The majority of Christians observe Christmas on December 25 to remember the birth of Jesus from Nazareth. Americans, like many other peoples around the world, have developed their own Christmas customs and traditions, which have evolved significantly over time.
Today, the majority of Americans combine religious and secular traditions with their family traditions, frequently combining foods, decorations, and rituals from areas where they or their ancestors once resided. Throughout the country, roast turkey and ham are popular for Christmas dinner, but depending on the location, so are tamales, roasting goose with red cabbage, crawfish jambalaya, roast pork, and “seven fishes” seafood salad.
On Christmas Eve, luminarias, which are created from brown paper bags filled with sand and lit by a candle, are shown in the Southwest. Las Posadas is a procession that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s quest for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Swedish Americans celebrate St. Lucia, and in Puerto Rico, there are parrandas, in which friends sing traditional melodies as they “surprise” and awaken their neighbors with their music.
Even though Christmas is a religious holiday for many Americans, the federal courts have upheld its legal holiday status. As one court reasoned, “by giving federal employees a paid vacation day on Christmas, the government is merely acknowledging the holiday’s cultural significance.”
Non-Christian holidays celebrated around the same time as Christmas, most notably Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, also contribute to a broader “holiday season.”
Development of the American Christmas
Early Puritans in New England disapproved of raucous Christmas celebrations. In 1659, the Massachusetts colonists briefly criminalized the day’s observance, and Christmas continued to be a regular workday in the majority of New England and Pennsylvania. Other regions of British North America, on the other hand, celebrated with enthusiasm, with costumed revelers going door to door and collecting little food and drink offerings.
WATCH: Santas swap sleighs for gondola boats in Venice’s regatta pic.twitter.com/AUCbIP4NpR
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 25, 2021
With the increasing tradition of purchasing gifts for young children, the contemporary, commercialized Christmas began to form in the 19th century. Seasonal “Christmas shopping” gained economic significance.
Other Christmas traditions also originated in the nineteenth century. Santa Claus, whose name is derived from the Dutch Sinter Klaas and the German Saint Nicholas, assumed the persona of a jovial gift-giver and reindeer-drawn sleigh driver in works such as “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (1823).
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Germany is credited with establishing the Christmas tree tradition in the sixteenth century. According to folklore, Martin Luther was the first to decorate a tree with lit candles to remind his children of the wonders of God’s creation. In the nineteenth century, Christmas trees gained popularity in Britain and the United States. Today, many Americans adorn a live evergreen tree or a reusable aluminum and plastic replica with lights and ornaments.
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In some families, Christmas gifts are placed under the tree on December 25 by family members or, as young children think, by Santa Claus after he lands his reindeer and sleigh on the roof and descends the chimney.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, mass-produced Christmas cards first appeared. Currently, these may show religious settings or secular, frequently comedic, messages. On the Internet, e-cards are becoming increasingly popular, but Americans will still mail over 16.6 billion Christmas cards, letters, and gifts during the holiday season.
Due to the importance of Christmas shopping to certain shops, Christmas has become its own “season.” The day following Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November) is now commonly referred to as “Black Friday.” It propels certain businesses into profitability, or “in the black,” and can account for a significant chunk of annual profits.
However, this extended holiday season is about much more than shopping. It is a time of widespread kindness and an occasion for the charity and voluntary activities for many Americans.
Kelly Clarkson shares story behind her new Christmas song, Merry Christmas (To the One I Used to Know) https://t.co/VE9EMMAlwl
— Christmas (@christmas) December 7, 2021
As seasonal entertainment, there are many versions of Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, school holiday pageants, and carolers everywhere. On television, adults watch classic films such as A Miracle on 34th Street (1945) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), while children (and their sentimental parents) watch classic animated films such as A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). (1965).
Numerous radio stations modify their programming to include Christmas music. The holiday movie season is commonly referred to as “Oscar season” since so many Academy Award (or “Oscar”) hopefuls are released in December.
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Still, the holiday’s original religious significance remains the most significant aspect for many. Some congregations make manger scenes, which are dioramas of the stable where Jesus is believed to have been born, complete with figurines depicting the infant Jesus and people who were present at his birth. Numerous churches perform candlelight or midnight services on Christmas Eve. Some celebrations include a Mass of the Nativity or a portrayal of Jesus’ birth.
A scuba-diving Santa Claus takes an undersea cruise along a coral reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary pic.twitter.com/ScEXvO1ZPf
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 23, 2020
Christmas in the United States, like so many other parts of American culture, represents the principles of a free and varied people.
Santa In Hawai
In Hawaii, Santa is nicknamed Kanakaloka!
In some cultures, customs such as Mumming exist. On New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, there is an over six-hour-long Mummer’s Day procession! “New Years’ Associations” clubs act in elaborate costumes that take months to create. Four categories are judged: Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades.
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In the Southwest of the United States, there are a few customs that resemble those of some regions of Mexico. Among these are luminarias and farolitos. These are paper sacks with cutouts that are partially filled with sand and then a candle is placed inside. They are lit on Christmas Eve and placed along path margins. They symbolize “lighting the path” for Mary and Joseph to find a place to dwell.
South of Louisiana
In the south of Louisiana, families in small towns along the Mississippi River light bonfires along the levees (the high river banks) on Christmas Eve to help “Papa Noel,” which is the French name for Santa Claus, find his way to the children’s homes. Louisiana has a long history of ties to France.
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