Christmas is a sacred festival of the Christians. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm and gaiety all over the world. It is observed on 25th December to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
It is largely characterized by exchanging gifts within families and by gifts brought by Santa Claus or other mythical figures.
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Christians. The exact date of the birth of Christ was unanimously fixed some two centuries after his death, as the Catholic Church began to establish its tradition. Now Christmas is celebrated on 25th December in Catholic, Protestant and most orthodox churches.
The period of celebration varies in different countries. In the United Kingdom, the Christmas season traditionally runs for twelve days following the Christmas Day. These twelve days of Christmas are a period of feasting and merrymaking which ends on Twelfth Night the feast of the Epiphany.
Christmas period has grown much longer in some countries including the United States. It begins many weeks before. During Christmas people enjoy shopping and meet one another. The celebration continues up to New Year's Day.
The numerous customs related to Christmas vary from country to country. Most of the familiar traditional practices and symbols of Christmas, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas ham.
The Yule Log holly, mistletoe and giving of presents, were adapted or appropriated by Christian missionaries from the earlier Asatru pagan midwinter holiday of Yule.
The Christmas tree is believed to have first been used in Germany. Gift giving is a near-universal part of Christmas celebrations. The concept of a mythical figure that brings gifts to children derives from Saint Nicholas, a good-hearted bishop of Asia Minor.
Besides this, in the UK and many Western African countries, 'Father Christmas' is more common. In Anglo-American tradition, he is believed to arrive on Christmas Eve.
In many countries, offices, schools and social communities organise Christmas parties and dances during the several weeks before Christmas Day. Christmas pageants, which include the retelling of the story of the birth of Christ, are common in Latin America.
People sing Carol and visit neighbourhood homes and exchange gifts. Traditional feasting with special meal of Christmas dishes is also a part of Christmas.