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By- Angela Padrón

When most people today think of Christmas, symbols like trees, candy canes, gifts, lights, and Santa Claus are usually the first things to come to mind. However, the true purpose behind Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Although the Bible doesn’t give a specific date for Christ’s birth, December 25th ultimately came to be the designated date to celebrate it. It was not until 1870 that this date was recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S., however.

In many households in the United States that celebrate Christmas, the holiday season begins with setting up a Christmas tree and hanging stockings. Lights and ornaments, and sometimes tinsel and garland, are placed on the tree for decoration. Red flowers called poinsettias often decorate homes, and mistletoe hangs in doorways. If you happen to be standing under the mistletoe at the same time as someone else, tradition has it that you’re supposed to kiss that person! In addition, many people hang lights around their windows, along the roofline, and around trees and bushes in their yards. There are even automated or inflatable Christmas decorations found on many lawns. Some people even compete with their neighbors to see who has the most innovative, creative, and crazy lights display!

Children often visit Santa Claus at the mall or write letters to Santa to ask for particular gifts they’d like to receive. Some parents tell children that Santa Claus keeps a list of children who have been naughty or nice, and that only those who have behaved well throughout the year will receive gifts. On Christmas Eve, children sometimes leave milk and cookies out for Santa Claus as a way of saying thank you for all of the gifts he brings. Legend has it that while the children sleep, Santa rides through the sky in his magic sleigh, pulled by eight flying reindeer—including Rudolph, who has a glowing red nose to light the way. Santa stops at each house and carries a sack full of gifts down the chimney and leaves the gifts under the tree, with smaller gifts and sweets inside the stockings. Some families open presents at midnight on Christmas Eve, while others wait for the morning for their surprises. On Christmas morning, many children wake up to a room full of presents to open and play with.

Families also gather on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for a large feast that is similar to the Thanksgiving one. Traditional meals include a roasted turkey, ham, or goose; vegetables, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pie for dessert. Eggnog, which is made of milk, sugar, and eggs, is a popular drink around Christmastime as well.

There are several stories that are always associated with Christmas as well. One example is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which depicts Ebenezer Scrooge, a grumpy old man who hates Christmas. After being visited by the ghost of his business partner and three other ghosts that show him Christmas in the past, present, and future, Scrooge changes his ways and treats others with kindness. In addition, movies like “A Christmas Story,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Elf,” along with animated classics like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Frosty the Snowman” entertain audiences each year.

Finally, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the songs. From “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” to “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Sleigh Ride,” there’s a song for everyone to sing. Perhaps you and your friends may even decide to go caroling from door to door. But Christmas is more than songs, gifts, and lights—it’s a time to be thankful for what you have and to enjoy the love shared between friends and family.

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