T.R.A.C.S on River Island
Christmas (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely observed holiday, celebrated generally on December 25 by millions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide. Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.
The precise year of Jesus' birth, which some historians place between 7 and 2 BC, is unknown. His birth is mentioned in two of the four Canonical Gospels. By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted in the East. The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived, as well as the date of celebration of the southern solstice (i.e., the Roman winter solstice), with a sun connection being possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4:2.
The original date of the celebration in Eastern Christianity was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or its equivalents thus celebrate December 25 and January 6 on what for the majority of the world is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what in the Gregorian calendar is January 7; the Church of Greece celebrates Christmas on December 25.
In addition to "Christmas", the holiday has been known by various other names throughout its history. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the feast as "midwinter", or, more rarely, as Nātiuiteð (from Latin nātīvitās below). "Nativity", meaning "birth", is from Latin nātīvitās. In Old English, Gēola ("Yule") referred to the period corresponding to January and December; the cognate Old Norse Jól was later the name of a pagan Scandinavian holiday which merged with Christmas around 1000. "Noel" (or "Nowell") entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French noël or naël, itself ultimately from the Latin nātālis (diēs), "(day) of birth".
Kerstfeest (Christmas in Holland)
Christmas is celebrated over two days in the Netherlands, i.e. Eerste Kerstdag (First Christmas Day) on December 25 and Tweede Kerstdag (Second Christmas Day) on December 26, both of which are public holidays.
While it may seem similar to what you know, Christmas is not about Santa Claus and reindeer in the Netherlands. In fact, the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas Day, the tradition that may have seeded the idea for Santa Claus in the first place) on December 5, and it is this day that Dutch children get really excited about. They also receive most of their presents on Sinterklaas.
Christmas is family time, although the hyper-hysteric commercial style of Christmas that is found in so many other Christian countries is gaining ground here too, unfortunately. Rather confusingly, Santa Claus (called de Kerstman) is also trying to edge his way into Dutch Christmas. Of course, kids are only too happy to accept two gift-giving Santas, if it means more presents for them.
Families spend the day together on the 25th. Some attend a late night Christmas service at church, after which they eat breakfast at home, often in the early hours. In an increasingly irreligious Holland, however, most people just relax at home and eat themselves silly. Breakfast usually consists of a brunch with a kerststol (fruited Christmas loaf) with butter, and luxury breakfast items like fancy bread rolls, smoked salmon, pates, etc.
Second Christmas Day is often spent visiting family or, weather permitting, going ice skating or on an outing. Leftovers are enjoyed on this day.