Christmas is a holiday that combines many of the traditions and rituals of old winter solstice celebrations with the Christian Nativity. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the Catholic Church folded the traditions of many different groups into its major holiday. The name of the holiday itself is taken from the Middle English word Christemasse, or Christ’s Mass.
Christmas in the United States is marked by joyful celebrations and time-honored traditions. Most families set up a Christmas tree, typically a Douglas fir, and decorate it with lights, tinsel, ornaments, and candy canes. Many communities also erect a community tree in a public area; these trees are wide and tall, and they serve as the centerpiece for the community’s holiday celebrations.
Lights feature prominently in America’s holiday celebrations. While some homeowners settle for a string of colored lights along the roof of their home, other homeowners spend thousands of dollars turning their homes into a living and breathing celebration of the holiday spirit.
For example, in the city of Seattle one group of homeowners has renamed their cul-de-sac to Candy Cane Lane. Each year, they transform their small piece of the city into an animated, jumbo-sized celebration of all things Christmas. Seattle’s residents line up for hours to drive through this small side street and see the magic of Candy Cane Lane.
This holiday is officially celebrated on 25 December. For most Americans, however, the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. The entire month of December is filled with holiday celebrations, from community events to family gatherings. Radio stations fill the airwaves with traditional and modern holiday music, and television stations broadcast beloved holiday specials, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Christmas in the United States is a major national holiday. Most employers give their employees the day off, and some employees are given the entire holiday week to spend with their families. Except for emergency services, most government offices are closed on 25 December. If 25 December occurs on a weekend, the Friday prior or the Monday following may also be allocated as a holiday.