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Millions of Americans will celebrate Christmas on December twenty-fifth. It is the most widely celebrated religious holiday in the United States.
People buy gifts to give to family members and friends. They fill homes and stores with evergreen1 trees and bright, colored lights. They go to parties and prepare special Christmas food. Many people think Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.
Many Christians go to church the night before the holiday or on Christmas Day. They celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Christian2 ministers3 speak about the need for peace and understanding in the world. This is the spiritual4 message of Christmas. Church services include traditional religious songs for the holiday. One of the most popular is "Silent Night."
Many other Americans celebrate Christmas as an important, but non-religious holiday. To all, however, it is a special day of family, food, and exchanging gifts.
Christmas is probably the most special day of the year for children. One thing that makes it special is the popular tradition of Santa Claus5.
Young children believe that Santa Claus is a fat, kind, old man in a red suit with white fur. They believe that-on the night before Christmas-he travels through the air in a sleigh6 pulled by reindeer7. He enters each house from the top by sliding down the hole in the fireplace8. He leaves gifts for the children under the Christmas tree.
Americans spend a lot of time and money buying Christmas presents. The average American family spends about 800 dollars. Stores and shopping centers are crowded at this time of year. More than 20% of goods sold during the year are sold during the weeks before Christmas. This is good for stores and for the American economy.
Some people object to spending all this money. They say it is not the real meaning of Christmas. So, they celebrate in other ways. For example, they make Christmas presents, instead of buying them. Or they volunteer to help serve meals to people who have no homes. Or they give money to organizations that help poor people in the United States and around the world.
Home and family are the center of the Christmas holiday. For many people, the most enjoyable tradition is buying a Christmas tree and decorating9 it with lights and beautiful objects. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, people gather around the tree to open their presents.
Another important Christmas tradition involves food. Families prepare many kinds of holiday foods, especially sweets. They eat these foods on the night before Christmas and on Christmas day.
For many people, Christmas means traveling long distances to be with their families. Another Christmas tradition is to go "caroling10."A group of people walk along the street. At each house, they stop and sing a Christmas song, called carol. Student groups also sing carols at schools and shopping centers.
Not everyone in the United States celebrates Christmas. Members of the Jewish11 and Muslim12 religions, for example, generally do not. Yet many Americans do take part in some of the traditional performances of the season. One of the most popular is a story told in dance: "The Nutcracker13" ballet14. The music was written by Russian composer15 Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky in 1891.
The ballet is about a young girl named Clara. Clara is celebrating Christmas with her family and friends. One of her Christmas presents is a little device16 to open nuts-a nutcracker. It is shaped like a toy soldier. She dreams that the nutcracker comes to life as a good-looking prince.
Professional17 dance groups in many American cities perform the ballet at this time of year. They often use students from local ballet schools to dance the part of Clara and the other children in the story. This gives parents a chance to see their children perform.