Perhaps what makes the concept of Christmas universal to all people is its idea of sharing. Taking after the gesture of the three Wise Men in the nativity scene, gifts has become one of the pillars of the Christmas season. People, at this time of the year, delight in giving gifts, from the simplest such as Christmas card, to the most expensive. Today, according to Ace Collins, (2003) shoppers spend more than $4 billion per Christmas shopping day, or about $2.8 million each minute, during the holiday season in the United States alone. (101) Gifts are also attributed to Santa Claus or Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas in other cultures. His iconography evolved through the years and has become one that visits houses on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts to children and families who have been good.
As mentioned beforehand, there are unique Christmas customs across countries, so it would take a very long list to chronicle each of them, hence, we would discuss them in generalities. For instance, the Far East such Japan, Korea and the countries with different religions have a more secular celebration giving emphasis to gifts, the Christmas tree and preparing Christmas dinner. However, in countries like Ethiopia, Guatemala and Mexico, the spiritual aspects predominate – midnight mass, Christmas carol, religious procession and other solemn ceremonies. Countries such as the United States with its multicultural population have varying degrees of religious and secular celebrations and activities. Unique traditions significantly mark specific country celebrations. For example, the Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season, starting as early as October.
Two basic Christmas meanings or purposes predominate around the world – the religious and the secular. On the one hand there is an emphasis on the birth of Jesus and its significance to the world while on the other there is an emphasis on the abundant feasting, frolicking and good cheer.