Holiday photo card examples

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"Christmas season" redirects here. For other uses, see .

The Christmas season, also called the festive season, or the holiday season (mainly in the U.S. and Canada; often simply called the holidays),, is an annually recurring period recognized in many and Western-influenced countries that is generally considered to run from late November to early January. It is defined as incorporating at least , and usually , and sometimes various other and festivals. It also is associated with a period of shopping which comprises a (the "Christmas (or holiday) shopping season"), and a period of sales at the end of the season (the "January sales"). displays and ceremonies when trees decorated with ornaments and light bulbs are illuminated, are traditions in many areas.

In the of , the term "Christmas season" is considered synonymous with , a term associated with , which runs from December 25 () to January 5 (), popularly known as the . However, as the economic impact involving the anticipatory lead-up to Christmas Day grew in America and Europe into the 19th and 20th centuries, the term "Christmas season" began to become synonymous instead with the traditional Christian season, the period observed in from the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day until Christmas Day itself. The term "" survives in secular Western parlance as a term referring to a countdown to Christmas Day from the beginning of December.

Beginning in the mid-20th century, as the Christian-associated Christmas holiday became increasingly secularized and central to American economics and culture while religio- sensitivity rose, generic references to the season that omitted the word "Christmas" became more common in the corporate and public sphere of the United States, which has that continues to the present. By the late 20th century, the Jewish holiday of and the new African American cultural holiday of began to be considered in the U.S. as being part of the "holiday season", a term that as of 2013 has become equally or more prevalent than "Christmas season" in U.S. sources to refer to the end-of-the-year festive period. "Holiday season" has also spread in varying degrees to Canada; however, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the phrase "holiday season" is not widely understood to be synonymous with the Christmas–New Year period, and is often instead associated with .



Roman Saturnalia[]

was an in honor of the , held on December 17 of the and later expanded with festivities through December 23. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the , in the , and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a atmosphere that overturned : was permitted, and masters provided table service for their . The poet called it "the best of days."

Christian adoption[]

Further information:

The earliest source stating December 25 as the date of birth of was (170–236), written very early in the 3rd century, based on the assumption that the conception of Jesus took place at the which he placed on March 25, and then added nine months. There is historical evidence that by the middle of the 4th century the Christian churches of the East celebrated the birth and on the same day, on January 6 while those in the West celebrated a Nativity feast on December 25 (perhaps influenced by the ); and that by the last quarter of the 4th century, the calendars of both churches included both feasts. The earliest suggestions of a fast of Baptism of Jesus on January 6 during the 2nd century comes from , but there is no further mention of such a feast until 361 when attended a feast on January 6 in the year 361.

In the tradition the is a period beginning on (December 25). In some churches (e.g. the ) the season continues until the day before the , which is celebrated either on January 6 or on the Sunday between January 2 and 8. In other churches (e.g. the ) it continues until the feast of the , which falls on the Sunday following the Epiphany, or on the Monday following the Epiphany if the Epiphany is moved to January 7 or 8. If the Epiphany is kept on January 6, the 's use of the term Christmas season corresponds to the , and ends on .

This short Christmas season is preceded by , which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day: the majority of the secularized Christmas and holiday season falls during Advent. The and some Protestant churches follow the Christmas season with an which lasts until which is also known as or 'Fat Tuesday'. Other European cultures have their own carnival festivities between new year and Lent.

Secularisation and commercialisation[]

According to Yanovski et al., in the United States the holiday season "is generally considered to begin with the day after and end after ". According to Axelrad, the season in the United States encompasses at least Christmas and New Year's Day, and also includes . The defines the "Winter Holiday Season" as the period from December 1 to January 7. According to Chen et al., in China the Christmas and holiday season "is generally considered to begin with the and end after the ". Some stores and shopping malls advertise their Christmas merchandise beginning after or even in late October, alongside Halloween items. In the UK and Ireland, Christmas food generally appears on supermarket shelves as early as September or even August, while the Christmas shopping season itself starts from mid November when the high street are switched on.

