Mention the word Christmas, and customs such as gift-giving, church celebrations, carols and chorals, Santa Claus, decorated trees, egg nog, nativity scenes, and more come to mind. December 25 is the date on which many Christian denominations around the world celebrate Christmas, employing these or other cultural or national traditions. Orthodox Christians, as followers of the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas on January 7. Regardless of the date on which it is celebrated, Christmas is still considered by most to have its roots in religion, in spite of the more modern conventions of gift-giving and card-exchanging.
Some have proposed that the date to celebrate Christmas, December 25, was chosen for reasons other than the most traditional belief which says it is the day on which Jesus Christ was born. For example, Sir Isaac Newton, noted physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and theologian, proposed that the date of December 25 was chosen because it corresponded with the date of the winter solstice. Others proposed that the date coincided with a Roman solar holiday, or that it corresponded to the date of the conception of Jesus. One belief that has endured the centuries, however, is that Christmas Day is a day of celebration and gift giving.
The “Three Wise Men”, also known as the Magi, followed a star and traveled from the East to pay homage to the newborn king. Bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar, figure regularly in historic accounts of Christmas nativity celebrations, and may have originated our modern day tradition of gift-giving.
Known by many names, another legendary figure associated with gift-giving at Christmastime is Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop in what is modern day Turkey, is perhaps the original Santa Claus. He was noted for his caring concern toward children, his generosity, and his practice of giving gifts to deserving children. During the time of the Reformation in 16th-17th century Europe, Protestants practiced the custom that the Christ Child was the one who brought gifts to children. The term Christ Child eventually became Kris Kringle, another variation on the name of the person who gives gifts at Christmas. The image of the jolly, bearded man we know today as Santa Claus evolved throughout the 19th century in the United States and Europe.
Today, gifts are routinely given and exchanged at Christmastime. Whether parents to children, guests to hosts, bosses to employees, businesses to clients, gift-giving figures so highly in modern Christmas celebrations that retailers around the globe start promoting the Christmas shopping season months in advance. Relying on Internet websites and shopping from the comfort of one’s own home has, for many, become just as much a part of the holiday season as Santa Claus himself. People who cannot afford to spend hours in traffic and at the mall, or those who want to send a surprise gift delivery order online where shopping is convenient, easy, and accessible.
Food plays another important role in Christmas celebrations, with certain ethnic and religious fare appearing only at this time of year. Many serve up specialty food items as part of a special meal, holiday party, or for dessert. One such specialty item is cheesecake. Whether plain, fruit-topped, or flavored, a cheesecake adds flair (and some would even say fanfare) to the celebration. Cheesecake is the perfect gift and can be delivered right to the front doorstep. Christmas is rich in tradition and history. By sending a gift of cheesecake you will be sending more than just a delicious dessert: you may very well be starting a new Christmas tradition of your own. Don’t be surprised when cheesecake appears on everyone’s wish list next year.