Christmas in the Arts and Media

Christmas (literally, the Mass of Christ) is a traditional holiday in the Christian calendar which takes place around the end of December and celebrates the nativity of Jesus Christ. Christmas is also celebrated as a secular holiday throughout much of the world, including countries with small Christian populations, such as Japan. The precise date of the birth and historicity of Jesus are much debated (see Jesus).

The word Christmas is often abbreviated to Xmas, possibly because the letter X resembles the Greek letter Χ, which is the first letter of Christ’s name as spelled in Greek.

Christmas in the Arts and Media
A large number of Christmas stories have been written, usually involving heart-touching tales that involve a Christmas miracle. Several have passed into popular culture and become part of the Christmas tradition.

Perhaps the most popular is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the tale of curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge rejects compassion and philanthropy, and Christmas as a symbol of both, until he is visited by the “Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future”, who show him the consequences of his ways. Through this and other Christmas stories, Dickens is sometimes credited with shaping the modern celebration of Christmas (tree, plum pudding, carols) and the movement to close businesses on Christmas day.

If Dickens shaped the wider traditions of Christmas, Thomas Nast and Clement Moore provided us with the popular images of Santa Claus. Nast’s 19th century cartoons gave Santa his familiar form, while Moore’s poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas (popularly known as The Night Before Christmas) gave us the rotund Santa and his sleigh landing on rooftops on Christmas Eve.

Another Christmas story is the acclaimed film, It’s a Wonderful Life whose theme mirrors A Christmas Carol. Its hero, George Bailey, is a businessman who sacrificed his dreams to help his community. On Christmas Eve, a guardian angel finds him in despair and prevents him from committing suicide, by magically showing him how much he meant to the world around him.

Radio and TV stations popularize Christmas by broadcasting Christmas carols and Christmas songs. Many TV shows celebrate the holiday with a “Christmas Special” episode. In addition to popular music, classical music like the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s The Messiah may also be played.

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