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The holiday season is a time of peace, celebration and reflection for many. Learn more about the customs and traditions behind this magical time of year.
Christmas, coming from humble beginnings, has evolved into arguably the largest celebration in the world.
Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25.
The familiar Nativity scene seen around town every year refers to the biblical story. According to accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem, in what is now known as the West Bank.
Christians believe Jesus is the son of God, sent to Earth to wipe clean the sins of mankind, and that his birth fulfilled prophecies made hundreds of years earlier.
Over time, Christmas celebrations adopted many of the traditions still celebrated today, such as the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and giving gifts.
In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication." It is also known as the Festival of Lights, and is an eight-day Jewish holiday.
It begins every year on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, which falls between late November and late December.
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' victory over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 B.C.E.
This festival of Hanukkah is observed in Jewish homes by lighting the eight candles on the menorah each night of the holiday, one on the first night, two on the second night, etc., from the ninth, larger candle, called the "shamash," or "servant."
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