Most Christians believe that this the date of Jesus Christ’s birth, although it is still disputed. Celebrating usually starts the evening before, on Christmas Eve, when families and friends gather together for a special meal, sing carols or exchange gifts. At midnight many people go to church for a liturgy called the Midnight Mass. In the United States Christmas Day is officially recognized as a federal holiday, so all schools, government offices and most businesses are closed. In the preceding days or even weeks people often decorate their houses, so for many Americans December 25 is somehow magical – the streets, stores and other buildings are illuminated.
The whole atmosphere of Christmas is special in many countries, including the United States. People look for perfect gifts, travel many miles to meet their family, decorate Christmas trees, while Christmas songs surround them everywhere – in the radio, in stores, at schools. Because of these customs, Christmas is of course a strongly commercialized holiday – the shopping season starts already in November, on Black Friday.
Gifts are a very important element of Christmas. Most Americans place them under the Christmas tree and wait until the morning, December 25, to open them, although some families decide to do that on Christmas Eve, as it is in some other countries. In some houses a religious tradition is also observed – the consumption of a Christian wafer. Many Americans send Christmas cards, and for many the whole Christmas season is a period of general goodwill and charity.
The most recognizable symbols of Christmas are: Santa Claus, reindeers, snowflakes, candles, mistletoe, shooting star, Christmas tree or baby Jesus.
Did you know?
Christmas decorations are often very important for shopping centers. They want their customers to feel the special atmosphere, and of course, spend more money on gifts. One of the most breathtaking decorations in the United States can be observed annually in Rockerfeller Center in New York. The Christmas tree standing in front of it is bigger and brighter every year. There is even a whole ceremony organized, during which thousands of people can see (either on place or through a live broadcast) the moment of the first illuminating of the tree. This tradition has historical roots – the tree for over eight decades has been a place of gathering and reflection.