Note: This post is about Christmas in America (the US).
Over the years Christmas has become something that has little to do with Christ. Many people celebrate it who have not been inside a church in years or who do not even call themselves Christians.
On Christmas Day almost everyone gets off work or school. They give gifts to each other and then at night have a large meal. For children it is the happiest day of the year.
In the north it comes a few days after the start of winter. Getting ready for Christmas and looking forward to it makes the coming of the cold seem not so bad.
American Christmas is really two Dutch holidays rolled into one: Saint Nicholas’ Day on December 6th and Christmas itself. The Dutch in New York gave their children gifts on St Nicholas’s Day and put treats in their stockings. Christmas, meanwhile, was a more serious church holiday, like Easter.
The English in New York copied the Dutch, but did all the St Nicholas’ Day things on Christmas.
Over time St Nicholas became what we now know as Santa Claus.
Santa Claus is a fat man with a long white beard who dresses in red and white. He laughs a lot and says “Ho, ho, ho.” He lives at the North Pole with his wife. He keeps a list of good children and bad children.
On Christmas Eve Santa Claus delivers gifts to good children all over the world. Bad children get coal. Or nothing. Santa is helped by flying reindeer. The most famous of these is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. His nose is so bright Santa can fly through any weather.
Children and shopkeepers love Santa. He has largely taken over Christmas from Baby Jesus. Many shops, and even some industries, would go broke if it were not for the Christmas that comes in a box.
There are special Christmas songs, food, television shows, films and so on. It is not just any day.
A few weeks before Christmas you put up a Christmas tree. There is even a song about that! The gifts go under the tree and wait there to be opened on Christmas Day (or Christmas Eve).
The gifts are put inside of boxes and covered with colourful paper so you cannot tell what they are. The expectation and surprise is part of the experience.
Children put up Christmas stockings, which get filled with treats overnight. This part goes back to a story about St Nicholas.
As a child I liked opening gifts best. Most of what I got as a child came on Christmas and my birthday.
Now that I am older I like the church part better. I go to mass on Christmas Eve. It is the only part of Christmas that has not been ruined by shopkeepers and in-laws.
– Abagond, 2006, 2015.
- Jesus Christ
- New York
- St Nicholas
- Santa Claus
- Christmas stories
- Christmas songs
- The oneness of mankind