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Despite its perception as a Christian generated holiday, the celebration of Christmas has transformed to include not just Christians, but members of other religions and the non-religious alike.

Quite a number of traditions have come to be associated with Christmas. These traditions tend to either already be popular and thus automatically associated with thoughts and ideas of Christmas, or are more specific to families, friends, states, countries etc. The origins of the Christmas traditions such as the Christmas tree, Christmas lights, Santa Claus and presents are discussed below.

Despite the symbolic use of evergreens by the Vikings in Scandinavia, the Germans are officially credited with starting the tradition of bringing a tree into one’s home and decorating it. Historians write that families who could not afford trees would make pyramids of wood, decorating them with evergreens and placing candles by them.

In the 18th century, German settlers in the United States introduced the Christmas tree. Although it was first seen as a pagan symbol, toward the mid to late 19th century, as Christmas began to shift from being an only Christian sacred holiday to being celebrated by non-Christians, European and American families began to adopt the tradition in their homes as well.

As for the origin of Christmas lights, when Edison discovered how to utilize electricity, it quickly replaced the use of candles for anyone who could afford it. And so in 1882, three years after Edison invented the light bulb, his friend, Edward Johnson lit his tree with colored string lights, which the masses loved and thus incorporated.

The idea of Santa Claus and being gifted during Christmas stems from the legend of a St. Nicholas, who gain popularity for his deeds such as helping the poor and sick, donating all his wealth, saving girls from being sold into slavery or prostitution etc. Unlike the Christmas tree, the idea of St. Nicholas, and subsequently, Santa Claus gained popularity and acceptance as it made its way into American culture in the 18th century. Because of what Santa Claus represented, the act of gift giving also became popular, and was eventually integrated as a significant part of Christmas.


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