Christmas Traditions and Differences

Hannah Le, Junior Copy Editor

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Christmas has been observed as a religious holiday for centuries and has been observed worldwide by non-religious people as well since the early 20th century.

In a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, 90 percent of Americans said that they celebrated Christmas. Although Christmas originated in the Bible to honor the birth of Jesus, present-day polls have found that the role of religion in Christmas is declining for people living in the United States of America. Among U.S. adults, 56 percent said that religious aspects of Christmas are less emphasized and important in American society today, though few were bothered by it as stated by the Pew Research Center poll.

Dec. 25 is thought of and known as Jesus’ birthday, but historians believe that the date of his birthday was chosen by Roman church officials around 336 A.D. Validated by history.com, Christmas was chosen to be celebrated on the 25th to correspond with other existing pagan holidays such as festivals commemorating Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, and Mithra, the Persian god of light.

Following the American Revolution, Christmas was seen as a British custom, and therefore wasn’t commonly celebrated until around the 1840s. In 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the U.S.

Putting up Christmas trees, decorating houses with lights, and giving out presents are all common traditions for Americans.

Across the world, other cultures also have unique ways to celebrate the winter holiday. In the city of San Fernando in the Philippines, they host a festival where 11 villages compete to make the most elaborate lantern. These lanterns that size up to 20 feet are then lit up by light bulbs.

In Gävle, Sweden, a 42-foot straw goat is built and then burnt down. Across Colombia, on the Day of the Little Candles, candles and paper lanterns are placed in windows and yards.

Today, Christmas is commercialized by many businesses. In 2015, the British were estimated by bbc.com to have spent 24 billion pounds, approximately $32.8 billion U.S. Many brands such as Coca-Cola have used the image and representation of Christmas. And although this materialism may dampen some spirits, it’s crucial to focus on the real values and importance of this time of year and the holidays it brings.

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