Merry Christmas - Christmas is celebrated each year in December by many thousands of people worldwide. Coming up to this special day on December 25th, it is common for people to greet others by saying "Merry Christmas". This is done to wish them a safe and happy holiday. Looking back on the history of Christmas takes us all the way back, just over 2,000 years, to the birth of Jesus Christ. The celebration of Christmas day was initially to join with others in remembering the birth of the Savior of the world. The actual word 'Christmas' means literally "Mass of Christ". Although Jesus birth occurred over two millennia ago, Christmas itself was not celebrated for many years. Historically, a fourth-century saint, Saint Nicholas, gained a reputation as a secret gift-giver. It is told that Saint Nicholas used to place coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Since the times of Saint Nicholas, Christmas has continued to prosper and become popular with people of different faiths. Although beginning with Christians, Christmas is now celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. Although the ways that people celebrate Christmas may differ, depending on their faith, it is true to say that Christmas is a time of goodwill, kindness and wishing "Merry Christmas" to others, more than any other time of year. Gift giving still continues, even as the folklore and traditions that came from Saint Nicholas back in the 4th century demonstrated. There are many that say that Christmas has in fact become too commercialized and that it now focuses more on receiving rather than on giving. Either way though, Christmas is here to stay and the giving and receiving of gifts and wishing "Merry Christmas" is a big part of it. The holiday greeting of 'Merry Christmas' was first used in 1565, written in the Hereford Municipal Manuscript. Since that date it has continued to be used around the world during the weeks leading up to Christmas day each year. The initial meaning of the word 'merry', as used in this holiday greeting, meant 'pleasant' or 'agreeable'. These days 'merry', as used in merry Christmas, tends to mean 'jolly', 'joyous' or 'happy' more than 'pleasant'. Today many families give gifts to each other on Christmas Eve and then have a big family celebration and meal together on Christmas day. Another holiday tradition is the hanging of a Christmas stocking, up above the fireplace on the mantel, for each family member. Gifts are then placed into every stocking so that each family member receives something special. It is even possible to get specially made stockings. Many families purchase individual and unique stockings, each with a family member's name on it. Not only are the stockings useful for small gifts, but they also form part of the Christmas decorations used to liven up the home with bright colors.