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The Christmas season, also called the holiday season (especially in the U.S. and Canada), the festive season, or simply the holidays, is an annually recurring period recognized in many Western and Western-influenced countries that is generally considered to run from late November to early January, defined as incorporating at least Christmas and usually New Year, and sometimes various other holidays and festivals. It incorporates a period of shopping which comprises a peak season for the retail sector (the "Christmas (or holiday) shopping season"), and a period of sales at the end of the season (the "January sales"). Christmas window displays and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies when trees decorated with ornaments and light bulbs are illuminated, are traditions in many areas. Originally, the term "Christmas season" was considered synonymous with Christmastide, a term associated with Yuletide, which runs from December 25 (Christmas Day) to January 6 (Epiphany), popularly know...
Light usually refers to visible light, which is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is usually defined as having a wavelength in the range of 400 nanometres (nm), or 400×10−9 m, to 700 nanometres – between the infrared, with longer wavelengths and the ultraviolet, with shorter wavelengths. The main source of light on Earth is the Sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars mostly in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them. This process of photosynthesis provides virtually all the energy used by living things. Historically, another important source of light for humans has been fire, from ancient campfires to modern kerosene lamps. With the invention of electricity, electric lighting has all but replaced firelight. Some species of animals generate their own light, called bioluminescence. For example, fireflies use light to locat...
In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. In looser senses, the taller palms, the tree ferns, bananas and bamboos are also trees. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. The tallest known tree, a coast redwood named Hyperion, stands 115.6 m (379 ft) high. Trees have been in existence on the Earth for 370 million years. Trees are not a taxonomic group but include a variety of plant species that have independently evolved a woody trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. A tree typically has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground by the trunk. This trunk typically contains woody tissue for strength, and vascular tissue to carry materials from...
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and simply "Santa", is a mythical figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins who, in many Western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on 24 December, the night before Christmas Day. However, in some European countries children receive their presents on St. Nicholas' Day, either the 6th or 19th of December. The modern figure of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, whose name is a dialectal pronunciation of Saint Nicholas, the historical Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra. During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man—sometimes with spectacles—wearing a red coat with white collar and...
A gift or a present is an item given to someone without the expectation of payment. The gifted item should not be owned by the recipient. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. In many countries, the act of mutually exchanging money, goods, etc. may sustain social relations and contribute to social cohesion. Economists have elaborated the economics of gift-giving into the notion of a gift economy. By extension the term gift can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favour, including forgiveness and kindness. Gifts are also first and foremost presented on occasions - birthdays and Christmas being the main examples.
Winter (/ˈwɪntər/) is the coldest season of the year in polar climates and temperate climates, between autumn and spring. Winter is caused by the axis of the Earth in that hemisphere being oriented away from the Sun. Different cultures define different dates as the start of winter, and some use a definition based on weather. When it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa. In many regions, winter is associated with snow and freezing temperatures. The moment of winter solstice is when the sun's elevation with respect to the North or South Pole is at its most negative value (that is, the sun is at its farthest below the horizon as measured from the pole). The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates outside the polar regions differ from the date of the winter solstice, however, and these depend on latitude, due to the variation in the solar day throughout the year caused by the Earth's elliptical orbit (see earliest and lates...
A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations. The degree to which normal activities are reduced by a holiday may depend on local laws, customs, the type of job being held or even personal choices. The concept of holidays has most often originated in connection with religious observances. The intention of a holiday was typically to allow individuals to tend to religious duties associated with important dates on the calendar. In most modern societies, however, holidays serve as much of a recreational function as any other weekend days or activities. In many societies there are important distinctions between holidays designated by governments and holidays...
A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight. Seasons result from the yearly orbit of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis relative to the plane of the orbit. In temperate and polar regions, the seasons are marked by changes in the intensity of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface, variations of which may cause animals to go into hibernation or to migrate, and plants to be dormant. During May, June, and July, the northern hemisphere is exposed to more direct sunlight because the hemisphere faces the sun. The same is true of the southern hemisphere in November, December, and January. It is the tilt of the Earth that causes the Sun to be higher in the sky during the summer months which increases the solar flux. However, due to seasonal lag, June, July, and August are the hottest months in the northern hemisphere and December, January, and February are the hottest months in the southern hemi...
Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is prepared for by the season of Advent or Nativity Fast and is prolonged by the Octave of Christmas and further by the season of Christmastide. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian people, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season. The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a sp...
Xmas is a common abbreviation of the word Christmas. It is sometimes pronounced /ˈɛksməs/, but Xmas, and variants such as Xtemass, originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation /ˈkrɪsməs/. The "-mas" part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for Mass, while the "X" comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός which comes into English as "Christ". There is a common belief that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas", but its use dates back to the 16th century.