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Christmas is a holiday in the Christian calendar usually observed on December 25, which celebrates the birth of Jesus. The word Christmas comes from the words "Cristes maesse", or "Christ's Mass." Most historians affix the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D. It is both a holiday and a holy day. In America, it is one of the biggest events of the year (particularly for kids), and for members of the Christian religions, Christmas is an important day on the religious calendar. Christmas has become the most economically significant holiday of the year, and it is also celebrated as a secular holiday in many countries with small Christian populations. It is largely characterized by exchanging gifts within families, and by gifts brought by Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

And celebrated at approximately the same period in time, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning "dedication". Its other English spellings can appear as, Chanukah, Hannukah, Hanukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Hanukka, Hanaka, Haneka, Hanika and Khanukkah. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' 165 B.C.E. victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday observance held from December 26 to January 1 honoring African-American heritage, primarily in the United States. Timed to serve as an alternative to the growing commercialism of Christmas, it has a focus on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement. It is simply a time of reaffirming African-American people, their ancestors, and culture. The name Kwanzaa stems from the Swahili phrase 'matunda ya kwanza', meaning "first fruits". The additional "a" was added to "Kwanza" in 1966 by its founder Dr. Maulana Karenga so that the word would have seven letters, one for each of the Seven Principles, or Nguzo (originally, Nguzu) Saba, of Blackness. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to principles of: Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

In most parts of the Western world as well as in Latin America, Japan and other parts of East Asia, Santa Claus is portrayed as a kindly, round-bellied, merry, bespectacled white man in a red coat trimmed with white fur, with a long white beard. Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa. Santa is a variant of a European folk tale based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, a bishop from present-day Turkey, who supposedly gave presents to the poor. In many Eastern Orthodox traditions, Santa Claus visits children on New Year's Day and is identified with Saint Basil whose memory is celebrated on that day. On Christmas Eve, he rides in his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer from house to house to give presents to children. To enter the house, Santa Claus comes down the chimney and exits through the fireplace. During the rest of the year, he lives together with his wife Mrs. Claus and his elves manufacturing toys. His home is usually given as either the North Pole in the United States (Alaska), northern Canada, Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland, Dalecarlia in Sweden, or Greenland, depending on the tradition and country.

Charities to Consider This Holiday Season. Here is just a partial list to consider when seeking to make charitable contributions to an organization during the Christmas holiday along with contact information to enable you to learn more about their programs and administration.

The American Jewish Committee
P.O. Box 705
New York, NY 10150
Phone: 212-891-1325
Fax: 212-891-1492
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.ajc.org/

American Red Cross
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, DC 20013
Phone: 800-435-7669
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.redcross.org/

Boys & Girls Clubs of America
1230 West Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: 404-487-5700
Fax: 404-487-5825
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.bgca.org/

Child Abuse Prevention Center
2902 Swiss Avenue
Dallas, TX 75204
Phone: 214-370-9810
Fax: 214-824-6901
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.excap.org/

Children of the Nations
P.O. Box 3970
Silverdale, WA 98383
Phone: 360-698-7227
Fax: 360-337-2499
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.cotni.org/

The Children's Aid Society
105 East 22nd Street,Room 504
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 212-949-4800
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/

The 92nd Street Y (Young Men's Hebrew Association)
1395 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Phone: 212-415-5678
http://www.92y.org/

Orphan Foundation of America
12020-D North Shore Drive
Reston, VA 20190
Phone: 571-203-0270
Fax: 571-203-0273
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.orphan.org/

Save the Children
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880
Phone: 800-728-3843
Fax: 203-221-4077
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.savethechildren.org/

The Salvation Army National Headquarters
615 Slaters Lane
P.O. Box 269
Alexandria, VA 22313
Phone: 703-684-5500
Fax: 703-684-5538
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/

United Way International
701 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-519-0092
Fax: 703-519-0097
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.uwint.org/

If you need to send a Christmas or other holiday greeting consider sending an ecard bearing your holiday message.