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Christmas is celebrated by the Christians, the annual festival of Christ's birth. Christmas Day falls on December 25. The exact day of the Christ child's birth has never been pinpointed. Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas, since early times, celebrated the winter solstice and the coming of spring at this time.

The history of Christmas dates back over 4000 years. Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals(parades) with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, the holiday feasts, and the church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians.
Many of these traditions began with the Mesopotamian celebration of New Years. The Mesopotamians believed in many gods, and as their chief god - Marduk. Each year as winter arrived it was believed that Marduk would do battle with the monsters of chaos. To assist Marduk in his struggle the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year. This was Zagmuk, the New Year's festival that lasted for 12 days.

The pagan festival most closely associated with the new Christmas was the Roman Saturnalia, which honored the god of the harvest, Saturn, on December 19 and was marked by seven days of riotous merrymaking and feasting. At the same time in northern Europe a similar winter festival known as Yule was celebrated in which giant logs, trimmed with greenery and ribbons, were burnt in honor of the gods and to encourage the sun to shine more brightly.
Having incorporated these elements, the Christian Church subsequently added, in the middle Ages, the Nativity crib and Christmas carols to its customs. By this time lavish feasting was the highlight of the festivities with large quantities of food, including a decorated boar's head, ceremoniously consumed over eight or nine hours by rich and poor alike. All this came to an abrupt end in Britain at least when in 1652 the Puritans banned Christmas, a move followed in Massachusetts seven years later. Although Christmas returned to England in 1660 with Charles II, the rituals all but died out until revived in Victorian times.

Christmas as we know it today is thus a 19th-century invention. The decorated Christmas tree, common in German countries for centuries, was introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's Consort.
Carols were revived and many new ones written, often to traditional melodies. The custom of carol-singing, although with ancient origins, dates mainly from the 19th century.
X'mas crackers were invented in the late 19th century by an enterprising English baker, Tom Smith, who, by 1900, was selling 13 million worldwide each year, and Christmas cards only became commonplace in the 1870s, although the first one was produced in London in 1846. The familiar image of Santa Claus, complete with sled, reindeers, and sack of toys, is an American invention which first appeared in a drawing by Thomas Nast in Harper's Magazine in 1868, although the legend of Father Christmas is ancient and complex, being partly derived from St Nicholas and a jovial medieval figure, the spirit of Christmas”. In Russia, he traditionally carries a pink piglet under his arm.
Today, Christmas is as much a secular festival as a religious one. It is a time of great commercial activity and for present-giving, family reunions and, in English-speaking countries, a “traditional” Christmas meal of turkey or goose, Christmas cakes, Christmas pudding, and mince pies. Midnight mass is celebrated in churches and cathedrals in the West. In many countries, including Germany, the custom of lighting the tree, singing carols around it, and opening presents is celebrated on December 24, Christmas Eve.
Santa Claus
Many stories are being told in regards of the legend of Santa Claus. One of the stories tells about a young pastor named Nicholas. He acquired a fortune when his parents died when he was still in his teens. He loved the Lord and also cared deeply for the poor. He brought gifts, money and other useful items to the houses of the poor. He did this at night, and in secrecy, as not to draw attention to him, as he wanted no glory.

The image of Santa Claus, or likewise characters became popular in North America in the 19th century and was adopted through the years in other countries around the world. The original Santa's image was created by a political cartoonist and illustrator by the name of Thomas Nast. Other countries changed the icon somewhat to suit their own customs and culture.
In German speaking countries in Europe, he is known as Saint Nikolaus, in France, Père Noël. He represents a kind old gentleman with white beard and red suit with trimmed fur. He travels throughout the country side on Christmas Eve to deliver present for the children and grown ups. Père Noël in France has some competition with Aunt Airie, a fairy tale who wears a cape and travels on a donkey, and also gives gifts on Christmas Eve.

Scandinavia has a superstition, it is widely believed that little, tiny magical figures called "Nisse", live in cellars and attics in every household. These magical figures are suppose to bring good luck. Now, with the growing popularity of Santa and other gift-bringers, they decided to outfit the nisse with a red suit and gave them a white beard and called them "Julenisse" and made them Santa's Helpers. In Norway and Denmark the Julenisse goes from door to door on Christmas Eve and bring presents. In Sweden, a similar magical gnome named "Jultomten" brings the gifts each Christmas.
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Nativity crib and Christmas carols
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