Last updated: December 14. 2013 10:04AM - 1672 Views

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By Nathan Crock

Inquirer Correspondent

Christmas has been a worldwide holiday for over two thousand years. It’s a day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas became a federal holiday for the United States in 1870 and has been one ever since. Traditions on this day include attending religious activities, spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, and putting Christmas lights up, but how did it all start?

December 25 was chosen to the be the day of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The exact day of Jesus’ birth is unknown but early Christians picked this day to correspond with the day exactly nine months after they believed he was conceived. The fifteenth century was the first time it was recorded that people put up decorations to celebrate the holiday. There in London at the time they decorated homes and churches with bays, ivy, and holly. The ivy was heart shaped and was said to symbolize Jesus coming to earth. The holly was seen as a protection against witches and pagans. The berries and thorns on it represented the crown of thorns worn during the crucifixion.

The Christmas tree tradition began in Christmas celebrations in Renaissance-era guilds in Northern Germany and Livonia. In these guilds in Germany the trees were decorated with treats for the children and apprentices. In Livonia they were decorated with such things as dates, nuts, and apples. In the 18th century Christmas trees began being lit with candles, now Christmas trees are decorated with candy canes and other festive ordainments. In 1870 putting up a Christmas tree became a common thing in our country. It became popular after a woodcut had been published showing the British royal family with their Christmas tree at Windsor castle. In the early twentieth century it became common for department stores and cities to begun displaying Christmas trees. The national Christmas tree in the white house lawn began being lit in 1923. Other popular places for Christmas trees include Rockefeller Center in New York and the Macy’s great tree in Atlanta.

The tradition of Santa Clause began with a Christian bishop named Saint Nicholas who was a gift giver. Santa Clause became a national icon in the United States in the 19th century. In 1823 Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” brought popularity to Santa Clause after an illustration was drawn of him by Thomas Nast that was published with the poem. Since then this image has become the modern day image of Santa. Gift giving is believed to have begun with the celebration Saturnalia by the Romans which was an ancient festival that took place in late December. This is what is said to have started the influence of Christmas customs. In the 1900s gift giving became a big thing for the United States stores and has now become considered to be the most profitable time of the year for retailers. Christmas has indeed grown over the thousands of years since the date of its inception. Christmas has become about doing nice things for people, giving to the unfortunate, spending time with those you love, giving gifts, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

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