Christmas Special – Merry Christmas
From November onwards, it is impossible to forget that Christmas is coming. Coloured lights decorate many town centres and shops, along with shiny decorations, and artificial snow painted on shop windows.
In streets and shops, ‘Christmas trees’ (real or plastic evergreen ‘conifer’ trees) will also be decorated with lights and Christmas ornaments.
Shopping centres become busier as December approaches and often stay open till late.Shopping centre speaker systems systems will play Christmas ‘carols’ – the traditional Christmas Christian songs, and groups of people will often sing carols on the streets to raise money for charity. Most places of work will hold a short Christmas party about a week before Christmas. Although traditional Christmas foods may be eaten, drink (and plenty of it) means that little work will be done after the party!
By mid-December, most homes will also be decorated with Christmas trees, coloured lights and paper or plastic decorations around the rooms. These days, many more people also decorate garden trees or house walls with coloured electric lights, a habit which has long been popular in USA.
In many countries, most people post Christmas greeting cards to their friends and family, and these cards will be hung on the walls of their homes. In UK this year, the British Post Office expects to handle over 100 million cards EACH DAY, in the three weeks before Christmas.
‘Father Christmas’ (or ‘Santa Claus’) has become the human face of Christmas. Pictures will be seen everywhere of the old man with long white beard, red coat, and bag of toys. Children are taught that he brings them presents the night before Christmas (or in some countries on December 6th – St. Nicholas’ Day), and many children up to the age of 7 or 8 really believe this is true. In most countries, it is said that he lives near the North Pole, and arrives through the sky on a sledge (snow-cart) pulled by reindeer. He comes into houses down the chimney at midnight and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds or in front of the family Christmas tree.
In shops or at children’s parties, someone will dress up as Father Christmas and give small presents to children, or ask them what gifts they want for Christmas. Christmas can be a time of magic and excitement for children.
Father Christmas is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, which explains his other name ‘Santa Claus’ which comes from the Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’. Nicholas was a Christian leader from Myra (in modern-day Turkey) in the 4th century AD. He was very shy, and wanted to give money to poor people without them knowing about it. It is said that one day, he climbed the roof of a house and dropped a purse of money down the chimney. It landed in the stocking which a girl had put to dry by the fire! This may explain the belief that Father Christmas comes down the chimney and places gifts in children’s stockings.