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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS



The Timing of Gifts

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas's Day remains the principal day for gift giving while Christmas Day is a more religious holiday. In much of Germany, children put shoes out on window sills on the night of December 5, and find them filled with candy and small gifts the next morning. In Hungary, Santa Claus (Hungarian: Mikulás) or for non-religious people Father Winter (Hungarian: Télapó) is often accompanied by a black creature called Krampusz. The main day for gift giving in Germany is December 24, when gifts are brought by Santa Claus or are placed under the Christmas tree. It is the same in Hungary, except that the Christmas gifts are usually brought by little (child) Jesus (Hungarian: Jézuska), not by Santa Claus. In Spain, gifts are brought by the magi on Epiphany (January 6), although the tradition of leaving gifts under the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve (December 24) for the children to find and open the following morning has been widely adopted as well. In Poland, Santa Claus (Polish: Święty Mikołaj) gives gifts on two occasions: on the night of December 5 (so that children find them on the morning of December 6) and on Christmas Eve, (so that children find gifts that same day). In Finland, Joulupukki personally meets children and gives gifts on December 24. In Russia, Grandfather Frost brings presents on New Year's Eve, and these are opened on the same night. In Scotland, presents were traditionally given on Hogmanay, which is New Year's Eve, but many Scots - especially since the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal holiday in 1967 - have adopted the English tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas morning.

The song "Twelve Days of Christmas", celebrates an old English tradition of gifts each day from Christmas to Epiphany. In most of the world, Christmas gifts are given at night on Christmas Eve or in the morning of Christmas Day. Until recently, the British gave gifts to non-family members on Boxing Day.

Declaration of Christmas Peace

The Declaration of Christmas Peace has been a tradition in Finland from the Middle Ages every year, except in 1939 due to the war. The declaration takes place on the Old Great Square of Turku, Finland's official Christmas City and former capital, at noon on Christmas Eve. It is broadcast on Finnish radio and television.

NEXT: The Economics of Gifts



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