The precise definition of feasts and festival days that are encompassed by the Christmas and holiday season has become controversial in the United States over recent decades. While in other countries the only holidays included in the "season" are , Christmas Day, St. Stephen's Day/, , New Year's Day and , in recent times, this definition in the U.S. has begun to expand to include , , , , and . The expansion of the holiday season in the U.S. to encompass Thanksgiving is believed to have begun in the 1920s, when major department stores and launched to promote Christmas sales. Due to the phenomenon of and the informal inclusion of Thanksgiving, the Christmas and holiday season has begun to extend earlier into the year, overlapping //, Halloween and .


Further information:

Holiday shopping in Helsinki, Finland

The exchange of gifts is central to the Christmas and holiday season, and the season thus also incorporates a "holiday shopping season". This comprises a peak time for the at the start of the holiday season (the "Christmas shopping season") and a period of sales at the end of the season, the "January sales".

Although once dedicated mostly to and , the January sales now comprise both winter close-out sales and sales comprising the redemption of given as presents. Young-Bean Song, director of analytics at the Atlas Institute in Seattle, states that it is a "myth that the holiday shopping season starts with Thanksgiving and ends with Christmas. January is a key part of the holiday season." stating that for the U.S. e-commerce sector January sales volumes matched December sales volumes in the 2004/2005 Christmas and holiday season.

Many people find this time particularly stressful. As a remedy, and as a return to what they perceive as the root of Christmas, some practice .

North America[]

In the United States, the holiday season is a particularly important time for retail shopping, with shoppers spending more than 0 billion during the 2013 holiday season, averaging about 7 per person. During the 2014 holiday shopping season, retail sales in the United States increased to a total of over 6 billion, and in 2015, retail sales in the United States increased to a total of over 0 billion, up from 2014's 6 billion. The average US holiday shopper spent on average 5. More than half of it was spent on family shopping.

It is traditionally considered to commence on the day after , a Friday colloquially known as either or Green Friday. This is widely reputed to be the busiest shopping day of the entire calendar year. However, in 2004 the credit card organization reported that over the previous several years VISA credit card spending had in fact been 8 to 19 percent higher on the last Saturday before Christmas Day (i.e., ) than on Black Friday. A survey conducted in 2005 by discovered that "Americans aren't as drawn to Black Friday as many retailers may think", with only 17% of those polled saying that they will begin holiday shopping immediately after Thanksgiving, 13% saying that they plan to finish their shopping before November 24 and 10% waiting until the very last day before performing their holiday gift shopping.

Public, secular celebration in seasonal costume

According to a survey by the Canadian Toy Association, peak sales in the toy industry occur in the Christmas and holiday season, but this peak has been occurring later and later in the season every year.

In 2005, the kick-off to the Christmas and holiday season for , the first Monday after US Thanksgiving, was named . Although it was a peak, that was not the busiest on-line shopping day of that year. The busiest on-line shopping days were December 12 and 13, almost two weeks later; the second Monday in December has since become known as . Another notable day is Free Shipping Day, a promotional day that serves as the last day in which a person can order a good online and have it arrive via standard shipping (the price of which the sender pays) prior to Christmas Eve; this day is usually on or near December 16. Four of the largest 11 on-line shopping days in 2005 were December 11 to 16, with an increase of 12% over 2004 figures. In 2011, Cyber Monday was slightly busier than Green Monday and Free Shipping Day, although all three days registered sales of over US billion, and all three days registered gains ranging from 14% to 22% over the previous year. Analysts had predicted the peak on December 12, noting that Mondays are the most popular days for on-line shopping during the holiday shopping season, in contrast to the middle of the week during the rest of the year. They attribute this to people "shopping in stores and malls on the weekends, and [...] extending that shopping experience when they get into work on Monday" by "looking for deals, [...] comparison shopping and [...] finding items that were out of stock in the stores".

In 2006, the average US household was expected to spend about ,700 on Christmas and holiday spendings. Retail strategists such as ICSC Research observed in 2005 that 15% of holiday expenditures were in the form of gift certificates, a percentage that was rising. So they recommended that retailers manage their inventories for the entire holiday shopping season, with a leaner inventory at the start and new winter merchandise for the January sales.

