Solstice Greetings Card
The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight. Of course Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25--Christmas Day--has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. The Dutch are credited with transporting the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) to New Amsterdam (now New York City), along with the custom of giving gifts and sweets to children on his feast day, December 6. The current depiction of Santa Claus is based on images drawn by cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly beginning in 1863. Nast's Santa owed much to the description given in Clement Clarke Moore's 1822 poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas." The image was further defined by the popular Santa Claus advertisements created for the Company from 1931 by illustrator Haddon Sundblum. Sundblum's Santa was a portly white-bearded gentlemen dressed in a red suit with a black belt and white-fur trim, black boots, and a soft red cap.