Christmas Traditions in the USA

Each year over 400 million individuals worldwide observe the holiday known as Christmas. In the United States, the holiday is celebrated on December 25th. Christmas is linked to many vibrant traditions and plenty of history. Below are some of the more well-known Christmas traditions in the USA, along with their details and roots.

See A Movie

Movies are a must throughout the holiday season. Although Christmas is celebrated throughout the world by many diversified groups and in many different ways, movies are a tradition which are distinctly American. In the United States, people have a tendency to watch a great deal of movies and holiday-specific television programs throughout the month of December. In addition to those found on television, Hollywood typically releases hit films during the holiday season in the hope that people will be in high spirits and want to see a movie.

Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is generally among the very first ornamental indicators that the holiday season has officially arrived. These trees come in both natural and artificial styles, and are adorned with all kinds of lights and ornaments to go with each families specific tastes. The actual history of the Christmas tree is not very detailed. Even so, there were accounts of trees being adorned in Estonia and areas within Latvia around the 15th century.

Tree decorating gathering have also become a part of Christmas traditions in the USA. Guests often bring an ornament and are treated to music, food and drink. That is why a Christmas ornament can make such a good gift.

Yule Logs

The tradition of the Yule log actually originated in France and Italy during the 1200’s. The tradition later spread to Europe. Each Christmas Eve a large log would be placed within the hearth. The log would then be doused with salt, oil, and wine, after which prayers would be said to safeguard the home from the Devil, as well as from lightning.

Once iron stoves supplanted massive hearths during the 1800’s, Yule logs evolved into decorative items, usually being utilized as table centerpieces and embellished with evergreens sprigs and candles. Eventually, cooks would begin producing pastry versions of the logs, folded cakes coated in chocolate and decorated to closely resemble the logs.

The Candy Cane

Candy canes are one of the most popular Christmas traditions in the USA. These go as far back as 1670 and are linked to Cologne, Germany. The most well-known report is connected to a choir master who wanted to silence the young children in church during their annual Living Chreche tradition which was held on Christmas Eve. He is said to have hired a local candy producer to make sweet candy sticks for the youngsters. He asked that they have a crook towards the top to help remind them of shepherds who went to see the baby Jesus. He also requested the white base color to represent purity.

Surprisingly this trend spread quickly all over Europe where additional churches started to give out candy canes during their nativity performances. The peppermint recipe for the candy cane was initially publicized during 1844 and was first described in literature during the year 1866. The first actual patent for a candy cane production machine is credited to the Bunte Brothers from Chicago. The candy cane has become a popular compliment to lights and ornaments and now show up on Christmas trees throughout the U.S. each December.

Giving Gifts at Christmas

Gift giving is absolutely one of the most popular Christmas traditions in the USA. The giving of gifts at Christmas is linked to the time when the Magi gave gifts to the baby Jesus. These days, individuals who observe Christmas continue the tradition of presenting others with gift simply for the pleasure of giving. Some complain that the holiday has become too commercial and that there no longer exists a charitable purpose at the rear of the act of giving. However, most delight in the act of giving and continue the tradition year after year with pleasure.

Christmas Cards

The mailing and receiving of Christmas cards has long been an excellent way to connect with good friends and family members. These cards are used to tell others that they are though of and to convey best wishes for the Christmas season. Throughout the U.S., over two billion of these cards are exchanged each year.

The trend started in 1822 when the postal superintendent announced that he needed to employ an extra sixteen mailmen just to manage the distribution of the hand crafted Christmas greetings. By 1843 Christmas cards were being produced and sold. Initially these were pricey, but as the continued to be one of the much loved Christmas traditions in the USA, prices eventually became reasonable.

Santa Claus AKA Kriss Kringle

Santa Claus may be among the most beloved Christmas traditions in the USA, but his roots were formed elsewhere. The Patron Saint of children (as well as sailors), Saint Nicholas was actually a bishop hailing from Asia Minor during the 4th century. He was renowned for presenting gifts to small children. His feast day, each December 6th, would become a holiday for children within Holland. There he is referred to as Sint Nikolaas. English settlers in New York referred to him as Santa Claus because they weren’t able to correctly pronounce his Dutch name. The English then began to celebrate his feast day each Christmas and continued doing so.

Kriss Kringle is yet another name for what we now know as Santa Claus. This version developed within Germany somewhere near 1600. German Protestants acknowledged December 25 as the date of the birth of the baby Jesus and thus considered this a day for the exchanging of gifts. Within the Netherlands, as well as Germany, Santa Claus usually rode a horse through the sky on his way to deliver gifts to little ones. He generally dressed in bishop robes. In addition to the custom of Saint Nicholas, the Wise Men are also credited for helping start the tradition of Christmas gift giving which has become one of the most beloved Christmas traditions in the USA.

The Ugly Sweater Christmas Party

This is a relatively new tradition in the USA and hasn’t caught on everywhere. But more and more people are throwing these ugly Christmas sweater parties where everyone comes wearing a tacky sweater with a Christmas theme. The person with the ugliest sweater “wins”.

These parties can be a lot of fun because of the theme. Decorations, invitations and ugly sweater party ideas can be purchased to bring together everything nicely. And some people really get creative with their sweaters making for an evening full of laughs and cheer.