The best hand-me-downs: Christmas traditions

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Officially, Christmas is celebrated by Christians on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

However, Christmas and the holiday season for most families is a blend of religious and secular customs with traditions that have been celebrated by their ancestors.

According to the U.S. Embassy, celebrating Christmas was considered a crime in 1659 by Massachusetts colonists.

The more modern Christmas many people celebrate today began to emerge in the 19th century with the new custom of purchasing gifts for young children. Seasonal “Christmas shopping” began to assume economic importance.

Other Christmas traditions similarly began during the 19th century. Santa Claus — derived from the Dutch Sinter Klaas and the German Saint Nicholas — assumed the persona of a jolly dispenser of gifts and pilot of a reindeer-drawn sleigh through such works as the 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

Germany is credited with starting the tradition of Christmas trees in the 16th century.

Christmas trees became popular in Britain and the United States in the 19th century.

Mass-produced Christmas cards began to appear in the last quarter of the 19th century.

According to a recent survey, most families mark the holidays by honoring traditions that have been passed down for genenrations.

Almost a fifth of respondents report having a quirky tradition – these include making ornaments with their dog’s paw print, watching horror movies on Christmas day and sending holiday cards to people they don’t know.

Other unique traditions include hiding Christmas presents for the younger kids, making snow angels and wearing silly Christmas pajamas.

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