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Santa Claus Sugar Plums
Special holiday candies from 1868, Santa Claus Sugar Plums

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Christmas Day
December 25

By 336 A.D., the Christian church in Rome celebrated the festival of Christmas on December 25. The same day, Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year). In observance of the "birthday of the unconquered sun," they exchanged gifts and made merry with a festival. On the Roman New Year (January 1), people decorated houses with greenery and gave gifts to children and the poor. Evergreens were a symbol of survival.

Modern-day Christmas borrows many of these traditions. St. Nicholas became a popular figure by the 11th century, known for his great generosity and healing powers. With the rise of the Protestant Church, he was nearly forgotten, except in the Netherlands, where they called him Sinterklaas. Does that name sound familiar?

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