America is a huge, multi-cultural melting pot of different cultures and creeds, and its many Christmas events and festivities reflect that. From the songs of Kanakaloka to the legendary Christmas lasagne and the infamous Christmas Pickle, there are so many different ways of celebrating Christmas in the USA! We give you…
Celebrating Christmas in the USA
The History of Christmas
Interestingly, when European Puritans landed in America in the 17th century, Christmas was criminalised and all observation was forbidden. However, it didn’t take long for old attitudes to die out. Christmas took a turn in the 19th century when commercialism gradually became the key focus of the festive season. Fast forward to 2019 and less than half of all American Christians say they celebrate Christmas purely as a religious holiday.
Looking back at America’s Christmas history, the festivities and celebrations could not have changed more. Not only is Christmas in the USA celebrated in lots of different ways, but other religious festivals such as Hanukkah and Kwanza are also observed during the month of December.
Christmas in America
American Christmas traditions are typically similar to ones observed in the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Mexico and the Netherlands. The reason for this is because of the mass movement of people from these areas in recent centuries.
The traditional meal for Western European families is a turkey and all the usual trimmings. Likewise, families of Eastern European origin tend to go for turkey trimmings with soups, cabbage dishes and even kielbasa. It’s also not uncommon for people with Italian heritage to whip up a Christmas lasagne!
The Christmas tree is a fairly common aspect of Christmas in the USA, but decorations vary significantly. Some Americans are known to decorate their tree with popcorn, while most stick to putting up festive lights. There are also some more obscure Christmas traditions. Americans with German heritage also tend to hide a fake pickle in the tree! It’s thought that whoever finds the pickle will be rewarded with good fortune for the following year.
Other American Christmas traditions include frantic occasions such as Black Friday, the time-honoured start of the Christmas shopping season. With retailers making huge discounts, Black Friday usually sees hordes of savvy customers storming shops, stores and retail malls.
Christmas in New England
With chill winds and vast stretches of woodland, New England is a region always brimming with festive fervour. There are even self-styled ‘Christmas shops’ that sell Yuletide gifts all year long! Christmas in New England also includes mouth-watering regional delicacies such as lumberjack pie.
Christmas in Pennsylvania
No U.S. state celebrates the festive period quite like Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, is famed for its New Year’s Day Mummers Parade. The festivities last six hours long and include costumed entertainers, string bands and comics. The parade is thought to be the oldest folk festival in America. It dates back to the 17th century and has Western European and Scandinavian origins.
It’s difficult to talk about Christmas in Pennsylvania without mentioning Christmas City USA itself – Bethlehem. Based in eastern Pennsylvania, the aptly named city is celebrated for its Christkindlmarkt. This sprawling festive marketplace is full of merry-makers, revellers and Christmas shops and stalls.
Christmas in Hawaii
Hawaii, the country’s 50th state, understandably has some of the most fascinating American Christmas traditions. Hawaii recorded its first Christmas in 1786, but regular observance of the day started in 1820 with the arrival of Christian missionaries.
With the islands being home to so many cultures, Christmas in Hawaii is celebrated in a variety of different ways. Santa Claus is often referred to as Kanakaloka.
Christmas in Louisiana
Located in America’s Deep South, Louisiana accommodates a number of different cultures and ethnicities. Christmas in Louisiana is an interesting time of year. For example, people living on the banks of the Mississippi often light bonfires close to the river. Instead of Santa Claus, people with French ancestry refer to Papa Noel. Another Christmas tradition in Louisiana is Creole Gumbo, a warming stew that includes meat or shellfish.
Christmas in the Southwest
Christmas in America’s Southwest states often see similarities with some parts of Mexico. People in the Southwest usually take part in a lantern festival on Christmas Eve. Known as luminarias, these luminous festivities have Roman Catholic origins.
In New Mexico, some families tend to make Empanaditas at Christmas time. These beef pastries include pine nuts and raisins have Spanish origins and are a festive dish found across the Americas.
American Christmas Traditions
Unlike many countries in Europe, Africa and Central America, it’s difficult to pinpoint the many American Christmas traditions. Christmas in America is a colossal and widespread period of festive revelry and there isn’t a uniform method of celebration. The different ways in which the country observes the festive period is evidence of the country’s diverse culture and historic communities.
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