Essay by Lovable.caHigh School, 11th gradeA-, June 2006

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Christmas is a special holiday, probably the one more people look forward to then any other. Christmas is filled with many traditions and customs gathered from every corner of the world. We all enjoy various ones and participate in them year after year.

How did these traditions and customs start and why do we continue to carry them on?

Traditions and customs are often passed down through generations for centuries, but the origins are often unknown or forgotten.

Christmas was originally called "The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus". The word "nativity" comes from the Latin word "Natalis" meaning birthday. The observance probably does not date earlier than 200 A.D. and did not become widespread until the 4th century. The actual date of Jesus birth is unknown but what is known is that Christian leaders in 336 A.D. set the date to December 25 in an attempt to eclipse a popular pagan holiday in Rome.

The date of Christmas coincides closely with the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a time of rejoicing among many ancient cultures. Christmas, as the great popular festival of Western Europe, dates from the Middle Ages. (Williams 1)

Santa Claus, an icon of Christmas, was really known as St. Nicholas. He was a real person who did not smoke a pipe, fly around in a wagon with any reindeer, go down chimneys, work with elves or live at the North Pole. He did however bring presents to children every year, according to tradition. He was born in the city of Patara, where he became bishop of Myra. He was imprisoned during the Roman Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians, but was released under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great. After his death he was buried in his church at Myra. In 1087, Italian sailors stole...