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the Shopping Center Council, states that he expects gift certificate usage to be between USbillion and USbillion in the 2006/2007 holiday shopping season. On the basis of the growing popularity of gift certificates, he states that "To get a true picture of holiday sales, one may consider measuring October, November, December and January sales combined as opposed to just November and December sales.", because with "a hefty amount of that spending not hitting the books until January, extending the length of the season makes sense".

According to the Deloitte 2007 Holiday Survey, for the fourth straight year, are expected to be the top gift purchase in 2007, with more than two-thirds (69 percent) of consumers surveyed planning to buy them, compared with 66 percent in 2006. In addition, holiday shoppers are planning to buy even more cards this year: an average of 5.5 cards, compared with the 4.6 cards they planned to buy last year. One in six consumers (16 percent) plan to buy 10 or more cards, compared with 11 percent last year. Consumers are also spending more in total on gift cards and more per card: .25 per card on average compared with .22 last year. Gift cards continue to grow in acceptance: Almost four in 10 consumers surveyed (39 percent) would rather get a gift card than merchandise, an increase from last year’s 35 percent. Also, resistance to giving gift cards continues to decline: 19 percent say they don’t like to give gift cards because they’re too impersonal (down from 22 percent last year). Consumers said that the cards are popular gifts for adults, teens and children alike, and almost half (46 percent) intend to buy them for immediate family; however, they are hesitant to buy them for spouses or significant others, with only 14 percent saying they plan to buy them for those recipients.

Some stores in Canada hold sales (before the end of the year) for purposes.

Christmas creep[]

Main article:

What has become known as "Christmas creep" refers to a phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of by moving up the start of the holiday shopping season. The term was first used in the mid-1980s, and is associated with a desire of merchants to take advantage of particularly heavy Christmas-related shopping well before in the United States and before in Canada.

The term is not used in the UK and Ireland, where retailers call Christmas the "golden quarter", that is, the three months of October through December is the quarter of the year in which the retail industry hopes to make the most profit. It can apply for other holidays as well, notably , Easter and .


In the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Christmas shopping season starts from mid-November, around the time when are turned on. In the UK in 2010, up to £8 billion was expected to be spent online at Christmas, approximately a quarter of total retail festive sales. Retailers in the UK call Christmas the "golden quarter", that is, the three months of October to December is the quarter of the year in which the retail industry hopes to make the most money. In Ireland, around early December or late November each year, is broadcast on Irish television, which features all the popular toys throughout the year being demonstrated and showcased before the holiday season and shopping sprees commence.

The Netherlands and Belgium have a double holiday. The first one, the arrival of the Bishop Saint Nicholas and Black Peter, starts about mid November, with presents being given on December 5 or 6. This is a separate holiday from Christmas, Bishop Saint Nick (Sinterklaas) and Santa Claus (Kerstman) being different people. Netherlands and Belgium often do not start the Christmas season until December 6 or 7, i.e. after has finished.

In France, the January sales are restricted by legislation to no more than four weeks in , and no more than six weeks for the rest of the country, usually beginning on the first Wednesday in January, and are one of only two periods of the year when retailers are permitted to hold sales.

In Italy, the January sales begin on the first weekend in January, and last for at least six weeks.

In Croatia and Bosnia (predominantly Sarajevo) the sales periods are regulated by the Consumer Protection Act. The January sales period starts on December 27 and can last up to 60 days.

In Germany, the Winterschlussverkauf (winter sale before the season ends) was one of two official sales periods (the other being the Sommerschlussverkauf, the summer sales). It begins on the last Monday in January and lasts for 12 days, selling left-over goods from the holiday shopping season, as well as the winter collections. However, unofficially, goods are sold at reduced prices by many stores throughout the whole of January. By the time the sales officially begin the only goods left on sale are low-quality ones, often specially manufactured for the sales. Since a legislative reform to the corresponding law in 2004, season sales are now allowed over the whole year and are no longer restricted to season-related goods. However, voluntary sales still called "Winterschlussverkauf" take place further on in most stores at the same time every year.

