For many kids around the world, the end of the year shares a common meaning - Christmas! It's the time of year where houses are decorated with bright lights, everyone makes and shares yummy food, pretty decorations are hung all over and special gifts are shared between loved ones. Christmas has a long history! Traditionally, it's been a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. However, it's also a secular (or non-religious) holiday for many people around the world. A lot of people celebrate Christmas Day on December 25th, but in some places, it's celebrated on January 7th!
Some Christmas traditions revolve around food. Each family has its own favorites they enjoy as part of their holiday. Some classic items, like roast turkeys, first became popular in the 1800s, during the time of Queen Victoria. Actually, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert are credited with popularizing a lot of things now considered to be Christmas traditions. They really enjoyed the holiday and brought a lot of traditions from what is now Germany to Britain. From there, it spread out to other parts of the British Empire, as well as other parts of the English-speaking world, including the United States.
Another popular Christmas tradition? The Christmas tree! The Christmas tree can be traced back to Germany in the 16th century, where people decorated them with nuts and fruits. Later, decorations included candles and shapes cut from paper. Some historians think this tradition actually dates all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians and Romans.
Santa Claus has a long history with Christmas. His original name was Sinterklaas. In Dutch, this means Saint Nicholas. The legend of Santa Claus comes from the Netherlands and seems to have started with the real-life Saint Nicholas, a bishop from the 4th century who was the patron saint of children. It's said Santa Claus uses a sleigh led by flying reindeer on Christmas Eve to deliver toys around the world. However, some countries believe different people are responsible! In Italy, a nice witch names La Befana flies around on a broomstick to deliver toys. Children in Iceland leave out wooden shoes under a window so the Yule Lads will leave them candy.
No one likes to think of a year without Christmas, but this was a reality for children in England and the English colonies in the United States around 1644. The British Parliament outlawed the holiday! Celebrating Christmas was illegal for almost twenty years, although some families continued their celebrations in secret. Christmas finally became legal again!
Now children and families have their own modern traditions. Almost everyone has a favorite cookie they love eating around the holiday! Christmas is also a time for crafts, playing games, decorating, and baking. Many people carry on the traditions from their own childhoods into their adulthood, ranging from making gingerbread houses to stringing popcorn as a garland while also seeking out new traditions, like fun computer games, to add to their celebrations.
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