Barring Out the Schoolmaster

American youngsters take their two-week vacation at Christmas time for granted. In past centuries, however, teachers expected pupils to study right through the CHRISTMAS SEASON.


The figure of a baby is a symbol of the new year in general and New Year’s Day in particular. The New Year’s baby often wears a sash draped across one shoulder.


Before the Revolution of 1917, Russian children received Christmas GIFTS from Baboushka, an old woman whose story is told in a Russian legend. Baboushka means “grandmother” in Russian.

Auld Lang Syne

At many New Year’s Eve parties, the song “Auld Lang Syne” is played or sung at midnight, as a means of saying farewell to the old year and greeting the new.


Annunciation means “announcement.” When spelled with a capital “A,” the word refers to the announcement made by GABRIEL, God’s messenger ANGEL, to the Virgin MARY, telling her that she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit whom she should call JESUS (Luke 1:26-28).


Images of angels adorn NATIVITY SCENES, CHRISTMAS CARDS, CHRISTMAS TREES, and many other Christmas displays.

Amish Christmas

The Amish observe Christmas but do not share many mainstream, American Christmas customs. For example, they don’t set up CHRISTMAS TREES in their homes, tell their children about SANTA CLAUS

Christmas in Nineteenth-Century America

At the beginning of the nineteenth century American Christmas celebrations varied considerably from region to region. These variations reflected religious and ethnic differences in the population.

Advent Wreath

Many Christians enhance their observance of Advent with an Advent WREATH.

Advent Candle

A number of different Advent customs require the lighting of candles. Some writers believe that the use of candles during Advent may have been adopted from the fires and lights that illuminated pre-Christian midwinter festivals.