In Sweden, where the week of the marks the official start of the Christmas and holiday season, continuing with on December 13, followed up by before the Mellandagsrea (between days sell off) traditionally begins on December 27 (nowadays often December 26 or even December 25) and lasts during the rest of the Christmas holiday. It is similar to , but lasts longer. They last 34–35 days. Black Friday itself has also gained publicity in Sweden since the early-2010s. The Swedish Christmas and holiday season continues over , and finally ends on when the children have a .

In Bosnia (Republika Srpska), Montenegro and Serbia, holiday sales starts in the middle of December and last for at least one month.


Hong Kong, China has a lot of seasonal activities and traditions to offer around Christmas time. that makes most shops open for shopping. Locals and tourists love to watch the 30-meter Swarovski Christmas tree in the Central as well as the Christmas light displays on buildings on Victoria Harbour. A huge party in Hong Kong called is celebrated every year which involves malls, shops, theme parks and other attractions.

The has the longest , reportedly. As early as September up until January 9, which is the feast of the (the season ends on the Feast of the Lord's Baptism on the 2nd Sunday of January or the Monday after Epiphany if the 2nd Sunday is marked as such), Carolers can be typically heard going door to door serenading fellow Filipinos in exchange of money. All over the entire country, parols (star shaped lanterns) are hung everywhere and lights are lit. or dawn masses start December 16 and run for nine days up until Christmas Eve.

South Korea's population are 30% Christian and Christmas is a . According to the , "Koreans prefer cash Christmas gifts over more creative presents."

Singapore widely celebrates Christmas which is a in this country. For six weeks, mid-November to early January, the 2.2-kilometre (1.4 mi) stretch of glitters with lights from decorated trees and building facades of malls and hotels.


"Happy New Year" redirects here. For other uses, see .

"Christmas Greetings" redirects here. For the Bing Crosby album, see .

A selection of goodwill greetings are often used around the world to address strangers, family, colleagues or friends during the season. Some greetings are more prevalent than others, depending on culture and location. Traditionally, the predominant greetings of the season have been "Merry Christmas", "Happy Christmas", and "Happy New Year". In the mid-to-late 20th century in the United States, more generic greetings such as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" began to rise in cultural prominence, and this would later spread to other Western countries including Canada, Australia and to a lesser extent some European countries. A 2012 poll by indicated that 68% of Americans prefer the use of "Merry Christmas", while 23% preferred "Happy Holidays". A similarly-timed Canadian poll conducted by indicated that 72% of Canadians preferred "Merry Christmas".

Merry Christmas and Happy Christmas[]

"Merry Christmas" and "Happy Christmas" redirect here. For other uses, see and .

The greetings and farewells "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Christmas" are traditionally used in English-speaking countries, starting a few weeks before Christmas (December 25) each year.

Variations are:

  • "Merry Christmas", the traditional English greeting, composed of (jolly, happy) and Christmas (: Cristes mæsse, for Christ's Mass).
  • "Happy Christmas", an equivalent greeting that is common in Great Britain and Ireland.
  • "Merry Xmas", with the "X" replacing "Christ" (see ) is sometimes used in writing, but very rarely in speech. This is in line with the traditional use of the Greek letter ( Χ, χ), the initial letter of the word (Christ), to refer to Christ.

These greetings and their equivalents in other languages are popular not only in countries with large Christian populations but also in the largely non-Christian nations of China and Japan, where Christmas is celebrated primarily due to cultural influences of predominantly Christian countries. They have somewhat decreased in popularity in the United States and Canada in recent decades, but polls in 2005 indicated that they remained more popular than "Happy Holidays" or other alternatives.

History of the phrase[]

"Merry Christmas" appears on the world's first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by for in 1843

"Merry," derived from the myrige, originally meant merely "pleasant, agreeable" rather than joyous or jolly (as in the phrase "merry month of May"). Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century AD, the first known usage of any Christmas greeting dates was in 1534. "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" (thus incorporating two greetings) was in an informal letter written by an English admiral in 1699. The same phrase is contained in the title of the English "," and also appears in the first commercial , produced by in England in 1843.

