It all began about 2,000 years ago. An angel appeared to a Jewish girl named Mary and gave her good news: You will have a son. His name will be Jesus, the Savior. When the baby was almost due, Mary and her fiance Joseph went to their hometown, Bethlehem, for a census. The only place they could find to stay was an animal stable. There the special baby was born.
Angels announced the joyful news to some shepherds. They left their sheep and hurried to see the baby. Some time later, wise men from the East saw an unusual star. They knew someone great had been born. The star led them to Bethlehem. When they found the child Jesus, they offered him gifts fit for a king.
The celebration of this special birth came to be called Christmas. Through the ages, people developed many Christmas traditions. The custom of decorating Christmas trees began centuries ago. People in many ancient cultures decorated homes with trees and greenery in winter. In the Middle Ages, Christians in Europe added lights and religious symbols to evergreens to make Christmas trees. Santa Claus has become one of the most famous Christmas figures, particularly in America. His legend started with a kind bishop named St. Nicholas who lived around 300 A.D. and was known for his generosity. The practice of giving Christmas gifts comes from the gifts offered to the child Jesus by the wise men of the East. The star on top of the Christmas tree symbolizes the star that led the wise men to Jesus.
Sometimes Christmas can become just a ritual. Many Americans see Christmas as just a time for shopping for the perfect gift. Advertisers and businesses begin promoting Christmas earlier every year. Stores remind customers of how many shopping days are left until Christmas. It's almost a modern Christmas custom to spend too much money! Credit card debts often take months to pay off. Even children can become materialistic. They think only of what they will get from Santa Claus.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Rush, most Americans feel Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It's a time of excitement, a time of joy, a time to show love in special ways. Best of all, Christmas is not just for Americans. Christmas is for everybody in the world. Christmas is the celebration of God's gift to the world-Jesus.