A time for sharing hearts and hopes

Australia has more churches than schools, and about 1.8 million Australians attend a church service each week, according to research.

And while the Census results will show that Christianity is the religion with which most Australians identify, less than one in seven of the Australians who ticked "Christianity" on their Census form regularly attend a church.

But Christmas is a time of the year when church attendance increases dramatically.

Uniting Church of Australia says that, "This is the time we celebrate God's gift to us in Jesus; a tiny Middle-Eastern baby who was born in a shed and grew up to teach us that joy, hope, peace and love can be found inside each one of us."

In the days leading up to December 6, children throughout Europe put their shoes or a special St Nicholas boot in front of the fireplace or the front door at night to find them filled with small presents the next morning.

St Nicholas' Day is on December 6 but in The Netherlands the major celebrations are held on December 5 called Sinterklaas - the name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaas.

The evening of December 5 is called St Nicholas' Eve 'Sinterklaasavond' or 'Pakjesavond' (present evening).

On December 6 (the birthday of Sinterklaas) he leaves the Netherlands and travels back to Spain.

So the children and adults get their presents early and Christmas is celebrated by believers on December 25.

While presents add to the excitement and celebrations in Australia, churches invite people to attend a service because Christmas has a deeper meaning.

Merry Christmas!

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