Also in 1843, ' was published, during the mid Victorian revival of the holiday. The word Merry was then beginning to take on its current meaning of "jovial, cheerful, jolly and outgoing". "Merry Christmas" in this new context figured prominently in A Christmas Carol. The cynical rudely deflects the friendly greeting: "If I could work my will … every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own ." After the visit from the Ghosts of Christmas effects his transformation, Scrooge exclaims; "I am as merry as a school-boy. A merry Christmas to everybody!" and heartily exchanges the wish to all he meets. The instant popularity of A Christmas Carol, the Christmas traditions it typifies, and the term's new meaning appearing in the book popularized the phrase "Merry Christmas".

The alternative "Happy Christmas" gained usage in the late 19th century, and in the UK and Ireland is a common spoken greeting, along with "Merry Christmas". One reason may be the Victorian middle class influence in attempting to separate wholesome celebration of the Christmas season from public insobriety and associated asocial behaviour, at a time when merry also meant "intoxicated" – is said to prefer "Happy Christmas" for this reason. In her annual to the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth has used "happy Christmas" far more often than "merry Christmas".

In the American poet 's "" (1823), the final line, originally written as "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night", has been changed in many later editions to "Merry Christmas to all", perhaps indicating the relative popularity of the phrases in the US.

Happy Holidays[]

"Happy Holidays" redirects here. For other meanings of "Happy Holidays", see .

In the United States, "Happy Holidays" (along with the similarly generalized "Season's Greetings") has become a common holiday greeting in the public sphere of department stores, public schools and greeting cards. Its use is generally confined to the period between and New Year's Day.[] The phrase "Happy Holidays" has been used as a Christmas greeting in the United States for more than 100 years.

The increasing usage of "Happy Holidays" has been the subject of some . Advocates claim that "Happy Holidays" is an inclusive greeting that is not intended as an attack on Christianity or other religions, but is rather a response to what they say is the reality of a growing non-Christian population.

Critics of "Happy Holidays" generally claim it is a secular . The greeting may be deemed materialistic, consumerist, atheistic, indifferentist, agnostic, and/or . Critics of the phrase have associated it with a larger cultural clash termed the "".

Season's Greetings[]

"Season's Greetings" redirects here. For other meanings of "Season's Greetings", see .

"Season's Greetings" is a greeting more commonly used as a motto on winter season , and in commercial advertisements, than as a spoken phrase. In addition to "Merry Christmas", Victorian Christmas cards bore a variety of salutations, including "Compliments of the Season" and "Christmas Greetings." By the late 19th century, "With the Season's Greetings" or simply "The Season's Greetings" began appearing. By the 1920s it had been shortened to "Season's Greetings", and has been a greeting card fixture ever since. Several Christmas cards, including U.S. President 's 1955 card, have featured the phrase.

Medical analyses[]

Various studies have been performed on the effects of the Christmas and holiday season, which encompasses several , on health. They have concluded that the health changes that occur during the Christmas and holiday season are not reversed during the rest of the year and have a long-term cumulative effect over a person's life, and that the risks of several medical problems increase during the Christmas and holiday season.


Yanovski et al. investigated the assertion that the average American gains weight over the season. They found that average weight gain over the Christmas and holiday season is around 0.48 kilograms (1.1 lb). They also found that this weight gain is not reversed over the rest of the year, and concluded that this "probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood" (cf ).

Chan et al. investigated the increases in A1C and fasting plasma glucose in , to see whether these increases were steady throughout the year or varied seasonally. They concluded that the winter holidays did influence the glycemic control of the patients, with the largest increases being during that period, increases that "might not be reversed during the summer and autumn months".

The Christmas and holiday season, according to a survey by the ADA, is the second most popular reason, after birthdays, for sharing food in the workplace. The states that if proper food safety procedures are not followed, food set out for sharing in the workplace can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria, and recommends that perishable foods (for which it gives pizza, cold cuts, dips, salads, and sandwiches as examples) should not sit out for more than 2 hours.

Other issues[]

A survey conducted in 2005 found shopping caused headaches in nearly a quarter of people and sleeplessness in 11 percent.

