Christmas, annual Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The official Christmas season, popularly known as either Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas, extends from the anniversary of Christ's birth on December 25 to the feast of Epiphany on January 6.
The word Christmas
Christmas entered the English language sometime around 1050 as the Old English phrase Christes maesse, meaning “festival of Christ.” Scholars believe the frequently used shortened form of Christmas—Xmas—may have come into use in the 13th century. The X stands for the Greek letter chi, an abbreviation of Khristos (Christ), and also represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
As Christmas evolved in the United States, new customs were adopted and many old ones were reworked. The legend of Santa Claus, for example, had origins in Europe and was brought by Dutch settlers to New York in the early 18th century. Traditionally, Santa Claus-from the Dutch Sinter Klaas-was depicted as a tall, dignified, religious figure riding a white horse through the air. Known as Saint Nicholas in Germany, he was usually accompanied by Black Peter, an elf who punished disobedient children. In North America he eventually developed into a fat, jolly old gentleman who had neither the religious attributes of Saint Nicholas nor the strict disciplinarian character of Black Peter.
The practice of exchanging Christmas cards also became a widespread custom in the 19th century. Europeans had distributed wood prints of religious themes for Christmas during the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century). In 1843 English illustrator John Callcott Horsley created the first modern Christmas card, for Henry Cole. The card depicted a family celebration and its caption read, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You".
In 1841 Prince Albert of Germany gave his wife, Queen Victoria of England, a gift of a Christmas tree. This was reputedly the first Christmas tree in England, but the custom spread quickly. German immigrants took the Christmas tree to other parts of Europe and to the United States and Canada, where it soon became a popular tradition. Blown-glass ornaments, tin angels, paper chains, candles, cornucopias filled with sugarplums, and other decorations made the simple evergreen tree into a beautiful parlor centerpiece at Christmastime.
The first instrument on which the carol "Silent Night" was played was:
A) A harp