Gift-giving at Christmas time is common custom. For most stores it means a huge increase in sales. Stores are full of shoppers from Thanksgiving time in late November until the day before Christmas. Gifts are given to children, members of the family and close friends. Some people bake cookies or make candies or other special food treats for friends and neighbors.
For some people, the tradition comes from remembering Saint Nicholas’s good deeds and charitable gift-giving. For others, the custom has to do with the Wise Men (Magi) of the Christmas story, who traveled from very far to bring gift offerings to baby Jesus.
Christmas is also a time when most Americans show great generosity to other less fortunate than themselves. They send money to hospitals or orphanages or contribute to funds that help the poor.
Santa Claus is a huge attraction for children. The history behind Santa Claus is associated with St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas was a Christian priest who was born in 280 AD and lived in Asia. He later became a bishop. He was a very kind man and always helped the poor and the needy. He loved children greatly and gave gifts to them. He was a rich person, and traveled the country helping people, giving gifts of money and other presents. His gifts were given late at night, so that the gift giver's identity would remain a secret. St. Nicholas did not like to be seen when he gave away presents, so the children of the day were told to go to sleep quickly or he would not come!
A famous story about St. Nicholas, is about a poor man who had no money to give to his three daughters on their wedding day. St Nick dropped bags of gold into the stockings which the girls had left to dry by the fire. The sisters found the gold and ever since, children have hung up stockings on Christmas Eve hoping that they will be filled with presents by Christmas morning.
Santa Claus is thought of as the transformation of Saint Nicholas. Like Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus will not arrive in Christmas unless the children go to sleep early.
The decorating of homes for Christmas is very common. Most American who observe Christmas have a Christmas tree in their homes. This may be a real evergreen tree or an artificial one. In either case, the tree is decorated and trimmed with small lights and ornaments. Other decorations such as lights and wreaths of evergreen and signs wishing a "Merry Christmas" can be found inside and outside of many homes.
There are many legends about why we have a Christmas tree. One of the most famous legend is that of Martin Luther, a founder of the Protestant faith. Martin Luther was walking through the forest one Christmas Eve. As he walked he was awed by the beauty of millions of stars glimmering through the branches of the evergreen trees. He was so taken by this beautiful sight that he cut a small tree and took it home to his family. To recreate that same starlight beauty he saw in the wood, he placed candles on all its branches.
People decorate Christmas tree in their house to recreate the feeling of what Martin Luther saw and felt.
less fortunate- Having a low living standard.
orphanages - A residential institution for the care and education of orphans
Artificial – not real
Ornaments – something used to beautify something
Glimmering - Shine faintly
Awe – A feeling of respect mixed with fear
Christmas eve – the night before Christmas day (the night of December 24th)
Protestant - A member or follower of any of the Western Christian churches that are separate from the Roman Catholic Church
By Andrea Brand-Sanchez and Kanwal Raza