Phillips et al. investigated whether some or all of the spike in cardiac mortality that occurs during December and January could be ascribed to the Christmas/New Year's holidays rather than to climatic factors. They concluded that the Christmas and holiday season is "a risk factor for cardiac and noncardiac mortality", stating that there are "multiple explanations for this association, including the possibility that holiday-induced delays in seeking treatment play a role in producing the twin holiday spikes".

The Asthma Society of Canada states that the Christmas and holiday season increases exposure to irritants because people spend 90% of their time indoors, and that seasonal decorations in the home introduce additional, further, irritants beyond the ones that exist all year around. It recommends that asthmatics avoid scented candles, for example, recommending either that candles not be lit or that soy or beeswax candles be employed.

Other effects[]

According to the Stanford Recycling Center Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Christmas and holiday season than at other times of the year.

Because of the cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere, the Christmas and holiday season (as well as the second half of winter) is a time of increased use of fuel for domestic heating. This has prompted concerns in the United Kingdom about the possibility of a shortage in the domestic supply. However, in the event of an exceptionally long cold season, it is industrial users, signed on to interruptible supply contracts, who would find themselves without gas supply.

The U.S. Fire Administration states that the Christmas and holiday season is "a time of elevated risk for winter heating fires" and that the fact that many people celebrate the different holidays during the Christmas and holiday season by decorating their homes with seasonal garlands, electric lights, candles, and banners, has the potential to change the profile of fire incidence and cause. The Government of Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs states that candle-related fires rise by 140% during the Christmas and holiday season, with most fires involving human error and most deaths and injuries resulting from the failure to extinguish candles before going to bed. It states that consumers don't expect candle holders to tip over or to catch fire, assuming that they are safe, but that in fact candle holders can do this.

Because of increased alcohol consumption at festivities and poorer road conditions during the winter months, alcohol-related road traffic accidents increase over the Christmas and holiday season.

Legal issues[]


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United States[]

Main articles: and

In the United States, the to the has had significant legal impact upon the activities of governments and of state-funded during and relating to the Christmas and holiday season, and has been the source of controversy.

Public schools are subject to what the terms the "December Dilemma", namely the task of "acknowledging the various religious and secular holiday traditions celebrated during that time of year" whilst restricting observances of the various religious festivals to what is constitutionally permissible. The ADL and many school district authorities have published guidelines for schools and for teachers. For example: The directive on maintaining religious neutrality in public schools over the Christmas and holiday season, given to public school administrators in the by the Superintendent, contains several points on what may and may not be taught in the D.C. school district, the themes of parties and concerts, the uses of religious symbols, the locations of school events and classes and prayer.


In 2002, for the Christmas and holiday season, mayor ordered all stores, restaurants, cafés and markets to display seasonal decorations and lights in their windows and interiors from December 1 onwards. Banks, post offices and public institutions were to do the same from December 15, with violators liable for fines of up to 200 rubles. Every business was ordered to have illuminated windows during the hours of 16:30 until 01:00. This caused a mixed reaction, with people objecting to being forced to put up decorations.

See also[]


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Further reading[]

  • Leigh Eric Schmidt (September 1, 1995). Consumer rites: the buying & selling of American holidays. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. pp. 106–191.  . 
  • . Consumer Alerts. . Archived from on March 29, 2007.  – The FTC's advice to consumers who are shopping during the holiday season
  • Tom I. Romero II (December 2002). . The Colorado Lawyer. 31 (12): 139. Archived from on September 6, 2005. 
  • Richard Heinberg (September 1993). Celebrate the Solstice. U.S.: Quest Books.  . 
  • Liran Einav (August 12, 2002). (PDF).  – Einav describes the Christmas and holiday season as one of the two periods of the year (the other being the beginning of Summer, to ) where "movie makers [...] tend to release their biggest hits".

External links[]

  • - An hour-long public radio program exploring the roots of American beliefs and rituals surrounding the winter holidays
  • . The Learning Network: Issues in Depth. The New York Times. Archived from on February 28, 2002.  – A series of lesson plans for teaching children about the winter holidays.

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