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Christmas Holds Different Meanings to Many in America

Once a simple observance in America, Christmas is now a complex mixture of religious services, family visits, gift giving, holiday parties, decorations, and charity. And don't forget Santa Claus.

This has become the cliché of an American Christmas - a shopping frenzy that boosts the earnings of stores across the United States, and leaves shoppers exhausted and stressed. But Christmas is more than that.

For Americans, Christmas is a sentimental time, with friends and family being the priority. For Tyler Beasley, having his father home in time for Christmas was all he wanted. Tyler's, father Marine Sergeant Rodney Beasley, is stationed Iraq. But he did arrive home, and along with Santa Claus, came to Tyler's classroom to surprise him. After a two-week stay with his family, Sergeant Beasley returns to Iraq.

Every year, U.S. Marines hold an annual Christmas toy drive, where they collect toys and donations for underprivileged children. Volunteers take the children into a makeshift "store" where they are allowed to pick a few items for themselves. The "Toys for Tots" program is national campaign that has helped millions of children. Across the United States, people use lights and decorations to mark the Christmas holidays. In one neighborhood in Texas, residents have outfitted their homes with thousands of lights. Some homes have specific themes, like politics or current events.

This homeowner explains why he decorates. "Most people are awed by it." 'I have never seen anything like this.' And that makes us feel good.' It sort of makes it worth the effort it takes to put it up," he says.

And for many Americans, an enduring symbol of Christmas is the National Christmas tree on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The President or the First Lady in a nighttime ceremony usually lights the tree. And finally, for many Christians, this candle could be the ultimate gift. In Minnesota, storeowner Kim Foels, is selling candles that claims to have the same scent as Jesus Christ. She says the aroma is very comforting. A devout Christian couple manufactured the candles. They based the candle's scent on a biblical verse that says Jesus' garments smell like myrrh, aloe and cassia.