Christmas is not all about a man shimmying down a chimney to give children presents. The holiday is celebrated on Dec. 25, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, a spiritual leader regarded as the son of God and whose teachings form the basis of Christianity.
Christmas was not celebrated until the fourth century, when church officials decided to make the birth of Jesus a holiday. Previously, Easter had been the main holiday of the religion. Americans did not celebrate Christmas until the 19th century because prior to the American Revolution, Americans had followed English Puritan customs.
The uptick in Christmas celebration came with a change in the way it was celebrated. Christmas had previously been celebrated similar to that of Mardi Gras with a carnival-like atmosphere. After Christmas riots in New York City in the early 19th century, Americans changed the culture of the holiday from a day of partying to a family-centered day of peace. As the American culture changed, so did the traditions of the holiday as Americans decorated trees, sent holiday cards and gave gifts.
Today, Christmas is celebrated with the family near, a large dinner, pictures with Santa and a month-long preparation of gift buying, tree decorating and untangling of Christmas lights. Families will attend Christmas Vigil on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24 or midnight mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus with prayer.
To celebrate the holiday, you can attend a mass at your local Christian church, get your picture taken with Santa at your local mall, or see a holiday show such as A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker ballet at a local theater. Head into NYC to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and catch the Christmas Spectacular with the Radio City Rockettes until Jan. 2.