Christmas Traditions of the USA

Christmas Traditions of the USA

Do you celebrate Christmas? Many different countries celebrate Christmas, but every country has their own ways to celebrate. In the United States, we have a variety of ways that we spend the Christmas season to keep the spirit of Christmas alive and to spend time with friends and family. These are some wonderful ways that Americans spend the month of December to make the season festive and fun! 

1.    Advent Calendars 

A fun way to countdown the days of December until Christmas is to have an advent calendar. 

The tradition started in the 19th century where families would count down the weeks of Christmas with white chalk. The calendar counts down the days between December 1st to the 25th and gives a treat to the owner of the calendar every day of the countdown. Children of the season tend to be a little impatient for Christmas day so this is a good way to help them remain patient until Santa climbs down the chimney. 

Advent calendars come in a variety of colors and themes, some including chocolate advent calendars, wine advent calendars, or even cheese advent calendars! 

2.    Gift Exchange Games 

Instead of the traditional way of giving a gift for each individual person some Christmas parties decide to play either the gift exchange game of White Elephant. 

White Elephant traditionally was played as a prank game where players would bring something from their house that they didn’t want, wrap it up, and give it to another unexpecting player. Nowadays, people will set a price limit and buy a gift for the game according to the budget. 

During the party or gathering, everyone gathers in a circle and places the wrapped gifts in the middle. Each player is given a number to randomize the game. When their number is called, they choose a gift from the center or they may steal another player’s gift. The game ends when every player has a gift. This game is always a hit at any holiday party and can be played with players of all ages! 

3.    Making or Decorating Cookies for Santa 

Santa Claus is a major figure of the holiday season that many different countries’ children embrace. 

In the United States, Santa requires a plate of cookies and a glass of milk set out for him in exchange for the presents he leaves the children. This tradition was started during the 1930s to teach children the lesson of gratitude. People will buy or make cookies of many different shapes and flavors. Once the cookies have been baked or cooled, some bakers will decorate the cookies with frosting to look like candy canes, gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and so much more. 

These cookies could also be used in the tradition of cookie exchanges where people bring cookies to swap with other people that attended the event. 

4.    Decorating with Christmas Lights 

During the holiday season, many Americans decorate their house, car, and even office with Christmas decorations. The most used decoration to spread Christmas cheer are stringed lights or Christmas lights. 

This tradition was started by Edward Hibberd Johnson when he invented a string of electrical lights and hung them around his Christmas tree in 1882. After 1914, string lights became mass produced and they are purchased every year by many Americans during the Christmas season. 

If you drive around your neighborhood the day after Thanksgiving, you will find many houses lit up to show their Christmas spirit. Some Americans that decorate their homes even participate in contests to see who has the best decorated house. Many families will take time during the season to drive around looking at Christmas lights playing Christmas music in their cars.  

5.    Elf on the Shelf 

During the Christmas season, children are reminded to be on their best behavior because Santa is watching them. If they are caught behaving badly by Santa, they will be placed on the naughty list and will receive a lump of coal instead of presents on Christmas. However, Santa is only one man and can’t possibly watch all these children so Elf on the Shelf was created. 

The Elf on a Shelf is a Christmas book written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter, Chanda Bell that comes with an Elf doll. This doll is placed around the house of the child and acts like Santa’s assistant. If the child behaves poorly, the elf will tell Santa. Parents all over social media will put the elf in funny and creative positions throughout the month of December as though the elf is moving during the night. 

These are but a few of the timeless and fun ways that Americans celebrate Christmas. What traditions do you do to celebrate this holiday season? 

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Published on December 15, 2021

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