The United States of America has many different traditions and ways that people celebrate Christmas, because of its multi-cultural nature. Many customs are similar to ones in the UK, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and Mexico.
The traditional meal for Western European families is turkey or ham with cranberry sauce. Families from Eastern European origins favour turkey with trimmings, keilbasi (a Polish sausage), cabbage dishes, and soups; and some Italian families prefer Lasagna!
Some Americans use pop-corn threaded on string to help decorate their Christmas Tree! Making gingerbread houses is also popular to make and eat at Christmas!
Many Americans, especially Christians will go to Church to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Many churches have special Christmas Carol services and events where the story of Christmas is told.
In New England (the American States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine), there are shops called ‘Christmas Shops’ that only sell Christmas decorations and toys all the year round!
Americans also send out Christmas Cards, like Carol singing and there’s the unusual custom of the Christmas Pickle!
People in America like to decorate the outsides of their houses with lights and sometimes even statues of Santa Claus, Snowmen and Reindeer. Some cookies and glass of milk are often left out as a snack for Santa on Christmas Eve!
Towns and cities often decorate the streets with lights to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps the most famous Christmas street lights in the USA are at the Rockefeller Center in New York where there is a huge Christmas Tree with a public ice skating rink in front of it over Christmas and the New Year.
In Hawaii, Santa is called Kanakaloka!
Customs such as Mumming take place in some communities. On New Year’s Day in Philadelphia there is a Mummer’s Day parade which lasts over six hours! Clubs called “New Years Associations” perform in amazing costumes which take months to make. There are four categories (Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades) which are judged.
In the Southwest USA, there are some special customs which have some similarities to those in parts of Mexico. These include ‘luminarias’ or ‘farolitos’ which are paper sacks partly filled with sand and then have a candle put in them. They are lit on Christmas Eve and are put the edges of paths. They represent ‘lighting the way’ for somewhere for Mary and Joseph to stay. A popular food at Christmas in the Southwest USA are tamales.
In the south of Louisiana, on Christmas Eve, families in small communities along the Mississippi River light bonfires along the levees (the high river banks) to help ‘Papa Noel’ (the name for Santa in French as Louisiana has a strong historical connection with France) find his way to the children’s homes!