659 to 1681. During the same
time however, settlers in Jamestown in Virginia were reported to have enjoyed
Christmas. After the American Revolution Christmas again lost popularity and it
wasn't until June 26, 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holiday.
Christmas in the United States gained popularity as a holiday period during the
19th Century. Christmas celebrations also changed at that time to be more
family-centered rather than being carnival-like.

49. History of Some Christmas Traditions

Christians celebrate Christmas to observe the birth of Jesus Christ, which is
an event and not a tradition. But many other activities related to celebrating
the Christmas season evolved from certain traditions, many of which are from
other countries, particularly from peoples in Europe.
Among common items used in Christmas decorations are the holly and the
mistletoe. Both are used primarily in wreaths and garlands. The Druids started
the tradition of using the mistletoe as decorative items up to two hundred
years before Christ. To celebrate the winter season, the Druids would gather
the plants and use them to decorate their homes. The Druids believed the
mistletoe would bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. They also believed
that the mistletoe had a healing quality and could be used for everything from
healing wounds to increase fertility.
In Scandinavia, the mistletoe was seen as a plant of peace and harmony and was
associated with Frigga, the goddess of love. This association is probably what
led to the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. In the Victorian period, the
English also would hang mistletoe from ceilings and in doorways during
holidays. The habit developed that if someone was standing under the mistletoe,
someone else in the room would kiss that person. Such outright behavior was not
generally seen in Victorian society.
The use of the mistletoe in Christmas celebrations was once banned by the
church however because of its associations with pagan traditions, and the use
of holly was suggested as a substitute.
Poinsettias are another traditional decorative flower used at Christmas. It is
native to Mexico and is named after Joel Poinsett, who was the first U.S
ambassador to Mexico and who brought the plants to America in 1828. Mexicans
believe the plants were a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem and that's one reason
they are associated with Christmas. There's also the story that a young boy was
going to see the Nativity Play at a church but realized he didn't have a gift
for Baby Jesus. The boy gathered some green branches, which others scoffed at.
But as he placed them near the manger, a bright red poinsettia flower started
to bloom on each branch, which gave rise to their traditional use at Christmas.
Candy canes became a Christmas tradition not because their red and white
stripes matched the colors of the season, but for the most unusual reason of
discipline. that's because they were first used as treats that were give to
German children to keep them well-behaved for the duration of church sermons.
Over time, the legend of candy canes at Christmas came to be associated with
some of the strongest symbols and beliefs of Christianity: the Father, Son and
Holy Ghost known as the Trinity, the Blood of the Son of God, Jesus as the
embodiment of holiness, purity and without sin and the Son of God as the
shepherd of man. The candy cane represents these symbols respectively with its
three stripes, its red and white color and its shape.
Sending greeting cards during Christmas and the holidays is as prevalent today
as the custom of giving gifts. The tradition of sending Christmas cards started
in 1840 in Britain with the start of public postal delivery service of the
'Penny Post.' Then from about 1860, large numbers of Christmas greeting cards
started to be produced. The popularity of the cards increased in Britain when
they could be sent by the postal service for one half-penny, which was half the
price to post a standard letter at the time, if they were in an unsealed
envelope. Religious pictures of Mary, Joseph , Baby Jesus, the angels,
shepherds and Wise Men were traditionally placed on Christmas cards. Some cards
today include scenes from the Nativity, but pictures of Santa Claus, winter
scenery, Christmas trees, gift packages and others are also depicted on
contemporary Christmas greeting cards.

50. Twelve Things You Never Knew About Christmas 

1.  Christmas trees were first lighted with actual candles, which presented a fire 
hazard. As a result containers filled with water had to be kept near the Christmas 
tree. 2. Workers in the construction industry are responsible for the tradition of
having a Christmas tree on display at Rockefeller Center in New York City. They
are credited with placing an undecorated tree at the site in the early 1930s.
3.  Since the mid-1960s, The National Christmas Tree Association has maintained
a presence in the White House at Christmas by donating a Christmas tree to the
First Family. 4.  The former Woolworth department store first sold manufactured
Christmas tree ornaments in 1880. 5.  Plastic became the primary material used
to make tinsel after their use for decorative purposes was at one time
prohibited because lead was used in the manufacturing process. 6.  The idea of
Christmas greeting cards started in Britain in the late 1830s when John Calcott
Horsley started to produce small cards that had festive scenes and a holiday
greeting written inside. Similar cards were also being made in the United
States at about the same time by R.H. Pease, in Albany, New York, and Louis
Prang, who was a German immigrant. The idea of sending the greeting cards
during Christmas gained popularity in both countries about 10 years later when
new postal delivery services started.   7.  The shortened form Xmas for
Christmas has been popular in Europe since the 1500s. It is believed to be
derived from the Greek word 'Xristos' which means Christ. 8.  According to the
National Confectioners Association, for 200 years candy canes were only made in
the color of white and it wasn't until in the 1950s that a machine was invented
that could automate the production of candy canes. 9.  The day after Christmas
is called Boxing Day in England and it is a national holiday. Several stories
exist for the origination of the name. It is believed to have originated from
the practice of boys who would be about collecting money in clay boxes. Another
thought is that the term is derived from a custom in the Middle Ages, about 800
years ago, when churches would open their 'alms boxes' and distribute the
contents to poor people on the day after Christmas. Alms boxes are boxes in
which donations of gifts and money would be placed. Yet another belief is that
it comes from a custom of masters giving their servants Christmas presents in
boxes on the day after Christmas. 10.  Evergreen trees had special meaning in
winter to people, particularly in Europe, before Christianity started. Ancient
peoples would hang evergreen branches over their doors and windows because
evergreens were believed to ward off witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness.
For worshipers of the sun god, evergreen plants were a reminder of all the green
plants that would grow with the return of summer and the sun god being strong
again. 11.  In ancient times, many people worshiped the sun as a god in
December because they thought winter occurred yearly because the sun god had
fallen into ill health. They therefore celebrated the winter solstice because
it was a sign that the son god would begin to regain strength and return to
good health. 12.  Legislators in Congress did business on Christmas Day in
1789, which was the first one to be observed under the country's new
constitution. The reason for the Congressional session was because it had
become unpopular then to observe and take part in English customs following the
American Revolution. And when Christmas celebrations were barred in Boston
earlier in 1659 to 1681, it became a costly thing to be seen participating in
any event or activity related to Christmas. Anyone caught doing so had to pay
five shillings.





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