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Among all the holidays of Great Britain and the U.S. Christmas is the most ambitious in its scope. It is celebrated on December 25, but preparations begin in late November, just after Thanksgiving.
Christmas is the Christian holiday devoted to the Birth of Jesus Christ – the Messiah sent by God for the salvation of the world. Its celebrating is based on the bible events described in the New testament. Luke (Luke 2) tells that after Jesus' birth, angels appeared to shepherds and told them the good news. The shepherds immediately went to the city of Bethlehem and found in a shed Virgin Mary, her husband carpenter Joseph and the Baby lying in a manger. From the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2) we learn about the Three Wise Men who followed a miraculous star that appeared in the sky on Messiah's Birth Day and brought gifts to a child - gold, frankincense and myrrh.
These events for over than two thousand years inspired many artists, poets and musicians. British and Americans are still pleased with hearing old English Christmas chorals written several centuries ago. The most popular are "Silent Night" and "Come all Ye Faithful", they are sung in churches, at home, and even on the street. Beautiful in a divine harmony of words and music, they help to better penetrate the deeper meaning of this wonderful event.
Originally the Christmas and the Epiphany were one big holiday. Therefore, 12 days separating Christmas and Epiphany are very important for Christians. There is the song about them which is called "The Twelve Days of Christmas".
All agree on the fact that Christmas should be the most cheerful and bright event of the year. We admire beautifully decorated houses, offices, shops and streets. In an impetuous carnival of paints two traditional colours – red and green dominate. Green Christmas Trees or branches of evergreen conifers, decorated with red ribbons, lanterns and bells, are the same attributes of Christmas. On top of trees you can see Christmas angels or stars.
In four weeks before Christmas, believers bring home a special wreath - the "Advent Wreath". Unlike simple wall Christmas wreaths, this one is put on a table and is fixed there by four candles which are lit every Sunday, but not simultaneously, and by turns – at first one, then two and so on.
Very often, the house is decorated with Boughs of Holly. Glossy and bright red berries and dark green sharp-angled carved leaves of this plant is well fit into the big Christmas palette. In the doorways mistletoe branches tied with ribbons are hung. People of the opposite sex, accidentally trapped under the mistletoe must kiss.
Santa Claus, who's prototype is St. Nicholas (Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia in the IV century, the Eastern Church, the patron of travelers, especially seafarers), almost has not changed at all for several centuries. Young British and Americans believe that Santa come in a sleigh on a deer only to the obedient kids and going down through the chimney above the fireplace, leaving presents under the Christmas tree and in a sock. Therefore, on the roofs of some homes in the U.S. we can see figures of Santa Claus in a sleigh and the famous deer Rudolph. Sometimes Santa is invited to visit children on December 25 in advance.
Exactly 12 days after Christmas, on January 6, people begin to remove ornaments. Everything is gradually coming into its normal rhythm. It's a bit sad that Christmas has passed. But everyone knows that in eleven months the holiday will cheerfully knock at a door again!