The Nutcracker

One of the best-loved and most widely known ballets of our time, The Nutcracker, tells the story of a young girl’s enchanted Christmas Eve. German writer, illustrator, and composer E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) wrote the original story on which the ballet is based.

North Pole

How did SANTA CLAUS come to choose the North Pole as his home? He didn’t. This address was chosen for him by American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902). In 1882 Nast depicted Santa perched on top of a crate bearing the label “Christmas box 1882, St. Nicholas, North Pole.”


For Christmas customs that call for noisemaking, see CHRISTMAS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA;


Contemporary English dictionaries define the word “noel” (also spelled “nowel” or “nowell”) as a cry of joy associated with the celebration of Christmas. In past eras English speakers also used the word to refer to the feast of Christmas itself.

New Year’s Day

In many places people begin their New Year’s celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Oftentimes these celebrations include staying up to ring in the new year. These late-night festivities frequently involve food, drink, fortune-telling, good-luck charms, GAMES — especially games of chance — and, at the stroke of midnight, noisemaking.

Nativity Play

Throughout the centuries people have celebrated Christmas by re-enacting the story of JESUS’ birth in folk dramas known as Nativity plays. This tradition can be traced back to the liturgical dramas of the European Middle Ages.
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