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    Christmas article 6

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 7

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 8

     

    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 crиche 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.

         
    Christmas article 11

     

    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 piсata. 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 piсata 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.

         
    Christmas article 13

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 14

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 15

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 16

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 17

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 19

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 21

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 22

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 23

     

    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 present- day 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.

         
    Christmas article 24

     

    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.

         
    Christmas article 25

     

    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.

         
     
         
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